Panhandle Paradise


Words by Patrick Cruywagen Pictures by Patrick Cruywagen and Alison Cole

Panhandle Paradise

Venue review: Guma Lagoon Camp, north-western Botswana.One of the most popular safari routes for South Africans cuts through the dry, dusty pans of Botswana before heading into the Okavango Delta.

From here one can head towards the Caprivi Strip and west to explore the rest of Namibia or tack east towards Victoria Falls. The key factor when planning these types of trips is to identify places to stay which will enhance your experience of the area you’re travelling through. Guma Lagoon Camp is a case in point. It lies on the banks of the Guma Lagoon, just above the north-western corner of the delta. We found the place by accident. Although most of our trips are carefully planned, I often leave myself with a bit of flexibility when in transit; then, when the sun begins to play first touch with the horizon, I grab my guidebook and GPS and begin to look for a campsite. This can be a hit-and-miss affair. While recently stopping to refuel at Riley’s in Maun I noticed a well-travelled local and asked him for advice on an overnight stop en route to the Caprivi. Without hesitation he named Guma Lagoon Camp as a place where he and his mates liked to spend their free time. Guma Lagoon Camp is 270 kilometres from Maun on the Shakawe road. The first 250 km is good African tar but once you reach Etsha 13 it’s time to head east. We were fortunate in that even though it was the rainy season the big waters from Angola hadn’t yet reached the delta so our drive to the camp was mostly along thick sandy tracks. All we needed to do was deflate our tyres a little. But make no mistake, when the water comes down in March or April (last year it arrived early in February), getting to the camp is an adventure in itself as you have to traverse several floodplains. Often visitors get stuck and need recovering so calling ahead to determine road conditions is a good idea. The distance from the tar road to the camp varies according to which of the routes you take, but is something between 10 and 15 kilometres.

Unlike lots of other places in Botswana, Guma is geared towards the South African overland market. The campsites offer ample grass, lagoon views and plenty of trees to camp under. There’s a lovely swimming pool area, which is great as you can’t swim in the lagoon because the crocs and hippos don’t like to share. Each campsite has its own shower, flush toilet, cement fireplace and black bins. For those who don’t feel like cooking, meals are available on request and there’s a well-stocked bar. There’s also a massive communal freezer for your perishables. Guma has a generator so you can charge your batteries or phones – but not fridges as they draw too much power. It’s the kind of place where you arrive having planned to stay the night, but end up parking off for a few days as there’s a great deal on offer to occupy your time. Top of the activity list has to be the fishing. Guma owner Guy Lobjoit is an avid fisherman who loves nothing more than being on the water with clients. Obviously the biggest piscatorial attraction is the Tigerfish, but there are several other species on offer, like barbel, African pike, tilapia and bream.

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