Khubu Island Alternative

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    I cannot agree more with Elise Haber regarding the development of Lekhubu Island in Botswana, described in the September 2016 issue.

    The island has always had a spiritual atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. It is a great pity that this is being commercially exploited, but, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon phenomenon.

    Fortunately, there is an alternative which we need to keep a secret known only to wildlife enthusiasts. Kukonje Island (the spelling varies from one source to another), south-east of Khubu Island on Sowa Pan, is accessed from the eastern shore of the pan.

    When travelling from Maun via Gweta, turn right at Nata (the shop at the filling station is reasonably well stocked) and continue southeast on the Francistown road (A3).

    Pass the turn-off on the right to the Sowa Pan Sodaash mine. Pass through the vet fence just before Dukwi, and immediately thereafter turn right (60km from Nata), to travel along the track on the southern side of the fence.

    Cross the railway line, and cross two streams (The streams are easy to cross when dry, but could be very difficult if the stream is full, as one needs to travel down fairly narrow ridges which may be virtually impossible when they are hidden under water).

    About 60km from the turn-off on the tarred road, there is a vet gate on the right. Turn in here, and ask the vet personnel about the condition of the road over the pan. The road continues past the staff houses to the edge of the pan − about 2km).

    If there is any water in the pan, be careful! (Although I did not try it, I understand that there is a track up to the right, going north along the pan edge, which leads to a camping spot with a view over the pan to the island). If it is dry, cross the pan, keeping the fence on your left. About 3.5km later, you will reach the island.

    Proceed along the shore in a northerly direction (i.e. to your right), until you find the track leading to the island. From there, you can explore the island.

    The track goes over a rocky ridge. The witgat trees (shepherd’s tree or boscia albitrunca) are amazing, fashioned by the wind and dwarfed because of infrequent rain. Turning right (north) brings you to a lookout point with a view over the pan towards Khubu Island.

    When returning to the ridge crossing, turn right and drive into the lowlands. Here you will find baobab (Adansonia digitata) trees, and one or two have long-drops. You may camp in the quiet of their shade. (Be warned, though, that those who rest under a baobab are said to become hooked on Africa and become a little bush crazy.) During the night which I spent alone under a baobab, I was sure that I heard a leopard growl.

    Exploring the southern side of the island reveals more Baobabs as well as the fascinating star chestnuts − be careful, the hairs of these will pierce your skin and itch forever. Kukoje may not have as many baobabs as Khubu, or the same mystical atmosphere, but the island has its own charm. The views over the pan are stunning, the trees tell stories of hard days past, and the solitude whispers tales of ancient Africa.

    The shoreline of the pan on the mainland is covered in water-honed pebbles of many hues, telling of the great waters which once filled the pan.

    The cherry on the top? There is no charge to visit, or camp on, the island!

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