Africa Adventures, Day 11: Flight to Kasane, Botswana

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
We were up at 4am to get to the airport in time for our 7am flight to Johannesburg. From there we checked in with Air Botswana for our flight to Kasane, which is in the far northeast corner of Botswana. We arrived at the gate at our appointed time, only to find the pilot was completely missing. Nobody could figure out where he was. We waited around and he eventually showed up an hour and a half late. We were bussed to the plane, which was a scary-looking death trap that seemed to be on its last legs. Combine that with bad turbulence and it adds to being one of the scariest flights I've ever had.

At some point the cockpit door was opened and left open for the remainder of the flight, allowing us to watch the pilots land the plane. It's a bit nerve-wracking to watch yourself approach the airport - I was certain we were going to miss the runway or descend too fast right until the last second where they dropped the plane down perfectly.

I hadn't lined up a place to stay the first night, but there was a driver there for a resort that sounded nice. We hopped into his shuttle to check it out, and it turns out the place was INCREDIBLE. It's called the Mowana Safari Lodge, and it claimed to only be a four star lodge, but I see no reason why it shouldn't have a full five. It gets its name from the mowana tree which is a huuuuge tree that lives for very long periods of time. The lodge was originally built around a tree estimated to be around 1,500 years old. A fire during construction of the lodge destroyed about a fourth of the lodge, plus the tree. A replacement tree was brought in (this one being at the spry young age of around 300 years) and the rest of the lodge was built around it.

In 1992, then President Bill Clinton and family stayed at this lodge for a three day visit. There is a room named after him - and of course it's the most expensive room in the place. I found out about it after we left, otherwise I would have gone to check it out.

The drive to the lodge was very educational. Botswana is obviously very poor, but I felt incredibly safe. I don't think I'd have any issue walking along any of the steets in town by myself. The driver instructed me not to walk at night however - not because of crime, but because hippos tend to roam the area at night due to the proximity of the river. Seeing as hippos are one of the most aggressive animals of the area we chose to heed his advice.

We lined up some activities for the next few days with the office and had a lovely dinner at the lodge (with an excellent waiter named Pono - we would kidnap him home if possible), then off to bed for an early start tomorrow!