The second stop on our trip to Botswana was Kubu Island. It is an unmissable stop for everyone traveling to Botswana.
Perhaps not everyone knows that in Botswana there is the second largest desert of salt in the world, the firs is in Bolivia, the second can be visited traveling to Kubu Island.
Is is also known as Lekhubu Island, it is located inside the Makgadikgadi Pans, in the southwestern end of the Sowa Pan.
The words cannot describe it, only by seeing it for yourself you will understand the magic of this place.
Despite the name, it is not a real island but a “dry” island, a ghostly rock covered with baobab, completely surrounded by a sea of salt. It is like a monolithic in the middle of the desert’s salt.
Many years ago, in this place there was a lake with a lot of hippos, from here the name Kubu that in tswana language means hippo. The lake was dried out, leaving room for an immense salt pan that is flooded during the rainy season.
Although seems impossible, it seems that up to 500 years ago it was an area inhabited by man, numerous artifacts have been found, it is said that it was a place where male initiation ceremonies were held.
Today the island is safeguarded as a national monument and managed by the local community Gang O-Community Trust, many locals come here to leave offers, tourists have to respect the place and take their waste away.
On the island there is a very basic campsite, the pitches are big and distant from each other, you will feel to be alone, there is a sense of freedom with a very nice view. The toilets are also very basic, a toilet and a bottle of water insted of the flush. There is not water, electricity, shops, you will have to be completely autonomous, get water, food, petrol, wood and the tent in advance.
If you prefere the desert view, put your tent on the right site, looking the caretaker’s house, if you prefere the “baobab” view put the tent in the upper part of the island.
You will see a beautiful sunset.
You will see a sky full of stars as you have never seen it before.
Go to bed early and get up before sunrise, take a walk on the salt’s sea, the special light makes the atmosphere enchanting. You will see a magical sunrise: at sunrise you can see the roundness of the earth.
Tourists love to explore this place seeing the numerous baobabs, they look like roots that rise to the sky, and african chestnut trees. Difficult to explain how they are grew in the middle of nowhere.
You will alone with the nature and the silence; you will understand why this place is considered sacred by local people.
How to book
Contacting the Gaing O Community Trust was not easy, they have a website and an e-mail address: email@example.com
Don’t expect quick answers, as long as they answer you ……..
We booked in advance from Italy, the price for a space for 4 people is 874,40 pule, not so cheap, there are no services, but the beauty of this place is worth it.
The campsite was not full, probably booking in advance is not necessary but we preferred not to risk it.
How to reach Kubu Island
To reach Kubu Island (GPS coordinates: S 20° 53,740’, E 25° 49,426’) you need a 4×4 car. You will not find petrol or shops, you must be completely autonomous. During the dry season (from june to november) you don’t have drive problems, during the rainy season take information before traveling, Kubu Island can become a real island impossible to reach.
We left Khama Rhyno Sanctuary, a natural reserve that we visited the previous day, at 8:00 AM, from here you have to follow the road to north until Lethakane, about 164 kilometers. The road is paved and in good condition without traffic, you will meet some trucks easily overcome. The landscape is monotonous, to break the monotony lot of cows, donkeys and goats.
At the entrance to Lethakane you will find a service station where you can refuel, near there is a small supermarket but if you continue along th road you will find others supermarkets more stocked.
From Lethakane you will have to follow the road signs for Mmatshumo, about 25 kilometers. Here there is the office of the community that manages Kubu Island, Gaing-O-Community Trust, you can stop here to ask information about the direction and the road’s condition.
Go straight up to a road sign that will show you the direction, under the sign you will find fire woods, you can buy it for 20 pule. The sale is self-service, you will have to leave the money inside a iron box.
From here begins an unpaved road and the fun for who love to drive off-road, there are different road, these are different only for hole’s size and for the amount of sand. The road is very sandy and dusty, the speed is slow.
After a few kilometers there is a platform from here is possible to view the whole landscape.
Go straight for 21 kilometeres, you will reach a gate, it is the gate of the veterinary. If there is nobody you can open it, pass and close it. In Botswana there are many gates, they are used to divide the domestic animals from wild animals in order to avoid the transmission of diseases. If the cows come into contact with wild animals, the cows must be killed and the meat must be eliminated.
The road continues for about an hour, the landscape is beautiful, seem to you to proceed on a white sea. I suggest you to sop in the middle of nowhere, get out of the car, walk, take some photos and enjoy the view.
The road from Lethlakane is the shortest and the most viable. The caretaker of the campsite advised us to use the road for Gweta, it is very long, sandy and not well signed, you need to orient yourself with GPS.
If you go to Bostwana you cannot miss a stop on Kubu Island, you will not regret it. It will give you beautiful panoramas that you will remember for a long time.
If you need a guide for Botswana, take a look to this. It’s very useful.
If you need a light, take a look to this.