How to get to Dobe, Botswana

How to get to Dobe, Botswana

If you make a left turn just before Nokaneng, an ungraded road will take you through the wildest brush of the Kalahari Desert to remote communities of Qangwa, Dobe and Qoshe in northeastern Botswana. Located just across the border from Tsumkwe and the Nyae Nyae in Namibia, these communities are home to Herero, Bakgaladi and the Jul’hoansi people. The Jul’hoansi people, a tribe of San, are one of the most well known group of hunter/gatherers in Africa, having been made famous as noble savages in the film The Gods Must Be Crazy. It’s a very funny movie, and I highly recommend watching it with friends for a night of laughter. The movie is a comedy about a wandering Bushman who encounters modern civilization for the first time in the form of a Coke bottle, which destroys his village’s life as it has been proven to be an excellent and useful tool, and all of the tribesmen want to have it.

The thing that makes the Jul’hoansi people living in this region and the bordering Nyae Nyae region unique is that until both the Laurence van der Post and Marshall Expeditions in the 1950s, they had almost no direct contact with Europeans. For any enthusiast of cultural learning and history, a trip to Qangwa would provide unique insights about the past of the San people and the challenges they face today. To the north of Qangwa, the UNESCO world heritage site Tsodilo offers its visitors thousands of rock art paintings — a visual representation of the fascinating story of the San people — but it does not offer a living memory that can be found by visiting the elders of a community who experienced first hand the traditional way of life.

A trip to Qangwa is not for everyone. First travelers should be properly provisioned with emergency gear, extra fuel, their own food, and the journey should only be made in a vehicle with four-wheel drive. Second, the traveler should be aware that there are substantial community problems that have come with settlement — including alcoholism, violence and health issues such as HIV/AIDS. It is recommended that travelers should be accompanied by a local who will act as a guide. In my own trip to the area I experienced no problems, but my husband and I travelled with someone who had worked with NGOs in the area.

A final point to make is that there is no provision or accommodation made for visitors. Any housing or sleeping arrangements will have to be made with locals. I would recommend a home stay, if possible, or ask permission to setup camp in someone’s yard. As point of etiquette in many communities in Botswana, it is important to ask the permission of the Kgosi (chief), headman, or village to stay in the community. Rarely is the request refused and this act is seen as a sign of respect to local traditions.