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Botswana Water Crossings

by | Oct 23, 2018 | Botswana, Destinations, Safety Tips

Botswana’s biggest challenge – 4x4 water crossings

If you decide to rent a 4x4 and travel to Botswana, more particularly the Okavango delta area you may face ‘water crossings’.

The 4x4 tracks in and around Moremi, especially the Third Bridge, Xakanaka and Khwai area pass through water crossings and at times you need to be very careful. It is recommended to stick to the main roads. Never assume you can just drive through a crossing and always remember the first rule is ‘to walk through a water crossing before driving through’. You can NEVER exceed the wading depth of the vehicle (700mm in most cases) and the only way to know the depth is to walk through first.

Looking at the image which was taken recently near Third Bridge, you never want to find yourself in this position. This could lead to major expense and major disruptions to your holiday. In this case if they had driven about one meter to the right it appears the water is much shallower and the car would have crossed without problems so you need to walk across on the line of the one wheel and return on the line of the other. This also enables you to get a feel for the river bed.

If very muddy you should also avoid. Study the area as best possible to find your best route. If you are not comfortable do not cross.

Crocodiles and Hippos are found in these channels so you need to be cautious but the fact remains you have to ascertain the depth of the water before crossing.

Once you decide to proceed on your chosen line, engage 4wd low ratio and maintain forward momentum but don’t drive in at high speed and high revs.

Go in slow and cautious but keep your forward momentum which will create a bow wave through the water.

Step by step guide: how to tackle a water crossing

Step 1: Stop before the water crossing. Don’t enter the water with the vehicle before you establish the water depth and best line or route to follow. Never cross if deeper than the vehicles wading depth which is 700mm in most cases. 

Step 2: Get out of the vehicle and check for wildlife in and around the water, especially hippos or crocodiles (they often prefer to stay away from where vehicles cross as they are disturbed constantly but always check). Try assess the crossing as best from dry land and if uncertain you can wait for another vehicle to cross. Tyre tracks going in does not mean you can cross as this may be from larger vehicles so you must still walk through to establish depth if not completely clear it is shallow.

Step 3: If you are comfortable then walk into the water along the line of the one wheel and return on the line of the other. This also enables you to get a feel for the river bed. If very muddy you should also avoid. Study the area as best possible to find your best route.

Step 4: Once you decide to proceed on your chosen line, engage 4wd low ratio and maintain forward momentum but don’t drive in at high speed and high revs. Go in slow and cautious but keep your forward momentum which will create a bow wave through the water.

If you are not comfortable do not cross.

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