Surviving the Khawa Dune Challenge

Roughing it: Khama at Khawa: PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Roughing it: Khama at Khawa: PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

At which place is President Ian Khama at his happiest? There is a raging debate about this.

Some say it is at the Makgadikgadi Pans when he is gliding on his powerchute while his security detail follows on the ground, raising dusty clouds on the mighty saltpans.

Others say it is in Shakawe when he cruises on a boat from his serene island along the quiet flowing Okavango River. 

But many believe it can only be at Khawa when he revs up his Can-am quad bike at the finish line of the race, eliciting cheers from excited spectators during the Khawa Dune Challenge.

It is only at Khawa where Khama proves that he is in the league of Russia’s bear-riding President Vladimir Putin when it comes to adventure sport.

If Botswana had bears “SKI” as he is fondly called, would ride them too!

If you want to be a witness, and be part of this Khawa desert adventure, here is a survival kit for Khawa.


Long road trip

If you are not from the Kgalagadi, Khawa is very far.

About 700km from Gaborone, it is a long lonely road just like the old Setswana adage “omo leele jaaka tsela ya Kgalagadi”.

Make sure your vehicle is well-serviced and all the drivers are fit for the challenge.

Road trips are fun so make regular stops, admire the landscape and take pictures so that you don’t feel the distance.

The last stretch from Khuis to Khawa is gravel road – off road driving can be dangerous, be vigilant. Although the authorities have said it has been graded to flatten the corrugation, they do not advise using low vehicles. 

Tsabong has the last fuel station and since there will be an influx of people in the area, supply is not guaranteed to meet the demand.

Food, Water & Supplies

Tsabong is the last big village before Khawa, with grocery stores, so do not pass there without packing your supplies – tissues, condoms, water.

Get more water. Kgalagadi water can be salty at times and you could ruin your Khawa experience with an upset stomach. Pack drinks too. Responsible drinking is allowed.

Khawa bar is smaller than a two and half room and drinks never get cold, so bring your own. You can buy food at the BTO’s BigFootTours campsite.


Police are everywhere

Every year the police in uniform and plainclothes come in dozens. They have been advised “not to harass the people” so feel free to indulge responsibly.  The heavy police presence is not only at Khawa village because the traffic police with a serviced Boozebus are normally everywhere. Remember drinking inside a vehicle is unlawful whether you are the driver or passenger.


Remember to have fun

Khawa has so many activities. Bring out the inner child in you and lose yourself on the sand. If you do not have a motorbike, just enjoy the sand dunes.

There are activities for everyone like climbing dunes and dodge ball.  Dodge ball! Make sure you watch the presidential team in action, as this is probably the only time you will watch people trying to literally hit the president. Elsewhere it could be treason.  You can also ride on the camels. Camel rides exercise your waist the same way as a kwasa-kwasa dance. Riding a camel could give you your groove back.


Race with “Super”

If you brought your own motorbike and possibly are interested in participating in the famous novice category with a man they call “Super,” be very vigilant. 

The man does not only ride one of the most powerful bikes in the market, but he also races with a small army, with live ammunition – watch out.  But Super (only his men call him that) is a fast racer and he will certainly win the novice category, so aim for second position – the guy that comes after Super’s army arrives.

Cultural night

There is a place called “Stadium” by the locals and that is where the cultural activities are be hosted. It is usually a night of polka and other dances.  Learn a few steps of polka because there is open-stage moment where anyone feeling like they could swing it, is allowed to grace the stage. Do not leave before President Khama jumps on stage. You will love his moves.



Bring your own tent - do not forget the pegs. You will be charged for space where you pitch your tent. BigFoot Tours provides tented accommodation at a fee.  If you stay at the BigFoot Tented village, wake up early and you might get hot water from the showers - hot showers are the most luxurious things you can ever get in Khawa.  But sleeping should not be your big worry. There are functions at the warm Community Hall and the entrance fee is usually less than P20. You can catch a few doses of sleep if you are really worn out. There are also bonfires everywhere at the tented village. Just bring your drinks and the heat is free.



You can watch BTV Weather and check your smartphone weather App but this is the Kgalagadi desert, and in May the place has short warm days and long cold nights. The mercury could drop below zero at night so come with warm clothing and winter sleeping bags.


Mobile network

beMobile has promised better connection this year and obviously there is a reason why all the other networks are quiet.


Cameras are essential

Freeze the memories. Post, tweet and Instagram the moments. Plus the president will be around, so you might get the coveted selfie with Number 1.


Sunday is return day

Monday is not a holiday so remember to come back. The journey back is the most tedious one so make sure your driver is alert. Arrive alive and share whether Khawa is SKI’s happiest place.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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