24th Apr 2013 - 26th Apr 2013 - Namibia & Botswana
We were soon off on our 3 day 2 night Okavango Delta trip – a trip which, for me personally, I was looking forward to the most out of the whole tour. Perhaps I’ve watched one too many David Attenborough BBC Documentaries set in Africa, but the Okavango has always held this magical perception in my head and I couldn’t wait to get out there and see if it lived up to expectations. The entrance to the Okavango was a good two hour drive away from Maun and we weren’t going in our usual truck. Instead an oversized 4x4 came to pick us up but this meant we had to load it up with all our tents, mattresses, food, chairs as well as anything we wanted to take with us. Needless to say, it was rather full and we could barely fit ourselves in! Despite Botswana having recently had the rainy season the Delta was not flooded as this only occurs once the flood waters have arrived from upstream in Angola. However, there is still plenty of water here, meaning much more greenery than we’d seen during most of the rest of the trip. The Delta covers up to an area of 16,000 sq km and is at the end of the Okavango River, Africa’s third largest river at a length of 990 miles. As this is a wetland area, we obviously couldn’t take a 4WD all the way in so after two hours we arrived at a Mokoro station. A mokoro is a canoe that is traditionally made from a dug out tree although increasingly they are being made from fibreglass. Each mokoro takes two people and has a “poler” who “steers” the canoe much like a gondolier in Venice. With a group of 24 plus all our gear we must have had in the region of 17 or 18 mokoros.
The next two hours were spent floating peacefully along the channels of the Delta, stopping briefly to see some hippos in the water, before arriving at our camp for the two nights. This was a small camp, with enough room for our tents and a campfire in the middle. The toilet was a proper bush toilet – a hole in the ground, a short walk from the camp, which had to be filled with a small amount of soil after you’d been. Because of the wild animals around, we were not allowed to go to the toilet alone after dark. Instead, you had to have a “toilet buddy” who was on animal watch, although nothing was mentioned about what to do should you see any animals. Run, would be my guess! The majority of the afternoon was free time and there wasn’t really much to do so we had a kip before heading out on our walking safari. We saw some elephants at a distance as well as fresh footprints from buffalo, hyena, impala and lion – our guide said they would have been from the day before, which was slightly worrying as no one wants a lion that close to camp! We were also shown some wild sage that can be used as a mosquito repellent. We stayed out on our walk until sunset, then headed back to camp for dinner. That night was spent playing ridiculous games, such as walking from one side of camp to the other with a ball between your legs and placing it in a bowl!
Next morning, and we were up early for a morning game walk. First stop was the hippo pool and during the rest of the walk we saw, from a safe distance, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, ostrich, warthog and enough zebra to have Melissa deciding to add “ride a zebra” to her bucket list! Back at camp and we had a lovely cooked brunch before another afternoon of free time. In the evening we went on a beautiful sunset mokoro ride and we even saw some tiny frogs – about the size of your thumb nail. That night, as it was our last night, our polers treated us to some traditional dancing, with some highly amusing aspects. In return, we treated them to a very dodgy rendition of “the lion sleeps tonight” and the chicken song. Not sure how impressed they were but they did join in and dance with us!
The next day, we reloaded the mokoro and took the two hour ride back to the mokoro station where our 4WD picked us up and took us to a field big enough for a helicopter to land. The helicopter flight gave us a totally different view of the delta and a much better understanding of the size of the Delta. We were also able to see lots of animals from above, getting in closer to some more than others. Giraffes don’t scare easily so you can get close to them but elephants and crocodiles tend to flee when the helicopter gets too near. After the flight, we headed back to the campsite in Maun for lunch and then we set off for Gweta. This was largely just to cut down on the amount of travelling time we had to do the next day and it was already dark by the time we got there. The campsite is home to a 2,500 year old baobab tree as well as one of the coolest bars we’d come across so far, with chairs wrapped in cow skin and beer bottle chandeliers!