After an overnight stay in Ghanzi, we departed to our next camp. Another 330km drive to Maun located in the northern part of Botswana. 5 hours in the heated truck. Sweating. Dehydrated. Neverthless I was enjoying every minute of the trip. I was very looking forward to see the the Okavango Delta. It’s a very popular destination. Recently it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Flight over Okavango Delta
We arrived in Maun on a late afternoon. There was an optional flight which I did after lunch. Just to get a perspective of the place. We took off from Maun airport in a small 4-seater airplane. It was a bumpy flight so I got really scared. But that feeling was ultimately replaced with excitement and joy as I saw the delta for the first time. I never thought aerial photography would be so difficult. Most of the pictures were blurred and I only had a few good ones….barely. Everytime I see something interesting, it was too late to take the shots. So I gave up. Turned off my camera and enjoyed the view with my own eyes. We flew 200m above the delta. We were lucky enough to spot numerous animal species. Waterbuck, giraffes, hippo, buffalo, crocodiles and a lot of elephants! The scenic flight seems to go on forever. Actually it lasted almost an hour.
Back in the camp, we had another briefing with Peter regarding bush camping in the delta. Gave us advice and detailed instruction. About what to take and leave behind etc.
Basic bush camping
We woke up early the next day. Brought a few things we needed for the camp. Tents, sleeping bag, head torch, wet wipes, sunscreen & a lot of water. The rest were left inside the truck. First we had an hour boat ride to the Boro Station. By the time we reached that place, we were met by a site of chaos. Travellers and polers unloading their stuff from boats etc.
Mokoros are dug-out canoes commonly used as transportation for the locals and goods in the delta. In the old days, the mokoros were made from dug out trunks of the kigelia or ebony tree. Nowadays, they are constructed from molded fiber-glass for conservation purposes. These type of modern canoes are far more durable & environmentally friendly. A mokoro can usually carry 2 passengers. While the poler stands at the stern like a Venetian gondolier using a ngashi (a long pole) to navigate the canoe through the water. Riding a mokoro was unnerving. Not only because it was tippy. But also the thought of a possibility that beneath those innocent looking water lilies, a crocodile or a hippo could suddenly appear. Fortunately, no potentially lethal reptile was nearby. As our poler glided us through the reeds, I could hear various sounds of animals in the background. The roars of elephants, squeaking birds & buzzing insects. And a faint groan of a hippo.
Two hours later, we reached our camp on a small secluded island. We unloaded our stuff from the mokoros. Set up the tents. Peter started preparing lunch. I sat in a chair while enjoying the view. Out of nowhere, a group of elephants appeared on the riverbank. Only a few hundred meters away from our camp. That was the time I realized what I forgot to take with me. My 300 mm zoom lens! Luckily, one of the Aussies was kind enough to lend me hers once she was done taking photos.
It was siesta time in the middle of the day. Most of the people were inside their tents. Others bathe on the water near the campsite. It was just too hot to do anything. After a few hours I decided to try out the mokoro regardless of the heat. I just felt like I needed to do something productive. It didn’t took long as we were about to do a game walk before nightfall.
Dinner was served at night as we sat around the bonfire. The food was great. Peter never seized to amaze me. I thought he shouldn’t be working as a tour leader. He should have been a chef somewhere in an exclusive restaurant instead. Afterwards, we were entertained by the local polers. They performed a traditional African dance and sang as well. Eventually, one of the polers made me and the rest of the group join them.
One thing I disliked about bush camping was the part where I had to go to the toilet during night time. Or should I say bush toilet. The locals had already dug a hole in the ground that would supposedly last for 2 days. Whenever we use it, we had to take a shovel to cover our doings. I remember one time I went to piss, a cute little scorpion stood 3 cm away from my toes. Looking like as if it was ready to attack with it’s stinger. Combined with the sound of roaring hippos and other wild animals was more than enough to make me run back to my tent.
At first, I find it hard to believe that this is the delta. The largest in the world. So large, in fact, it can be seen from space! Unlike many other famous wildlife regions in the African continent, Botswana’s Okavango Delta has few visitors. Obviously it means that the place is well protected. The water of the Okavango is particularly clean as it flows through sparsely populated areas. Lush vegetation reflected on the water has kind of a picturesque quality. Encounter with other travellers are few and far between. We were completely disconnected from the modern world. There are opportunities for wildlife viewing, but without guarantee. Big 5 does reside within the delta. However we only saw elephants since we only stayed for 2 days. Which is too short in my opinion. One thing I’ve learned about being out in the wild was to be patient. What you see is what you get. In the Okavango Delta, I had no expectation other than to bush camp. Some in our group weren’t satisfied because they wanted to see more animals. For me, the giraffe & elephant sightings was a bonus. The Okavango Delta is a huge place after all so it takes time to see the rest.
This wonderful oasis is an iconic safari location in Botswana. Abundant in wildlife and is truly a jewel of the Kalahari. A primeval wetland wonderland that supports a huge variety of life. The Okavango Delta is one of the last great wilderness in Africa and is something altogether unique. The scenery is so incredible that it resembles a beautiful painting.