Floating through a flooded oasis
Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
124Trip End Nov 30, 2011
Having crossed the Okavango, one of the benefits of getting onto the quiet and dusty Botswanan road to the delta was that we were able to open the roof seats on the truck. As we flew down the dusty sand and gravel roads, we had a great view from the roof seats - out over the road, the passing villages, and to our right, over the wide open expanse of the Okavango Delta. It also proved to be a great vantage point for interacting with the local people as we drove by – lots of waving, smiling children and adults all along the roadside saying hello to the passing orange and white giant
After an already full day of travel, we arrived at the Umvuvu Camp launch site late in the afternoon, not aided by the one hour time change to Botswanan time, or the long queue of vehicles at the car ferry. As it was getting late and would be dark soon, our plans to bush camp further down the delta had to be changed - it was too risky heading out into the delta so close to sunset. Instead we jumped in our mokoro’s – traditional hollowed-out wood canoes – for the 15 minute trip to Umvuvu Lodge, where we would spend the night camping in full size tents, complete with actual beds, before doing the bush camp the following night. It was a small and painless change in itinerary that most people were grateful for – the chance to sleep in a proper bed coming one night earlier was welcomed by all. As we headed out into the delta on our mokoro’s I couldn’t help but think how peaceful it was, with only the sound of the wind through the reed grass, and our boatman’s pole entering the water to disturb the silence. With the sun falling further all the time, it made for a truly idyllic scene.
Saturday morning, we had another early start as we had to pack up the kitchen and equipment before climbing into the mokoros for our morning cruise
We arrived at our bush camp mid-morning and set up our campsite, before heading off for a guided walk around the island to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Okavango Delta ecosystem. Walking around the island in single file I was stuck at the back, being the tallest, and so couldn’t really hear a lot of what was being said. Again we didn’t see a lot of wildlife or birdlife, despite nearly every square inch of the island being covered in animal excrement, until we were just about to turn around and head back to our campsite when we saw four elephants walking across a grassy clearing.
Back at camp we had a few hours to sit around and relax away from the heat of the early afternoon before our sunset mokoro cruise. It was a warm afternoon so Gino and our guides offered us the chance to go swimming in the delta. There were a few people keen to go for a quick swim - particularly Gino who was leading the charge - so Kerry and I decided to get into our swimming gear as well. We didn’t have to go swimming, but if we wanted to then at least we had the option
As we headed further into the delta on our mokoros, we made a stop to see the very rare Pel’s Fishing Owl – a beautiful creature that tolerated our presence for several minutes before eventually flying off – amazing! Before it started getting too cold our guides took us to a nice swimming area – beautifully crystal clear water, sandy bottom, and not too deep. As our guides announced that we had reached the swimming area, a few hands reached overboard to test the water. The water was cool, but only just bearable – there was suddenly a little apprehension about jumping in given the temperature of the water. No one wanted to be first in, so it was left to Gino to decide whether we were going swimming or not. But as soon as Gino had jumped in, jumped back out, and then jumped back in again, everyone else proceeded one by one to take the plunge – Steve, Kerry, Julia, Ellen, myself, Maria, and then Val – who hadn’t even planned on going swimming and so wasn’t wearing her swimsuit. The water was cold, but bearable if you kept moving, but only for so long. After a few minutes everyone was back out of the water and drying off in their mokoros, having gone swimming in the Okavango Delta in the middle of winter – yet another unique experience!
Having finished with our swimming we headed off in search of hippos
I enjoyed the Okavango Delta, but I had hoped to see a little more than we did. The delta is so large that we really only saw a small fraction of it – understandable given the limited amount of time that we actually had to experience it. One of the only ways to really see all that the delta has to offer is by light plane. Personally I would have liked another day in the delta to see and experience even more of what it has to offer, and like others in our group, possibly view it from the air. The mokoros provided a great experience, but our opportunities to view different wildlife was limited by the amount of ground we could cover, and the speed at which we could move, in the mokoro.
We now head out of Botswana, back to Namibia, returning to Bagani overnight, before continuing along the Caprivi Strip to return to Botswana at Chobe National Park.