Deep in the Okavango Delta
Trip Start Jul 24, 2006
19Trip End Oct 28, 2006
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We had gotten a good reference from our fellow rafters in Vic Falls about an excellent company - good guides for cheap! So we gave Drifters a call, and five minutes later we had set up our flight for the next morning out to the Inner Delta where we spend three days in a tented camp.
The next morning, we took our small aircraft captained by a British pilot, who had simply decided one day to quit his job and come fly in Botswana, to Baobab Island
We were met by our guide, Lesh, who is probably the most knowledgeable guide in the business. The man could identify a blue crane hiding in the grass reeds 400 meters away, while we were struggling to see it in our binoculars. He could talk your ear off about baobab trees just as long as he could talk about the breeding habits of caracal cats and could faithfully imitate the different calls (mating, hunger, anger, etc) of mammals as well as those of bird. Our first encounter with the Okavango wildlife took place about 2 km from the isolated airstrip (nothing more than a narrow dirt road) where we touched down, when Lesh suddenly stopped the jeep short. Lions, he said. We looked around blankly. Then he pointed to a spot not 5 meters away from the truck. A full grown male lion was lying tranquilly in the grass. Behind him, 4 females and a young male were also lazing about in the shade. Lesh warned us that we shouldn't stand up or talk loudly or jump out of the vehicle to get on top of the lion's back, as Philippe had asked hopefully
Lesh took us about 10 km in the jeep before we hopped into our first mokoro, or dug-out canoe, though these days because they have so much tourism in the area, the government has forbidden tour companies to use real wooden trunks for the canoes in order to limit the damage done to the okavango tree population, so our canoe was the same shape but made out of plastic. Lesh then poled us the rest of the way to the Baobab Island, through narrow passages within the papyrus reeds, and across large open swamp areas where a huge population of marabou had settled down for mating season. He explained that Baobab Island is in the middle of several deep river passages, which reduces the number of wild animals that can come to visit - while lions may try to take the plunge, leopards and smaller cats generally do not. Elephants, giraffes, kudus, and other larger species however can swim through the passages so those were the animals we could expect to give us a visit. And of course, this was home to many hippos and crocodiles, though thankfully hippos confine themselves to small pools hidden in the middle of papyrus groves during the day and only come out at night. Otherwise, the risk posed to mokoros would be too great - you did not want to surprise a hippo in one of these narrow passages, apparently, we would have no chance against those big mouths
We made it to our island with no hippo encounter, and settled into our tent which enjoyed the shade of a huge sausage tree. It was mid-day, too hot for animals, so we were to have a rest until 4 in the afternoon when we would go on our first game walk. But just as we were finishing up lunch, we heard the sounds of huge feet splashing in the water. A few minutes later, Lesh pointed a finger into the trees and said, "he's coming." All of a sudden, a huge bull elephant came into view. Lesh positioned us in the camping ground and told us to wait as the elephant would pass just in front of us. And then, there he was. Pulling up small palm trees with his trunk to eat the roots, sucking up palm nuts that were lying on the ground, minding his business as though nobody else were standing just meters away. Needless to say, its a real thrill to be so close to such a huge beast.
The next day, we had a similar experience, only Lesh had gone to the other side of the camp. So Philippe and i were alone in the camp when two mama elephants and two babies decided to come through and say hello. We were acting calm and harldy moving as we had learned the day before, and were just watching as one of the mamas coming closer and closer
The rest of the days consisted of fantastic game walks, swimming in the hippo-free pools, poling lessons, animal tracking, and one evening when we poled out to a hippo pool to wake them up from their daytime naps. It was a fabulous experience, and weren't ready to leave when the airplane came back to pick us up!