After an early start we were on the way to our next adventure: two nights in the Okavango delta with a whole army of local guides (almost 1:1 ratio). For those of you who haven’t marvelled at the footage of the delta on the BBC’S Planet Earth, it measures an enormous 18,000 squared km and is a bit of real wilderness as it is not a national park.
Part of the attraction to the delta is that the best mode of transport is nothing more than a hollowed out tree trunk called a Mokoro. The guides are pretty adept at punting these shallow canoes along through the marshlands.
After setting up camp and digging a bush toilet we had a lovely four hour walk on one of the larger islands. The wildlife there is great and being on foot so close to the whole cast of The Lion King is awesome. Approaching animals on foot is a different experience -trying to keep downwind of elephants and stay silent in your approach – all the while watching for signs that they are annoyed by you. Our guides safety talk was a bit worrying “if I panic, you panic, run and hide in a bush – don’t follow me”. We saw elephants, zebra, African storks, wildebeest and we even managed to take a pic of Pumba! Zoe was determined to see a leopard which meant staring up into every tree and therefore falling into every aardvark hole and every gigantic pile of elephant shit around. Our lack of bush tracking skills also mean that most of our pics are of the stampedes we caused among the zebra and wilderbeast as we approached. Seeing a herd of zebra stampede is pretty amazing – such noise and dust. Back at camp we were again getting used to the proximity of wildlike – hearing and elephant crashing through the trees near camp and seeing it shaking down trees not so far away is pretty exciting/terrifying by day and even more so at night.
On our way to a walk the next morning we had another close encounter with our friends the hippos. Being in a Mokoro and triying to slide past them is an unnerving experience; they go under water and come up with a huge roar- question is: where do they resurface? What really didn’t help was our poler Hope was hopelessly scared of hippos and instead of quietly poling past them like all the other mokoro guides did she would scream ‘ahhh ‘ippo” and madly pole backwards to hide in the reeds – there she would remain muttering under her breath – really worrying when you are relying on her to be your calm confident guide. One evening we poled to the hippo pool to float and watch the hippos and the sunset – this wasn’t quite the experience we hoped for- as well a screaming and nearly oversetting the mokoro every time a hippo surfaced Hope tried to alleviate her anxiety by talking loudly to the other guides so our quiet relaxing Delta sunset was a pretty noisy affair!
The evening provided us with more of an opportunity to get to know the guides and more specifically get to know their songs and dances. These guys knew how to put on a good show! Problem was that they were in for a quid pro quo and we shocked them with renditions of “In the jungle, awimbawe” and a solo of “My Delilah” (don’t ask…we know: why?).
After two days and nights with no facilities other than the bush toilet (a hole in the ground) the showers back at the camp site in Maun were appreciated by all. We did get a chance for a fitting goodbye to the delta by flying over it in a little 6-seater plane. This gives a much better sense of scale of it all as all you can see is the Delta, huge herds of animals and the curvature of the earth. Next stop Chobe national park and then we are now on the way to the Victoria Falls and Livingstone (named after Dr. Livingstone I presume?).