A short way into this cruise we stumbled across a group of hippos that were less than impressed with us traversing their little patch of paradise! We had an uneasy feeling when our polers and guides worked up a lather of sweat within 5 seconds of our arrival!
Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal.
At 3.30am we were startled awake by the sound of lions roaring after they had made a kill. An unlucky wildebeest had been brought down and made a meal of by the local pride of lion before they in turn were chased away by hyena, which we heard "laughing" at around 4am.
At first light we walked out to the site of the kill and discovered 16 Hyena and 1 Jackal playing around the remains of the Wildebeest.
The days are long and the heat is always present! The only way to cool down is to either have a cold beer or go for a swim in the Delta. The local guides will take you in a mokoro and search for an area that has no reeds where you can swim and cool down.....and you can take your cold beer with you!
An almost mandatory activity is visiting the Okavango Delta and having a ride in a mokoro. The mokoro is a dug-out canoe made from a large straight tree such as a sausage tree or an ebony tree. It is ideally suited as transport in the delta as in can move quietly through shallow water, being pushed by the boatman using a long pole, moving along the narrow channels or cutting through the long grasses or papyrus.
The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland water systems. It's headwaters start in Angola’s western highlands, with numerous tributaries joining to form the Cubango river, which then flows through Namibia (called the Kavango) and finally enters Botswana, where it is then called the Okavango.
Anne and I camped in the Okavango Delta for 2 nights and 3 days with 9 other passengers on a Kumuka overland adventure.
The delta environment has large numbers of animal populations that are otherwise rare, such as crocodile, red lechwe, sitatunga, elephant, wild dogs, buffalo, wattled crane as well as the other more common mammals and bird life. The best time for game viewing in the delta is during the May-October period, as the animal life is concentrated along the flooded areas and the vegetation has dried out.
Walking safaris were an integral part of our stay. Early morning and late afternoon game walks were conducted with six people per group and two guides who seemed to know every blade of dried up grass and every tree in the delta. It was amazing how a guide would point and say "Elephant" or "Zebra" and we would all say where?? But yes, there was an elephant or zebra watching us and we were still not aware that they were even there.
No mokoro ride or mokoro camping safari can happen without the help and knowledge of the local people.
On arrival we were met by a local guide who chose us. We were asked for our bags, which were loaded onto our mokoro.
This gentleman poled his way across the delta for 2.5 hours before we we arrived at our camp site. He was also at our side whenever we needed assistance, he was our guide every day on our walking safaris, he explained how they track animals and what animal left what droppings or tracks. When we were hot he took us to a safe area for swimming and when we wanted to go to the toilet.....he dug the hole!!!!!
MY TIP.....respect these people and pack a little extra into your pack that you can leave with them! A pair of shoes or a t-shirt is worth a lot to these people and when you are delivered safe and sound back at your pick up point give your guide 50 Pula (US$11.00)for his trouble.
It seems that wherever you turn and look in southern Africa, you will come across a herd of Zebra. Over a 21 day period we began to hear "Oh look, a Zebra" and by the 21st day we heard "Another bloody Zebra!" If you do not initially get that great shot of a zebra, don't worry, you will get another chance followed by another, then another, then another, then...............
Giraffe live in isolated herds and they seem to enjoy living with the zebra and the wildebeest. Just about every time we spotted these beautiful creatures we saw a herd of wildebeest or zebra near by. These two were spotted near the road that leads to the Okavango Delta.
Mokoros are the dugout canoes that are regularly used by the local people to move from place to place. These mokoro polers stand silently on the stern and two people sit on the floor of the mokoro, that is covered in dry reads, and lean on their luggage, a surprisingly comfortable experience.
The poler smoothly poles the mokoro as you gently and quietly make your way through the reeds and water lilies.
The only sounds are the push of the mokoro's bow on the reeds as you slide through a slender path of your own making and the water that drips from the pole of your craftman as he pushes you. Oh yeah.....and your wifes snoring!!!!!!!!!
In the evening you have a chance to go on a sunset mokoro cruise. This is a peaceful experience and gives you the chance to see all types of animals as they come down to the waters edge for an evening drink. The sunsets that are on display in this remote part of the world are worth the long journey that it takes to get here!
It is so peaceful as the mokoro moves quietly through shallow water and the only noise you can hear is the sound of the water as it drips from the boatmans pole while you move through the narrow channels. I can recommend this experience to any traveller who wishes to experience nature without the sounds of modern day life.
When you think about the numbers of elephants in Africa and the herds that they live in, it is truely amazing that they still have enough food and water to survive! Every day we saw herd after herd coming down to the waters edge for a drink.
When I got back to the camp I asked if there were any other people who wanted to take the mokoro trip on the following morning, but the answer was still negative. The receptionist asked me to come and check before I went to sleep. I totally forgot it though. In the morning I walked to the reception and heard that I was the only one who had booked a mokoro trip, so I was forced to pay extra. I had everything ready for the trip so as soon as the landcruiser arrived we left. It was early in the morning and quite chilly so the blanket they had in the car was really useful. I wrapped myself in it. I enjoyed the drive and saw some locals with donkeys and carts and thought it would make a nice photo. But there was no power in my camera. Not to worry I thought as I had extra battery with me. I changed the battery but the camera didn’t work. I was so mad! I was alone in this tour and the driver would have stopped anywhere where I wanted to take photos and my camera wasn’t working! That day I saw the most beautiful scenery of my holiday, we drove through a small village with round mud huts, I saw local people working in the field etc. and I could not take photos. I just couldn’t believe it. I knew that the battery was powerful only on the previous night as I had checked it. What happened? I don’t know. All I know is that my camera was not working! It took about two hours to reach the delta and the road was bad to say it mildly, but the driver was very careful, so it wasn’t that bad really. I met my guide who was called Sam and after a while we left. The mokoro is narrow and shallow but I didn’t feel any fear while sitting on it. On contrary I felt most comfortable on it. The Okavango Delta was beautiful. First I saw white and pink water lilies and some other flowers. The water was crystal clear and I could see right to the bottom of the river. There were some small fish swimming in the river, but though I really wanted to see a hippo we were not lucky. We floated through a narrow channel between high reeds and papyrus.