Some seasoned safari-takers slight this serene activity, but maybe we were just lucky and found it gorgeous. This is how the bushmen navigated through the delta, using channels created by the wildlife (usually hippos, but other animals too).
Mokoro are long, thin duggout canoes -- well traditionally that's what they were. Now they are more likely to be aluminum or fiberglass. You ride very low in the water, almost eye-level with the water lily pads. I loved it.
Since we were there in the late fall/winter month of May, the mosquito population had died off. Also, the temperatures were ideal, about 75 degrees in the mornings and late afternoons.
Mboma island is situated in the north west corner of Moremi, as we had stayed the night before in Xakanaxa, it took us about 3 hours, including a bit of game viewing time, to drive there the next day, which was a bit hurried.
The ride in the mokoro was a peaceful one, it was pleasant but we were a little disappointed at it's tameness. Having built it up in our minds to be watching elephants on the bank (we did see the tops of their heads on one ocassion) and hippo, who are not in the vacinity due to motor boats that use the area and crocs too are not to be seen.
Having said that, it was an enjoyable trip, the polers delivered little bits of information and found us the tiniest of frogs. You even get a chance to swim in the canal and you do see the hippo channels too which are generally used at night apparently.
So tame but enjoyable, if you have not built up an idea of what it will be like before hand.
An amazing evening spent on the Chobe River, being centre stage of all that was happening on the shores and in the river. Elephants, elephants and then even more of them, fish eagles, baboons, impala, water buffalo, then there were the hippo, I have seen many over the years but not as many as this all grazing on the land.
Do NOT forget your cameras and plenty of room on your cards too.
This is a wonderful experience, cruising down the river in a small raft like boat, feeling very little and fragile amongst the giants surrounding it.
You will have your sundowners on board and feel really alive, truly disbelieving that the rest of life is real after this sensational event you just don't want to end.
Drifting in the boat whilst huge herds of elephant cross the water with the sunset acting as stage background, baby elephants playing by the shore, trying to make their uncontrollable trunks do as they are told.
Sitting in no mans land between Botswana and Namibia, two exotic countries, watching what the conservationists of the world have retained for us, something that is worth far more than any amount of money, nature at its purest.
During our stay at Tuli Game Reserve we took a trip to Mothlabeneng School.
The Game Reserve is run as part of a community project , therefore benefitting the local people and it's facilities, the school being part of that.
We expected to just look around and meet some of the children during our visit but oh so much more than that was to await us. As we arrived, small children ran and greeted us with their beaming smiles and joyous hearts, as we walked further into the grounds older children were lining up chairs for us to be seated on and then appeared a group of traditionally clad youngsters with musical anklets in place and before our unsuspecting eyes, they began to sing and dance. Such an emotional and moving performance and out of the blue, I managed to pick up my camera to snap some memories but a tug at the heart meant I could not contain the emotion that began to spring from my eyes and soon the humour of the children touched my mouth and I could not contain then my laughter. Looking to my right I noted that big man next to me was going through exactly the same mix of pure delight and humbleness these people brought to our chests. Still Michael raised the video to capture this moment forever.
After the entertainment the children were fascinated to interact with us all and we found we did not want to be leaving so soon either.
This was not only a highlight of our holiday but an insight to how tourism, in a controlled way and with the organisation of the people, can in fact benefit the communities, as opposed to us visitors turning the place into a commercial circus. Long may this type of tourism reign.
October in Botswana is very hot temperatures goes upto 40 degrees, the air is still and the heat seems to have a physical force.
Take a game drive in Chobe national park. , the great thing about october is animals feel the heat too- so like like school kids they are in abundance at the river. In chobe alone there are 45000 elephants- said to be the highest concentration in the world,
Along the river there will be elephants abound , the younger ones often playful, there will be hippos grazing with th cattle and buffalo on sedudu. deep in the bush there will be girrafes.
dont afford to miss this crucial month.
We come to the harbour from which we are to be taken on the mokoro ride. The polers are already there. After a few minutes of confusion because we don't know what to do, a young boy grabs our bags and leads us to his mokoro. His boat looks a bit older than others and has some puddles of water at the bottom - but it's too late to withdraw. We sit on the mattresses folded in such a way as to make seats with a back. He pushes the boat onto the water and the 'cruise' begins. We notice anxiously that the boat is in water almost up to the edge. Seeing our apprehension, the poler calms us down and explains that his mokoro is made from the sausage tree while others are of fibre glass. So we are lucky to travel in the traditional version of the boat. We look around - the view is beautiful and serene. The river looks like a water meadow full of reeds and papyrus and dotted with beautiful pink and white lilies.
It seems unreal - so far away from noise and stressful life that it's beyond comprehension. We immerse in the tranquility and silence broken only by splashing water. Suddenly we hear a cry from one of the boats - it's our guide swearing because an enormous spider crawled onto his face. Yes, there are some drawbacks to this idyllic ride - spiders and tiny flies are omnipresent. So after three hour journey we are happy to set foot on shore.
In the afternoon we are divided into small groups and each group is to follow their guide (one of the polers) for the bush walk. We are told to behave quietly and follow the guide in line. Not far from our camp the guide suddenly stops - he senses something that we are not aware of yet - but after a moment we see an elephant behind the bushes, just a couple of metres from us. Oh, it feels so different from the Etosha Park - there we could observe the animals from the confinement of a vehicle or the safety of the camp - here we are almost face to face with them. To my horror I realise how stupidly I and my sister-in-law behaved an hour before. We left the camp and went for a short walk without notifying our guide. What would we have done if the elephant had crossed our way? From now on we are going to take all precautions and obey all the rules.
The walk is very interesting. We see another couple of elephants, lots of zebras and antelopes.
In the night I suddenly wake up. There is a loud splash of water as if some enormous body emerged from it. Then I hear the rumbling sound of the steps - quite near the tent! I feel the ground shaking. Is it a dream? Halina is asleep. How can she be sleeping in such a moment? I don't know what to do. Why isn't there any action? Why don't they chase the "monster" away? Then the steps fade in the distance ...
In the morning they find the traces of an elephant next to our camp.
Chances are you'll reach your Botswana safari destination via South Africa. Be sure to purchase boerewors from a butcher as part of your supplies.
There is nothing nicer than to sit around a crackling campfire at night, a lion's roar from the darkness and boerewors sizzling on the braai (barbeque).
Boerewors is a very popular South African sausage consisting of minced beef and pork with a variety of spices, including coriander seed, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.
If you're really lucky, you may have a person in the group who knows how to prepare putu pap - a maize-based dish to accompany the meat.
We took a drive here from Savuti campsite, it was a true 4 x 4 ride and a fairly long one too, as it is tucked away at the far end of the Park, seemingly wilder and less busy here.
We hoped all the way that we did not meet an oncoming car as one of us might then find ourselves fighting with the sand or the bush in an attempt to share the road, never mind meeting an elephant in a bad mood, reversing would have been a huge manoeuvre under such circumstances.
The journey's end was stunning and a surprise, lush green foliage surrounding the Linyanti, a tributary river of the Chobe. The Linyanti is a 'little' Okavango, it has it's own permanent waterways, surrounded by reeds, trees and papyrus.
At Chobe you can only experience a small fraction of the river, never-the-less, it is still very pretty and we found plenty of elephant in the area, attracted I suspect by the water supply.
There are two camps in this area, a safari camp and a remote camping ground. It's a tough access to this camp and very isolated, if you are braver than us, then you may love it. You seriously can only access by 4x4, an attempt in any other vehicle would be impossible.
We stop at one of the numerous islands in the delta. It's to be our home for two nights. We are told to pitch our tents next to the river bank on an uneven terrain of a very modest size. In result, the 15 tents ( there are 16 people in our group plus the polers) are so squeezed that there's hardly any space to walk between them. We are surprised. The island is so big - why can't we camp in a more spacious place? We are to find out the answer later - it's for safety reasons. They show us the toilet - a hole in the ground surrounded by some bushes. Everybody must think about the same - how to use it without being disturbed by others? The first impressions are rather discouraging. I think to myself: " What am I doing here? I didn't use to be a girl-guide and never regretted it. It's not for me".
In the meantime our guide and cook in one person makes a meal for us; it's delicious, as usual. The polers wait till we have finished and then start cooking for themselves. Yes, the atmosphere is like on the scout camp.
I know next to nothing about birds so although both the Okavango delta and the Chobe national park are great destinations for bird watching ( over 440 different bird species have been recorded here) I focused rather on other animals than birds. But little green birds caught my attention during the Chobe cruise. A group of them looked very picturesque against the muddy river bank. They were hiding in the holes made in mud and again going out, making a lot of fuss. At home I found some information about them and they turn out to be a very interesting species.
White fronted bee-eaters are endemic to Africa. They nest in colonies counting up to 200 individuals, and dig nesting holes in the banks of rivers. As the name suggests, bee-eaters feed mainly on bees but also on other flying insects.
They have one of the most complex societies of all birds with colonies consisting of clans. Within each clan there are some families, each consisting of a breeding pair and 1-5 helpers. The helpers are usually the offspring of the breeding pair.
The Kalahri Desert is a huge semi-desert actually. It has sand alright. I know. I got my car stuck in it twice! The Kalahri is a massive 362,500 sq. miles (900,000 sq. km) covering much of Botswana and parts of South Africa and Namibia. The area does get some rainfall so there are plants and a variety of animals. It supports ostriches, lions and cheetas. It also has a few too many donkeys, horses, dogs and vultures. In addition to a wealth of animals, there is also mineral wealth – diamonds. There is a great paved road to help you get across Botswana – the Trans-Kalahari Highway.
Please see my Transport Tips for information about the Trans-Kalahari.
With the mokoro we went to Chiefs island, part of the Moremi National Park, for a walking safari of three hours.
The rangers give us an instruction that I never will forget again:
If you see a lion ... just stand still
If you see an elephant ... run off-wind
If you see a buffalo .... climb in the highest tree
We started our walk and had some thoughts, what to do, if you see two different animals at the same time? And because there were no big trees around, so what to do, if you see that buffalo?
The first day at the camp I had to replace my tent 5 M, because my tent was on an elephant track. So I did, but 5 M is still ratherr close!
In the briefing at the first evening the campstaff told us to take always a torch at night, because in the dark you don't see the dark bodies of the elephants and they are wild, so be very carefull! So I did, normally I never walked in the dark with a torch.
It lasted two days and then the message and warning came ..... there are elephants at the camp!
The Moremi Wildlife Reserve covers 3000 sq KMs. The two most important parts of the Reserve are Chiefs Island in the Inner Delta and the Moremi Peninsula (or Moremi Tongue) in the north east. This part you can also reach by land from the Chobe National Park or Maun.
From the Inner Delta we didn't fly back to Maun, but we flied directly with a cesna to an airstrip in the middle of nowhere at the Moremi Peninsula.
We were happy, when we saw the arranged bushtruck from Kasane, half hidden in the shade of the bushes, waiting for us.
It was also special to see again the delta from the air.
Plot 21117, Corner Mobuto and Maratadiba, The Village - Private Bag 00324, Gaborone, Botswana
Good for: Families
P.O. Box 100, Maun, Botswana
Good for: Families
Chobe River, Kasane, Botswana
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
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