Okavango Delta, Botswana

From Johannesburg we fly to Maun in northern Botswana and board a private flight to the Okavango Delta where we transfer from the airstrip to the camp arriving in the afternoon in time for our first of many game viewing drives.

Kana Kara Tented Camp

The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland deltas covering 5,700 square miles and home to a rich assortment of species and terrains and where we will camp for the next 4 days.

Our days will be devoted to an in-depth exploration of the delta.  Each year nearly 3 trillion gallons of water pour into the delta, and none of it flows out again into rivers.  With less than 6 feet of height variation across its thousands of square miles the delta holds the water like a vast pool in season. That huge volume is all simply evaporated or absorbed by the thirsty earth.  Yet, there are also times when the parts of the delta become arid plains where moisture is scarce.  That’s because it is nestled in the Kalahari Desert, and its seasons fluctuate wildly from heavy rains in the African summer that causes flooding, to the hot spring seasons that parch the land. Visitors seeking the rain-fed foliage join resident species, which thrive here year-round.

The rhythm of our days follow the pattern of a morning game viewing, followed by a return to camp for lunch and following afternoon tea, we’ll depart on our next game-viewing excursion or bush walk, returning to the camp for sundown and dinner.

Leopard suffocating an impala

Leopard suffocating an impala

Zebra

Zebra

Hippos

Hippos

Giraffe

Giraffe

Ostrich

Ostrich

Wart Hogs

Wart Hogs

All of our encounters with the animals were up close and peaceful, they allowed us to just sit and watch them without regard until we rounded a corner and came upon a herd of elephants with babies.  The matriarch soon showed her displeasure by flapping her ears and trumpeting; their usual habit is to fake charge when they are upset.  This lady, however, was in no mood for fake anything, she charged us, chasing us for what seemed like an eternity, getting very close to the jeep.  Our driver yelled “HOLD ON” and he drove as fast as he could through the bush, zigzagging, taking narrow cuts through trees, anything to throw her off but she just kept coming.  Finally, we thought we lost her and he slowed down a bit and took inventory to see if everyone was okay only to have her come charging out of the bush a few minutes later.  We were all quite rattled by the experience but did manage to get away . . . lesson learned!

Angry Elephant

Angry Elephant

Not to far from the “elephant incident” our jeep became mired in mud – totally stuck – even the jack sank.  This was not a good day and we were all still rattled by the encounter with the elephant, wondering if she might come charging out of the bush again but we waited quietly near the jeep while OC and Mr. T. tried to free the wheel, it didn’t look good.

Now, if this had been a movie what happened next would be so unbelievable –  I certainly wouldn’t have believed it – a tractor appeared out of seemingly nowhere and rescued us.  Mind you, we had not seen any people in two days other than our own group and camp staff and now, here comes a tractor.  He had been sent out by one of the other camps in the delta to find someone who was missing and just happened to see us.  No questions asked, he easily pulled us free to our great joy and we returned to camp with stories to tell . . . open bar tonight.

The delta is home to a stunning variety of birds, a total of 400 species that live here year-round, here a small sampling.

Malachite Kingfisher

Woodland Kingfisher

Grey Lourie

Grey Lourie “go away” bird

Saddle-billed Stork

Saddle-billed Stork

Coppery Tailed Coucal

Coppery Tailed Coucal

Gray Heron

Gray Heron

Our days in the delta were full of discovery, hippos would serenade us at night while spending their days submerged in the delta waters; herds of kudu, impala and elephants grazed on the grasses.  The leopard sighting was the most amazing, seeing her kill and then drag the impala to safe ground.  We returned each day to see her and found on the second day that she a cub who scurried into the bush as we neared so we only caught a quick glimpse but what a beautiful animal, I could sit and watch her all day long.

One afternoon we explored by canoe and then a bush walk to a nearby island.  The waters are glass-like, filled with water lilies and birds nest on the reeds.  It is a lovely way to travel through the delta.

IMG_7738

IMG_7727

Tea Time

Tea Time

P1040245

Sunset return to camp

Sunset return to camp

Remember the elephant incident . . . at the airstrip we met a family who also encountered the angry mamma but were not as lucky as we were, she made contact with their vehicle and while everyone was okay she made quite an impression.

Point of contact

Point of contact

Kana Kara Tented Camp

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