October 3, 2005

Botswana FlagWe were up at 6 am this morning, because we had a busy day ahead of us. Packing went quickly, because we had already packed our small packs for the trip into the Okavango Delta yesterday, so everyone was at breakfast by 7 am. The breakfast was prepared by the Drifters camp people, so there was no cleanup for us to do.

The camp setting at Maun was very lovely; in the light of day we saw that the camp was on the bank of a river, the Boteti River in fact, which flows out of the Delta if there is sufficient water. There were pelicans and spoonbills and other birds in the shallows.

At 7:30 am we left, and drove directly to Maun Airport for our flight into the Delta. We had opted to take the scenic low-level flight, so the first step was to pay the US$45 each for that. Then we packed up the small plane and took off. It seated five passengers and flew at a lower altitude than the direct flight.

The Okavango Delta is an amazing place to fly over. There are green areas with palm trees, which look superficially like Southern California golf courses, but are actually mostly water with reeds and water-lilies. In between those areas are islands, which have green trees near the water and brown savanna trees in higher and dryer areas. And in the land areas there are tracks every where, some made by vehicles and others by animals. We passed over herds of Cape buffalo, elephants and giraffes. It was also interesting to be flying at the same level as hawks and eagles!

The flight lasted about 45 minutes, after which we landed on Pom Pom Island’s sandy airstrip. We unloaded all the gear and put it into an open 16-seater jeep that took us on a mini-game drive to a location further in the Delta. We saw baboons, elephants, and a giraffe with oxpeckers riding on it. At the end of that drive, we once again transferred all the gear, this time into mokoros. These were narrow boats that were traditionally carved from a single log; ours were the modern moulded-plastic versions. They were poled by guides who had been raised right there in the Delta. Our guide was named Carlos, although as usual that was a stage name because his real name was too hard for the tourists to pronounce. He was very knowledgeable about the bird and plant life.

The mokoro trip took about an hour and a half through narrow channels and wide lakes, surrounded mostly by papyrus reeds. The narrow channels were often made by hippos, but luckily we didn’t meet any. We were very lucky, though, to see a Nile crocodile. It was sleeping soundly in the sunshine and didn’t wake up as our boats passed by. The guides guessed that it was over four metres in length, judging by the size of its tail!

All along the way we could see storks flying over, hundreds of them, and soon we could hear their noise. We came upon a group of islands which were their homes. Most of them were African Openbill storks, but there were some big Marabou Storks (who got the places at the top of the trees), and some Yellow-billed Storks at the bottom, not to mention Sacred Ibises, various egrets, and a few pelicans. The noise was incredible.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at the Drifters Delta camp. We collected our packs and headed towards the tent area. These were the same style of tents as we had at our usual camps, but they were permanently set up. We had the usual lunch, then we had rest time. Writing journals was quite pleasant while sitting under the cook shelter; at this camp we were not allowed to wander around because of the wild animals, so other than swimming in the shallow water, we just sat and relaxed. We could hear several types of birds and insects, plus people snoring!

At 4 pm we went out on another mokoro trip, this time to Baboon Island, which is about three quarters of an hour away. We passed the storks’ nesting area, then we came upon a pair of hippos. We sat and watched them for quite a while, and they watched us. One of them was jumping out of the water. We had to back off and go down a different channel, but it wasn’t too long before we arrived at the island, where we went on a guided walk. We saw monkeys, giraffes, and numerous birds and plants.

After that we returned to the camp, stopping on the way to watch the sun set. Margit and Rosemary peeled potatoes and Christian peeled the carrots, which made up the mashed potato and carrot dish that went with the barbecued rump steaks. Once dinner was finished we sat by the fire talking, then went to bed around 11 pm.

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