Bush Camping in the Delta

January 15, 2008 - Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta

Our second night camping did not offer much of a sleep. A storm hit in the middle of the night with strong rain, bright lightening and extremely loud thunder. One crack of thunder in particular was so load we thought that the lightening must have been meters from our tent. We also were a little unsure if the tent was going to successfully keep out all the wet.

The morning came quickly. It started with an open air truck ride to the Okavango Delta for two nights of bush camping. We were headed into the wilderness with no formal campsite, no hydro, no running water and no washroom (except for a dugout hole in the ground). This side excursion proved to be one of the main highlights of the tour. When we reached the water's edge, the group split into pairs and were matched up with a Mokoro guide, otherwise known as a 'poler'. A mokoro is a very shallow dugout canoe typically made from a sausage tree. Namita and I got in along with our gear that we needed for the two nights. We stretched out and laid back as our guide stood at the back of the boat and used a pole to propel us through the narrow waterway, lined by reeds and full of water lilies.

It was very hot but at least the skies were clear and sunny. I couldn't have imagined how disasterous it would have been if the rain had continued throughout this part of our trek to the bush camp. After two hours all of the mokoro's pulled over to shore where we set up camp in a tight area under some trees.

After a few hours of settling in it was time for our first of two safari walks. We were split into two groups to make it more manageable for the local guides. Before getting too far our guide stopped the group to provide some safety information regarding some of the animals we might see on our walks. He proceeded to tell us that if we found ourselves close to a lion that we needed to stare at it while slowly walking backwards away from it. If we were charged by a buffalo (a very aggressive animal that is more dangerous to man than lions) we were to run for a tree, quickly get to the opposite side of the tree (to avoid getting pinned to it) and begin climbing. He also told us that hippos (also more dangerous to man than lions) only charge when they are in the water and it comes in the form of a wave towards you. Supposedly you can tell if an elephant is only doing a mock charge because he is flapping his ears while he approaches. If he really means business his ears will be flat and his trunk will be tucked away. So...with those reassuring words we started out on our walk with the 'hope' of spotting some game.

The guide was leading us to a water hole where hippos typically spend their days. Due to the recent heavy rains there were areas of the route which was flooded. If we wanted to make it to the destination we would have to take our shoes and socks off to wade through the high grass up to our knees. There was a little hesitation since the two main animals we were looking for on this walk were hippos and crocodiles, both of which spend most of their time in water, but everyone except Mark and Terry pushed on. The wet feet and pants were definitely worth it. The hippos were in the distance but it was our first real game sighting and they were really fun to watch. Our guide led us back to camp but not before we took in a beautiful sunset in the delta.  We arrived at camp just in time for dinner and about two hours after we started out. This was Namita's and Terry's day to be on kitchen duty. Due to the traveling and the help received by the polers, they got off very easy.

The safari walk the next morning was much longer - four hours - and started at 6am so we could avoid the extra hot heat of mid day. The guides told us to make sure we had a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and 1.5 litres of water each. Our guides had none of these supplies. In fact, one of the guides was wearing a dress shirt, dress pants and dress shoes. We were all wearing the latest in hiking shoes and travel wear yet I guarantee he could have lasted hours longer than us walking in the heat.

It was really amazing to just step out of a tent and after a short walk be in proximity of such wild animals. There was a group of zebra traveling with some Wildebeast that we spotted first. The sound of the herd running was amazing. You could practically feel the pounding of the earth through your feet. We weren't able to get too close as they were quite shy and took off once they were startled. We were tracking an elephant when the guide at the back pointed out a giraffe in the distance. Just his head and neck were visible from where we were. He stared at us for awhile before turning and lumbering the other direction. He looked so majestic, almost prehistoric as he walked at tree top heights. We saw some antelope, baboons and several different types of birds.

Brunch was almost ready when we returned to the tents. We had a lot of spare time in the afternoon and it was really hot. It was difficult to lay in the tent because of the extreme heat but if you sat outside the flies would drive you insane. Mark and I were on kitchen duty that day. Unfortunately, we didn't have it as easy as the girls. Brunch was more involved than a typical breakfast, the flies were out of control while we preparing lunch and it started to rain heavily during dinner prep. We were in the middle of peeling potatoes when it started to come down. We had no choice but to take the potatoes to the tent to continue peeling as Namita held a light so we could see. That night we went for a sunset mokoro ride before the 'polers' sang traditional songs and performed a traditional dance for us in front of the fire.

The next morning we loaded up the mokoros and started the journey back to the Maun campsite.


Bird about to Take Off
Peeling Potatoes in the Tent
Peeling Potatoes in the Tent

1 Comment

Cliff Kearns:
February 5, 2008
Namita, no matter what David says after 2 days of bush
camping you deserved those Lays.
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