Monday, June 4, 2018 | Botswana – North West District, Maun | Petra
SAFARI AT THE OKAVANGO DELTA
AN EXPERIENCE WE’LL NEVER FORGET
Botswana is famous for its breathtaking animal kingdom, great game reserves and for its unique Okavango Delta. In Botswana you can find the largest population of elephant in Africa and the Delta is one of the largest intact inland delta systems on Earth. We read about it a lot in advance and also developed quite an idea about it. But we never expected that our visit will become that much exciting.
LET’S HAVE A BREAK
We are in Maun for some days, a nice little town that offers everything its inhabitants and tourists need. Win and I enjoy the cosy atmosphere at Thamalakane River. It’s nice to meet many friendly people, who are always ready for a smile. At Hilary’s, a pretty little café, you can enjoy wonderful salads and sandwiches. The tasty bread and sweet cakes are home made and to die for. Next door Hilary runs a ballet studio and offers lessons, we prefer to stay with the sandwiches.
READY FOR TAKE OFF
A scenic flight with a small propeller-driven plane offers us a perfect open view over Okavango Delta. From above we can spot many elephants and antelopes, see huge herds of buffalos and get an idea of the amazing size of the delta. Now it is the time when Okavango Delta gets flooded by the water of the rainy season coming from Angola. Around July the rivers and ponds of the delta will reach their peak.
NOW OR NEVER
It’s a spontaneous decision to book a three-days-safari at Okavango Delta. We get inspired by Chris and Michael, a German couple we meet at Maun, while sitting together at the camp fire in the evening. Two days later at 8.45 in the morning we fly at a last-minute off-peak rate to Vumbura Plains Camp in the north of the delta. You only can get there by plane.
We are more excited than children just starting school on their first day and we don’t have an idea of what we’ll get. Three days filled with fascinating animal experiences, fragrant sceneries, amazing sunrises and sunsets, likable people and (of course) a muddy breakdown with the safari vehicle keep us busy. Wow!
LET’S GO SAFARI
Only three days we have, but three days stuffed with so many experiences, way enough for a whole life. Even during our first game drive in the evening at 4 p.m. after the high tea we can’t stop marveling and watching.
We leave the camp sitting on a safari vehicle and dive into an unbelievable rich animal kingdom. We come across old friends like giraffes, elephants, zebras and we meet new creatures we have never seen before in real.
Willy, our guide, drives right through the water to show us a huge herd of buffalos, he spotted behind tangly bushes. Although we are very curious, we have to be careful, buffalos can fly into a rage within a second and break out all of a sudden.
Being on a safari means anything else but being on a lazy holiday. The animals in the bush are early birds. That’s why we have wake up time at 5.30 a.m., get breakfast at 6.00 and then leave for our morning game drive for several hours.
At lunchtime we come back to the camp and after having lunch we do as the animals in the bush do – we have a siesta. A game drive is quite exhausting and tiring.
In the late afternoon the evening drive is listed on the agenda. Again we are in the bush for several hours to watch out for animals. Willy knows a lot of interesting things to explain about wild animals and their behaviour.
We are lucky and hit upon a beautiful female leopard during our game drive. Today she killed an antelope and stuffed herself with that proper meal. Now it looks like she suffers from satiety. She doesn’t even know how to find the right position to relax and get relief.
The next morning we come across her again. In the early twilight she lies under her tree. She cuddles with her daughter caressing. The little one wants to play and practise creeping up and hunting. Uaaaah!
RIDE ON A DUG-OUT
How about a romantic river ride on a mokoro, how the dug-out is called here? Friendly, shy Alko is our poler, he is born at the Okavango Delta and knows it like no one else. With a long wooden pole he smoothly pushes our mokoro through the quiet water, and for me he turns a waterlily into a pretty necklace, which beauty will only last for three days. Only the memory of it will last forever.
Still the mokoro is an important means of transportation at the Okavango. Traditionally a mokoro is made from the trunk of a 100 to 500 years old Mokutshumo. Nowadays these swimming taxis are made from fiberglas. It makes the mokoro lighter and stronger on one hand, on the other hand it helps to protect the trees, which are important for the habitat there.
We very much enjoy the quiet mokoro ride between reed and waterlilies. We meet the little reed frogs, which are only three centimetres in size and produce quite loud klick-sounds in the evening. It is the sound of these metal frogs we used to play with, when we were children. Knick-knack!
Luckily we get in sight of a spotted hyaena during one of our early morning drives. Usually hyaenas are night-workers and can’t be spotted easily at daylight. We are quite surprised by her impressive size.
Hyaenas eat carcasses with skin, hairs and bones and help themselves with the left overs of lion’s meals. Sometimes they hunt in packs for zebras or antelopes. They tear apart their prey alive with their sharp teeth. They are also highly dangerous for a single person when attacking him in pack. Yummie!
Not only during our game drives Mother Nature treats us very well by presenting exciting creatures from close proximity. Also with her picturesque sunrises and sunsets she is very creative. We haven’t seen such a variety of it before.
Even a skilled guide can get into trouble if he is careless for a second. For Willy didn’t activate the differential lock of the safari vehicle in due time, we all of a sudden get stuck when crossing a water during our evening game drive. The car doesn’t neither move forward nor backward. Now it’s the turn of a jack, many strong brunches to put underneath and a second safari car to get Willy’s cart out of the muddy mess. We all hope that lions or hyaenas don’t make use of our weak position and will dispense with choosing us for dinner. Maybe, to have a look over the shoulder now and again might be a good idea.
Willy, our guide, tells us that four lion brothers returned to the ground where they disappeared for a while. One of the four we meet next to a big herd of buffalos. He is just working on a dead buffalo and bites pleasureably into the buffalo’s bowels. Will he invite his brothers for dinner?
The following morning the single lion is gone, and now his three brothers are busy with the carcass of the buffalo. It was not their brother who informed them about the meal, the vultures did it.
Extraordinary exciting it gets the moment a big, full lion moves towards our car slowly but with a particular aim in mind. He feels uncomfortable with the many flies on his fur. If he might find relief under our car? He only is one tiny metre away from me. My breathing is getting flater, my eyes are getting bigger. Willy advises neither to move nor to make any sound. I stop breathing. The lion hesitates, thinks – finally he veers off. Gosh, that’s not for the faint-hearted!
MOTHER AND CHILD
Without a male companion we see tow lionesses with their cubs roaming. It’s a mother and her grown up daughter, both having little offspring. It is fascinating to watch them feeding, cuddling and keeping their little ones in rein.
Little Survivor indeed is the smallest of them and can’t win through her stronger siblings and cousins. That’s why she is under the special protection of her mum. Willy tells us, she once got lost for four days and they were afraid she got killed by a hyaena. But then all of a sudden she came to light again and everybody was happy. She was very weak and tiny, but she survived. That’s why they call her tenderly Survivor.
Like all children lion cubs frolic around, too. Survivor is no exception in that and sometimes her mother has to take care, that the others don’t overdo it. Be careful, Honey!
We already did some self game drives in several wild parks with our truck and experienced extraordinary wild life before. To do a safari like the one we did at Okavango Delta is still something different. To drive in an open vehicle, to leave driving to somebody else and to have a skilled guide with you, who knows to read animals and their tracks, is something very special. Furthermore the guide has an exceptional permission to leave the official paths when getting in sight of an extraordinary animal. To keep the wild animals protected as much as possible only three vehicles per sighting are allowed to come closer at the same time. The comparatively small number of visitors compared to more common parks makes it special again.
Camp Vumbura Plains has a natural style and is carefully integrated to the landscape. It is predominantly built of wood and convinces with its open, plain architecture and a tasteful interior. During daytime now and again elephants drop in and at night you can listen to the loud roaring of the hippos. Great!
This safari will remain an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience to us.