Thursday, March 3, 2016

Botswana's: Sundowners in the Okavango Delta


Nine adventuresome travellers decided to extend their South African Wine Safari with a week in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Botswana has all the animals.  Their tough stance on poaching means that tourists get to see most of the animals that move through the delta, depending on rainfall and the season.  To the north, Namibia's rainfall and runoff comes into the Okavango panhandle, creating the swampy reed land that we got to discover by safari jeep, boat, mokoro canoe and on foot.

Our tight knit group had just finished wine touring in South Africa and we were ready for our next adventure.  After an early departure from Cape Town and a short layover in Johannesburg, we found ourselves in Maun, Botswana.  After being greeting by Harmony from Ker & Downey Camps, we shed some weight, packed a light suitcase and we were taking to the skies again.  After all, you don't need much but light safari clothing as the camps provided absolutely everything you could think of.

Our airplanes just kept getting smaller that day as we boarded the Cessna plane with 8 seats.  From the skies we could see rain falling in the distance, and lightning touching the Kalahari desert floor.  Elephants and Hippos were running around looking like tiny but lumbering creatures running in herds.

The small and bumpy plane ride had us fascinated...but wait!??  Where is Adrienne?  We discovered that she hopped up on the plane departing before us and we found her waiting there for us on the sand airstrip at Kanana Camp for us.

We embarked on Safari first thing.  No time to waste when you are looking for the elusive animals and BIRDS of the Kalahari. On our way into camp we saw Impala with hundreds of babies, baboons, Vervet monkeys and...our most beautifully coloured creature, the Lilac breasted Roller.

Myles and Phyllis had honed the skill of snapping up the binocs anytime we saw a little -bird- a- fluttering.  With three bird books going, and our awesome rangers's assistance, they managed to collect another 100+ 'lifers' or first time birds personally identified in Botswana alone.

But we didn't just look at birds...!  We were busy every day with a new adventure.  The superb camp hosts kept throwing surprises into any given day of Safari.  One day they set up lunch at the Crocodile pool, the next day we went out on the boats do do a little 'cat'-fishing.  The guides and hosts understood that our fun-loving group had an affiliation for Gin & Tonics and they never hesitated to make us few at sundowner hour.  Under the pink skies, our sundowners were always a special time.  We could see the evening set in, the birds come back to the water to gather and catch fish and the jackals waiting on the bank not far away....

Our dear friends at the Kanana camp will be missed. They shared their singing and dancing with us and it made us shed a tear, we felt so welcomed.  We even tried to learn a little bit of Setswana with our guides Simon and Doctor, who is so called due to his name Naka Emmang or "who is the doctor?" in his native tongue.  We promised to return one day to Kanana to check up on our chameleon in the bush next to tent 4 and the elephants and hippos that pass by in the dark of night, just catching a snack outside your window.

Another cessna flight had us change camps to land at the Xaxanaka airstrip to visit the Okuti Camp. Okuti was very different and quite a bit further north than Kanana and Maun.  There were fires just north of the camp and we were slightly concerned, only to be put at ease by our hosts. These fires start spontaneously due to the 40ÂșC heat, and then are put out on their own by a nearby waterway, but help was at hand should the fires have picked up.

Chachos and Solomon looked after us while we got to know Monnie and Toffee in the kitchen at camp.  Everyone sits together during meals so we can compare notes about what we saw.  We made new friends and even taught them how to fly a drone! Thanks for sharing your knowledge Rory!

What was a typical day like you might ask?

 5:30 am wake-up in your tent with coffee or tea brought to you.

6AM: Abundant breakfast and departure immediately after on the safari trucks.

More food at 10 during coffee break and then a big lunch at 12:00.  Siesta time until 3:30 when we hopped back in the trucks to discover more amazing Okavango animals!

Sunset had us drinking Gin & Tonic and then we continued with night safari on the way back to camp for dinner.  UF!  Long days of being exposed to such new things is tiresome but you go to bed feeling so fulfilled!

What was our most interesting animal observed?  Probably the female leopard who had a kill.  She hid the baby impala (which are abundant due to the start of the rains) in the long grass, as if she was hiding it from us.  She pulled it out of the grass right in front of us to move her prize to another location and we found her digesting up a tree the next day.  I never thought I would see a leopard!! Sadly, all of the pictures of her were taken by Rory, the professional filmmaker.... ( I was frozen in awe watching her...)

After the busy six day adventure we it was time to go home.  We said more goodbyes with more singing and pictures.  We returned from camp life changed Canadians, with an appreciation for desert heat, delta water and the kind, hard working crew at the Ker & Downey Camps.  Incredible trip of a lifetime.


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