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Published: September 11th 2009
Looks all very calm - well mostly it was!
Mokoro trip in the Okavango Delta (Botswana) and the Etosha NP (Namibia)
Twice now we’ve signed our lives away: for the microlite flight over the Victoria Falls and now for the 3 day mokoro trip on the Okavango delta. The indemnity form that we signed for the latter said that it was an “inherently dangerous activity”. It crossed my mind that our travel insurance would surely exclude both of these kinds of activity - and here’s us thinking that we are being very conservative and not so intrepid at all. This blog is evidence that we survived to tell the tales.
The Guma Lagoon Camp (NW side of delta), from which we set forth in the mokoros (canoes), had an idyllic setting with very friendly and helpful people running it - great kitchen, dining room, bar and deck overlooking the lagoon - and GRASS in the camp ground so we highly recommend this place. GRASS is a luxury item as we spend most of our time padding around in sand, dust and dirt - and having to scrub our feet and ankles to remove the in ground grime. GRASS as well as whether water actually drains out of the shower plughole
our island hideaway
one morning walk on the island revealed 4 elephants browsing nearby
are very important measures of camp grounds - in our experience anyway!
For our 3-day journey out into the delta the mokoros were fibreglass, unlike the original dugout wooden ones at Bovu Is and we set forth complete with camping table and chairs (in a 3rd luggage mokoro) to our secluded and private island!! Just as well because the siesta in the middle day stretched to about 6 hours so we each sat in the shade of a huge tree and read a whole book (in hindsight a very expensive read!!) but what a magical camp and experience. Other times we were taken on walks on our island and a neighbouring one (slow, single and silent file behind our leader in case of an elephant charge or leopard attack - the adage “whatever you do don’t run” was made clear to us!!) or poled gently among lilypads meanwhile watching and listening very, very carefully for hippo noises.
To get to our island we were poled for 3 hours by Rankin, John and Matoki out into channels between 2-3m high papyrus and reeds, across lily-pad lagoons and heaved across low reed beds. They immediately dug a longdrop loo in the bushes
the biggest elephant yet
burst through the reeds perhaps 40m away!
and got the fire lit to boil the waterpot. There were several nervous moments over those days: a hippo leapt so high out of the water that we saw its feet - just metres from our vulnerable mokoros (sh......t); from loud snapping, crunching and stomping emerged the largest elephant we’ve seen yet and although we were a bit further off sitting silently downwind behind some reeds it was pretty scary (!!!); and after watching a few hippos in a very big lagoon our polers scooted us across it at a great rate - much to our consternation. One night I alternately hid my head with blocked ears or listened very carefully to either ignore or work out if the regular squaplonk, squaplonk, squaplonk noises were an elephant coming ashore and through our camp or not - NOT DARING TO MOVE OR BREATHE! Night-time beneath the African stars (and same southern cross of course) on this island was something to wonder at.
Two days later we entered the Etosha Park in Namibia for our last days of ‘hunt the lion’ - or rather it had become ‘hunt the leopard’. Three times on the islands in the delta we had seen fresh
twice on our island!!
leopard spoor (while walking I might point out!!!) but no live spots, so we were on a mission. Barbara had not seen a rhino either so that was also on the list. In this park we saw very large numbers of animals - some on the move: just huge herds of zebra, springbox and wildebeest matching across wide-open grasslands; large groups of black-faced impala, eland (another antelope that we hadn’t seen before) and gemsbok - drinking at water holes; a lot of giraffes, warthogs that instead of diffidently approaching a waterhole like all the others, just charged in like little clockwork robots scattering everything else.
Each of the three camps where we stayed had floodlit waterholes: one of them produced nothing much (just elephant and giraffe - nothing much!!!) and there were whispered comments about changing the channel or screen-saver; at another several black rhino did appear - yay; and at the third, an elephant marched right up to the viewing fence and stomped along - so close that there were a few ohhhs and ahhhs! Also we had found in our usual way of following others and asking, some lions - a mating pair of lions that had apparently
waterhole in Etosha
water level was down but a great trail came to this side of the hole
been at it for several days.......and one morning just shifted from under a tree out into full view right by the water hole and continued. There was quite a line-up of lenses sticking out windows!
Also on the night drive that we did in this same area was another male lion just sitting quite near the track and just when our guide was talking about how impressive it was to hear lions roaring he obliged and the male of the mating pair answered - wow! Paulus reckoned they must be brothers or friends or there would have been a fight. On this same night drive more rhino appeared at a waterhole including a mother and young one. Quite something (not my photos of that though). We were also extremely fortunate to see something that Paulus says doco people wait months to catch and that was the way that three lionesses set about stalking their prey - just at the side of the road in wide-open grasslands we could see three of them spreading out in three directions to surround their dinner - amazing to be there just at that time - another second either way and one or two of
waterhole in Etosha
and to this other side of the waterhole
them would have disappeared in the grass.
So we still haven’t seen a leopard - but hey, footprints and what we did see were pretty darn good!
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