Okavango Delta, Botswana

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December 13th 2011
Published: December 18th 2011
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We arranged our Delta tour through a group called Tribes Travel in the UK. We happened upon them online and they have been tremendously helpful at setting up our trip albeit a little expensive. Our trip (and budget) allowed for a total of 8 nights and abour 9 days and two countries. We flew into Livingstone, Zambia which along with Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are the towns that border the mighty Victoria Falls. In the wet season at the peak of high water the falls become a 1.3km continuous sheet of water, the longest in the world. November is the dry season which means the animals are clustered around water and easier to see however it also means that the falls are not very impressive. We have pictures from our microlight flight on a CD but no CD reader to look at them on so you will have to take our word for it that they were a little ho hum.

In Livingstone we stayed at Maramba Lodge that is situated on a small river that is meant to be a common watering hole for elephants. My initial impressions of the lodge were mediocre at best. The river was a small mud hole with no real wildlife in sight. If you are going to go to Livingstone you can probably find a better place to stay but it was clean, the staff polite and the food acceptable. Livingstone is a place to go to see the falls and do some white water rafting or kayaking on the lower Zambezi river. Famed as one of the best pieces of white water in the world the lower Zambezi is 25 rapids long ranging from class 2 to class 5+. The upper Zambezi is a place to go for a booze cruise and see some wildlife. What better way for us to start our Delta Safari than a sunset booze cruise? Over the course of our travels we have noticed that the first animals that one sees always seem to be the biggest and best and requrie dozens of pictures. True to form everything that we drove by we had to stop and take a picture of and marvel at its splendor. We did get to see a variety of different birds, numerous hippos and crocodiles and a couple of impalas.

The next morning was our chance to take on the mighty river after it has gathered strength below the falls. Maramba Lodge booked our trip for us with a company called Bundy. We had an excellent guide named Potato, who would give us a full rundown of each rapid before we took it on. A full day trip comprises all 25 rapids, 4 of which will likely put you on your head regarless of what you do. The trip was a blast and we did tip on 3 of the 4 rapids. By the end of the day we were completely exhausted but what an exhilarating day! It made us feel a little lazy for never taking advantage of the rapids around Ottawa. Our chance to see the falls was a microlight flight over them. A microlight for those that don't know is like a hang glider with a lawn mower driven fan on the back. It was a great chance to appreciate the size of the falls even at low water. For us it was also our first opportunity to see elephants and they look huge, even from 450ft above.

We bid farewell to Livingstone. All in all it was a decent start. The activities were a blast, the lodging mediocre and we never really did see the town. Our next stop was to be Kubu lodge on the Chobe River just outside of Kasane in Botswana. During the transfer we crossed the border from Zambia into Botswana across the Zambezi River. A bridge is apparently under construction but don't bet on it getting done any time too soon. For the time being the crossing is done by ferry. If you are lucky enough to have buses waiting for you on either side and a boat on the shore it is suprisingly painless. If you are driving a truck you can expect to wait for 5 days in the blazing heat for a ferry that runs for 12 hours a day and only takes two trucks at a time and that goes down to one truck if there are cars to ferry. Note to self: Don't ever become a truck driver in Botswana or Zambia. The border crossing does give you the opportunity to see 4 different countries meeting at a single point. Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia all share shores of the rivers here and it is the only place in the world where 4 countries share a border.

Kubu lodge was just outside Kasane and Chobe National Park situated on the Chobe River. It was a lovely change from our previous digs. The cabins were very nice, the food excellent and the staff super helpful. We had two nights and three different activities while in Chobe. A sunset river cruise was how we got to really start our safari experience. It was an unforgettable experience and in terms of volume and variety of wildlife is difficult to top. There is just no way to include pictures of everything we saw so we have tried to pick some of the more impressive, though not always best quality pictures. For the birders out there that may be reading this the Chobe river was like birder pornography! I sure didn't do it justice and honestly can't even name all the ones we have pics of. The cruise goes upstream to the shores of the national park. Animals get used to the boats, just like they do cars and trucks, so you can get amazingly close. We were within several metres of most of the wildlife including hippos and elephants. Of all the mean, aggresive beasts out there, the two that cause the most problems for people and are the most aggressive are the elephant and hippo. The next morning we had a sunrise drive through Chobe National Park. The highlight of the drive had to be seeing a leopard in a tree with an impala kill from the day before. Rachel's highlight was probably watching a warthog sow and piglets running around. In the afternoon we were given the choice of a river cruise or drive. The cruise the day before had just been so good that we couldn't pass up another opportunity. We quickly learned that it's not only the wildlife but also the guide that makes the trip. Our guide was pretty bad and made taking pictures next to impossible. The highlights were watching some Cape Buffalo cross the river and gettting withing 10m of a hippo grazing out of the water. In talking to another couple at the lodge who had done the drive they got to see a pride of lions right beside the truck; oh well. At the end of our Chobe experience we had seen 3 of the big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) and felt very fortunate to have seen a leopard. There are no rhinos in Chobe so we hoped to finish out our Big Five in Kruger National Park later in the month.

Moving further into the delta our next stop was Sango Safari Camp on the Kwai River. I really can't say enough about how great this place is. If anyone reading this is thinking about doing a dream safari or a once in a lifetime wildlife experience, this is it! The Sango's, Judge and Face, are local Bushmen who have opened a small family camp that does everything just about perfect. We were pretty lucky with our sightings and got to see multiple leopards including a mom and cubs while the mom was hunting, two male lions, all within a metre of the truck, two wild dogs with a fresh impala kill, spotted hyena and an bachelor herd of elephants grazing at the tree within arms reach of our shower. I really could go on for pages about how great this lodge is but if you ever have the chance you have to go! Face Sango was our guide and his knowledge of animals, there behaviour and local populations was outstanding. He has extensive knowledge about wild dogs having participated in several research projects tracking and following them in attempts to reestablish their populations. Wild dogs are the second most endangered carnivore, next to the Ethiopian wolf. The dog population is estimated at about 3500 and if anyone is looking for charities to support there are several associated with the dog that are doing great work to help rehabilitate this species. In all seriousness Rachel and I feel pretty strongly that these 3 days will be the highlight of the entire trip and it's one of the few places we've promised ourselves we will go back to!

After Sango it seemed like there was no way that Gunn's Camp on Chief's Island in the heart of the Okavango Delta could top it. Unfortunately we were right. The camp itself is gorgeous and the setting is second to none set on a small island in the delta. We were lucky to get the entire 6 cabin resort to ourselves so my parents and Rachel and I sure didn't want for any service. The staff were pretty good but it was the first time we ran into a little bit of a hustle. The wildlife was really perfect for birders but not quite as impressive for those more interested in mammals. It was a nice relaxing couple of days and a bit of a welcome break from the very early rising that comes with game drives. If you are looking for just about the nicest all inclusive resort in the world this is the place. If you're looking for the big 5 you better go somewhere else (like Sango). Our trip ended with flights out to Jo'berg, a massive city in sharp contrast to the delta. We picked up rental cars that were more like go karts with roofs and headed to the world reknowned Kruger National Park. Stay tuned for our next blog!

Additional photos below
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Okavongo.3 143Okavongo.3 143
Okavongo.3 143

This is Botswana's national bird

18th December 2011

what canone say but wow
great write up, that and the pics do give us the feeling of how fantastic your experiences have been so far. it is all rather surreal from this end and probably from yours too. keep it coming, love mom

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