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November 21st 2009
Published: January 2nd 2010
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Day 14 - Kasane

Awoke today to a glorious sunrise over the campsite which reflected beautifully on the Chobe River. I decided to do the optional early morning game drive in Chobe National Park today, more for want of something to do than any great desire for another game drive. Surprisingly we saw very few elephants and unsurprisingly saw no lions. However the trip was definitely made worth it when we came across two leopards, a mother in the tree and her cub walking on the ground. Got some great pics of them and it was definitely my best leopard sighting in Africa.

Not much to do for the rest of the morning or early afternoon except hang out at the campsite, update my diary and have a few beers. We popped into town to get beers for the sunset cruise in the Chobe River National Park and headed off at 4pm. The cruise wasn’t as much fun as the one on the Zambezi at Vic Falls but we got some great sightings of huge herds of elephants crossing the river and drinking from it. Unsurprisingly the weather put paid to the sunset element of the cruise. Back at camp had some lamb chops for dinner and finished the rest of the beers before heading to bed.

Day 15 - Maun

During the night the hippo roars were so loud they sounded as if they were right outside my tent and probably weren’t that far away. We got up in the dark (and rain) for an early departure to Maun, 600km southwest and the base for exploring the Okavanga Delta. It was a long, dull drive. We had a packed lunch sandwich on the truck but when we arrived in Maun, there on the main shopping street was Nandos! Couldn’t really say no to a chicken and peri-peri chips.

At the Sitatunga campsite we got a briefing from the guy running the Delta excursions and I signed up for the 3 day trip as well as the flight over the Okavanga. Had a great dinner of beef stew and ugali and a few beers before bed.

Day 16 - Okavanga Delta

Arose early (again) and packed a day bag for the trip into the Delta. Ten of the group stayed behind in the campsite while sixteen of us made the trip. We packed all our gear, tents, food and cooking utensils into what looked like an old German army truck and headed off. After an hour on surfaced roads, we headed into the Delta on a dirt track for a bumpy two hours, occasionally crossing some fairly deep streams. At some village we picked up our guides and mokoro polers and drove on to the mekoro station. The station turns out to be just a riverbank where the mekoro are docked.

Mekoro are shallow, dugout canoes hewn from logs of trees, primarily the sausage tree and are the traditional mode of transport around the Delta. We packed all our gear into them and travelling two to a mokoro headed 10km in land, navigating through the narrow passageways between the reeds propelled with a pole driven into the shallow water. Amazingly peaceful experience and I almost fell asleep at one point. We arrived at our bush camp just off the water’s edge that would be our base for the next two nights and set up.

Before our game walk this afternoon, Gift (our cook from the previous trip) arrived at the camp. The truck heading back to Joburg through Botswana was camped just a little downstream so I decided to visit them and see Manda, Corinne and the girls. For our game walk that afternoon, we headed out in groups of 8 with two local guides to explore the Delta. They’ve got all the major species except rhino here but, given the vast expanse of the Delta and with us travelling on foot, it was always going to be a challenge to see game.

Nevertheless we did see some giraffe and a wildebeest in the distance, some baby warthogs and then came to a hippo pool. We were threatened with storm clouds but amazingly it didn’t rain much, even that night back at camp when there was a great thunder and lightning show. Might be turning the corner with the weather at last. After a lovely chicken and potato curry dinner cooked by Hesbon, we turned in early, exhausted by actual physical activity.

Day 17 - Okavanga Delta

Woke up early the next morning for a 4 hour game walk before breakfast. Had some great sightings this time - a herd of elephants and giraffe, some more hippos and vevet monkeys. We also came across a hyena warren and the skeletal remains of a zebra, all of its bones scattered in a field. After breakfast we relaxed at camp for a while and had a nap before lunch. By the afternoon, the weather was glorious so I went for a swim in the Delta - one of the local guides has to stand guard in case a crocodile appears. It’s beautiful, clear, crisp water and amazing to think I’m lying in the Okavanga Delta, miles from anywhere.

Later in the afternoon we went on a sunset mokoro cruise. We headed up river to the hippo pool where we stopped and watched the hippos for a while (from an appropriate distance) before heading onto the shore to watch a glorious sunset over the delta. After sailing back to camp we had dinner (boerwoers, mmmm) and then our guides put on a show for us, singing traditional Botswanan songs and dancing around the campfire. It was a fantastic performance and so much more authentic than some of the “traditional” performances you sometimes see, such as the group who performed before our Zambezi cruise, all dressed in tribal clothes but singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Swing Low Sweet Chariot. They asked us to perform some songs in return, our efforts just showed how sad muzungus are.

Day 18 - Maun

Went on another game walk this morning (didn’t see too many animals but came across many different tracks) before packing up camp and heading back on mokoro to the station. After saying goodbye to our guides and getting another song performed, we drove back to the campsite in Maun. After a quick and much needed shower, some of us went to Maun airport for the flight over the Delta (just as the Liverpool - Man City game was starting, but glad I missed it in the end).

We boarded the five-seat Cessna 206 Stationair and took off. It’s a tiny and noisy airplane but the views over the Delta were spectacular. You can really get a feeling of the vast expanses of the region and the waters were much in evidence, even this early in the wet season. It looked just like the Planet Earth episode that made me want to visit the Delta so much. Flying at 500 feet we could see the animals in the Delta, coming across a herd of elephants, giraffes, buffalo and impalas, though I was on the wrong side of the plane for great views.

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30th March 2011
Giant elephant carries a boat on his back!

elephant carrying people
Huge giant elephant

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