Okavango Delta, Botswana: Poling in to the Delta and camping overnight on one of the salt islands has has been one of our most memorable experiences to date. To understand the uniqueness of this trip requires understanding the uniqueness of this landscape.
The Okavango Delta is an enormous inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the Kalahari Desert. All the water reaching the Delta is ultimately evaporated and does not flow into any sea or ocean. This oasis spreads out over a 16,000 km² area, and is listed as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.
The journey to the Delta was an adventure: we set out by 4×4 early in the morning and drove 2 hours through sand, mud and water into the last area that is accessible by vehicle. When we reached the end, we climbed a cow fence and met up with our crew on the water’s edge. From there, we got in our mokoro – a traditional dug out canoe made from the trunk of a sausage tree – and were poled through the waters of the Delta another 2 hours. We found shore on one of the salt islands – which is thought to have begun as a termite mound – and set up camp.
While on the island, we had about 5 hours of bush walking, which is a fun but fairly dangerous way of seeing the Delta’s wildlife. Our guide and head poler, M.B., gave us very specific instructions on how to stay safe – don’t talk and don’t make a move without his ok. We saw elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebra, buffalo, warthogs and wildebeests in the late afternoon and then again early in the morning. Along the way, M.B. also pointed out how the Bushmen lived on the land by using plant life and how to tell different piles of animal dung apart (see photo of him holding a cluster of impala poop pellets).
The beauty of this landscape is indescribable. Camping in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wildlife was a humbling experience, and the calm while out on the quiet water was truly beautiful. It was the quintessential back-to-nature experience and we loved it. We’re already daydreaming about ways to make it back to Botswana and specifically to the Delta for an even longer mokoro trip next time.