Life Springs into Action at the Okavango Delta
Transfer to Botswana
Date: July 24-26, 2016 We’ve just witnessed the best sunset ever at Kruger and thought it couldn’t get any better than that. But it did! Little did I know how much Botswana had to offer until I saw it for myself!
After our Kruger Safari Day Trip, we slept very well, got up early, ate breakfast and were picked up by Daniel to be taken to the Botswana border. The trip took a few hours as we passed the vacant countryside and townships along the highway.
We got to the border, showed our papers and easily went across! There, we met Tanya, our driver for the next leg: Okavango Delta Tour in Botswana. Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for a better driver to take care of us during our trip to Botswana. He was with us for 5 days and proved much more than our driver. He was our personal caretaker. And boy, can he fly! I don’t think we would have gotten to see as much as we did if it weren’t for him. His driving skills were impeccable! Fast, but cautious, slowing down or stopping along the way to observe the wildlife on the side of the road. Or a vulture eating a zebra’s leg.
First Stop, Settling In
Since we waited for another couple to cross the border – carpooling is important – we arrived at our accommodations a little later than expected, so we decided not to visit the Khama Rhino Sanctuary that late afternoon, but early the next morning before starting our Okavango Delta tour. We stayed at the Masama Guest Lodge which is literally in the middle of absolutely nowhere! Rustic, comfortable, personable, informative and naturally beautiful. Those are the adjectives I would best describe this place. Our hut was built on a hill, in between a few trees and on top of huge stones, two of which were part of the flooring. It wasn’t easy lugging our baggage up the steep hill, but that’s why they put my husband and I in this hut and not our daughter and my mother-in-law. There were other huts on ground level with easier access, but they also knew we were interested in uniqueness, so that’s what we got! :) We sat down for lunch right after arrival and since I’m a vegetarian and the other couple are vegans, Tanya immediately jumped and got us something else. We chilled, walked around, took photos and played cards for the next few hours. Then we ate dinner with the staff, Tanya and the other couple. They fed us well and entertained us with evening campfire stories, minus the campfire. The family cat was also there to help clean the plates. Again, I asked what his name was, but he didn’t have one. I was told they don’t name the strays, but to me, he wasn’t a stray, he knew exactly where he belonged.
Next Morning: Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Seeing highly endangered Rhinos were on the top of my bucket list, so we got up super early before sunrise to drive to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. The owner of Masama Guest Lodge himself drove us in the park. Not everyone can do that, but he is almost a staff member there. It was a wonderful trip, we saw many beautiful animals and birds, such as the Grey Lourie however, we didn’t see one rhino, most likely because it was too cold that early winter morning. We could have waited until noon, but that would have put a damper on the rest of our trip that day, so we decided to leave and head towards our next destination: Okavango Delta! But before we did, we had our first ‘incident’. We got stuck in the sand! Help arrived from the next van, but no one could help us, so our driver asked the driver of the other van if he could take us back to the parking lot and he’ll wait until more professional help arrives. I never heard back how long he had to wait, but I was very appreciative that he arranged for us to get back safely. Not that we were in danger, but fun is something else…
We drove off to our next accommodation: Thamalakane River Lodge. We first stayed in our own quarters, a huge cabin with beautiful amenities. This place was NICE. After 2 nights, we moved into a family apartment which was also very nice. The buffet was excellent at this place too! On our first evening, we went on a sunset river cruise on the Thamalakane River, a pleasant way to end the day. Dinner was served and then we played cards with Tanya! Fun night!
I think my favorite day of this entire trip was when we went out on the Okavango Delta in a mokoro boat, authentically made from a sausage tree 7 years ago. Since then, they have forbidden these boats to be made with real wood because the sausage tree has become threatened, so now they make them with fibreglass, but to be honest, I was very happy to be in a real authentic mokoro boat. We had the best mokoro polers ever. I’m sure there are others in that area, but I’m sticking to what I said! Meet Balige and Tebogo aka. Titus, a mother and son poler team. Literally, as soon as we set off, I slumped into pure relaxation and just took it all in. It was SO peaceful. Titus told us stories along the way. And just to make sure we remained safe, they didn’t take us too close to the 2 hippos skimming the shallow waters. We quietly observed them. One hippo told us to keep away though by opening up his mouth wide to show his teeth. Impressive! Titus said that if we respect their space, they’ll respect us! And of course that makes sense, so we moved along quietly. For lunch, we docked on an island, or tried to anyway. You see, we were in two boats, one for my daughter and I and one for my husband and his mom. We didn’t think that one through though. Titus said ‘too much breakfast’ to my husband and my mother-in-law when they weren’t able to dock properly because their boat was a bit heavy, so we switched the seating arrangement on the way back!
Obey the Rules of the Bush
Titus told us the plan: to go on a bush walk for an hour, then eat lunch, then head back to the mokoro station where we started. As soon as he was done talking, my mother-in-law jumped up and started trekking. Titus said, “WOAH, wait a minute, let me tell you the rules of the bush, Rule #1, stay behind me! Rule #2 Listen to the nature and Rule #3 if we see a lion, don’t run, walk slowly and with each step, move farther away from him. Again follow me, your guide.” We all laughed. My mother-in-law thought we were going on a bush walk without him. Silly rabbit! Although we didn’t spot any predators, we did see lion tracks and Titus pointed out a bunch of stuff along the way. We shared our packed lunch with Titus and Balige, who sadly didn’t have anything and were very grateful for our offerings. The bird life in Botswana is absolutely amazing. We also saw zebras and wildebeest on land and cows, horses and donkeys in the river. Back at the station, we saw the locals get buckets of water from the river. A little background: They actually drink from the Okavango Delta as well as bathe and wash in it. There was an outhouse with huge hole as a toilet and they live in either huts or tents. When the river gets too low, they just move their tents to a location where it’s high enough. But, get this, Titus had a smartphone with internet service. Priorities!
Happy People + Happy Wildlife = Wonderful Tour!
I have to praise the wonderful people of Botswana for being SO friendly and helpful and doing all they can to assure their wildlife is happy too. They were getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary of independence from British rule on September 30, 2016, so either they were super excited about that event or they are just genuinely happy people! I’ve never before witnessed so many smiles while on vacation than in Botswana. We met some truly amazing people and I will definitely go back again! And during the winter last year, there was an abundance of water which keeps the wildlife happy. We went from a dry, arid, desert-like Kruger area – I pray for more rain there – to very healthy wetlands. My lips and skin were no longer dry.