Posted by: Jonathan
The two things that surprised me most at Botswana immigration were that you had to clean the soil off of all your sandles, shoes, and car tires (they are trying to cut down on the spreading of fungi across borders) and the boxes of free condoms available. Botswana has one of the highest Aids infection rates in the world at 25%, that means one in every four people are infected. Turns out most gas stations, stores, hotels, and campsites also gave away free condoms.
Our first night in Botswana we slept along the Chobe River. Our campsite was separated from the croc and hippo infested river by an electric fence. That evening Alejandro and I scaled the fence to dip our toes in the water and take photos of the sunset. Getting out was no problem however getting back in was far more difficult with both of us taking shocks that knocked us flat on our backs.
The next morning six of us woke up at sunrise and hired a 4x4 to take us into the Chobe National Park.
The park covers 11,000 square kilometers and is home to a large portion of the African animal portfolio. It wasn't my favorite game drive but I did see several animals I had never seen before as well as an Impala giving birth.
We returned to camp for lunch and a nap before heading out that evening on a wildlife spotting boat on the Chobe River.
That night I used the few precious hours of electricity available to transfer my journal scribbles into typing for a future blog post. I could hardly concentrate over the buzzing of bugs that constantly flew into my face. The photo below will give you a glimpse but you should really watch the video to get a better understanding of what I am talking about. Words don't really describe how ridiculous the bugs are in Africa.
The 1,430 kilometer long Okavango River delivers 4.9 trillion gallons of water annually that gets lost in the 16,000 square kilometer maze of canals, lagoons, and islands making up the Okavango Delta. Myself and a few others took advantage of the free time and went on a three day/two night mokoro trip into the heart of the delta. From the campsite we loaded into a large overland transport truck and drove for two hours up a sand peninsula into the south western edge of the delta. From there we loaded our personal effects, tents, food, and cooking supplies into mokoros, which are shallow dugout canoes made from sausage trees.
We were then poled several hours into the maze of waterways to a two square kilometer island where we made camp.
After we pitched our tent, Alejandro and I took one of the mokoros out to explore the delta. Standing at the back of the boat and balancing the boat as you poled was a bit difficult at first, but after a few hours we were experts. What proved to be the hardest part was finding our way back in the laberynth of canals.
That evening a few of us went for a walk around the island where we spotted elephants, zebra, and a few types of birds. Seeing them from the jeep is spectacular but on foot brings in a whole new dynamic.
It's a much more intimate experience when you stand there and 30 yards away a herd of elephants graze while they keep a curious watchful eye on you. At one point we walked too close and the dominant elephant gave us a warning call with its trunk, flapped his ears, and stomped powerfully...we gave them a bit more space from then on.
There is an obvious risk in doing game walks on foot in remote wild places. The lions, leapords, and other preditors see you as a microwave dinner, just heat it and eat it. Two months earlier a group of tourists and both of their guides happened upon a pride of hungry lions. When no one returned to camp for dinner that night the cook sent for help. The next day only the skulls were found picked clean. The guides in this incident and the ones we were with didn't carry a gun, knife, or even a stick. They rely on reading the instincts of the other animals in order to give the preditors a wide berth. A herd of zebra gave us a bit of a scare when we were standing at the edge of a field and the herd went from grazing to stampeding by us. We never saw what spooked them, because we immediately retreated into the bush heading back towards camp, but our guide was pretty sure a preditor/s were close by.
That night our cook wrestled up a mean dinner over the fire complete with pork chops, corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes.
The next morning at 5:30 A.M. we went on a long four hour walk where we crossed from one island to the next spotting wildlife. This time I decided to take photos of both big and small creatures.
Once we returned to camp and fueled up on egg sandwiches, I decided to beat the heat by immersing myself in the delta, literally.
Later that evening we took the mokoro out to spot some animals. It was two people per boat plus a local poler. Since I had mastered the skill, my poler Tinay, let me pole while she relaxed up front for the couple hour journey.
The next morning we had one more game walk before taking down our tent, loading the mokoros, and heading back to civilization.
Once we arrived to the outskirts of the delta we jumped on a small eight seater plane and took a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. Flying over the delta really put in perspective how large it is and how little we explored in our three days.
The next morning we left again before the sun rose and headed for Namibia, the second most desolate country in the world.