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Bush Camping in the Okavango Delta, Botswana and Nata with Nomad Tours – Days 15, 16, & 17

From Maun to the Okavango Delta – Day 15

For me, this experience was the highlight of our tour.  Two days of camping in the bush – no electricity, no running water, and wild country.

 

We load our tents, packs and water into a huge 4 x 4 vehicle and drive through Maun, passing waving schoolchildren, donkeys and cows for an hour before arriving at the Delta where we drive through deep streams and mud pits for another hour.  Amazing Pterodactyl-sized birds can be seen on the way.  Thorn bushes slap the sides of the open truck causing me to scream in fear of a painful swipe.  It’s a bouncy ride.

 

Mokoro ride: Okavango Delta

Riding in a Mokoro: Okavango Delta

 

We arrive at our destination and a community of people greets us.  They live here in a village of 500 people with no electricity or plumbing.  They have no school although they have been appealing to the government for one, instead of sending their children to boarding school in distant Maun.

 

In short time, the locals are loading our tents into mokoros (small canoes) while we frantically put on sunscreen.  We are told not to make any sudden moves in the canoe or we will capsize.  Ok!  The bigger danger is unseen hippos, rising out of the waters and attacking.

 

Eline and I share a canoe while Alice does the hard work of moving the mokoro through narrow reed-lined waterways.  The sun is blazing.  The beauty is spectacular.  Water lilies are everywhere.

 

After an hour, we arrive at camp and ten locals stay with us, also setting up camp.  We are told never to walk anywhere alone.  Always get a guide.  The risk of wild animals is too great.

 

Wako is the lead guide and he gives us a rundown on what to do when confronted by a hippo: “They can cut you in half in one bite.  Don’t scream. You might have to run. You might have to stay still.”  A lion: “Don’t run. Don’t move. Follow guides carefully.”  We are told that rogue water buffaloes are the most dangerous but I don’t recall what we were supposed to do if we saw one.  This is no joke.  Nothing was said about snakes, scorpions, or any of the other animals lurking.  The talk ends with a disclaimer about there being no guarantees about our safety.  Perfect.

 

Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta

 

We are shown the toilet:  a pit in the ground about ten meters from camp.  I vow to develop kidney failure and constipation and not visit the bathroom for the next three days.

 

We split into three small groups and I begin a walking tour with Phillip, a local man with a wiry frame and milky eyes.  At the back of our group, another guide carrying a stick: tall and lanky with one blind eye.

 

We see zebras,  birds and a giraffe as well as a termite mound.  The locals eat termites, which after a complex extraction and drying process they say taste just like peanut butter.

 

We cross paths with the other group and they seem shaken.  It seems that the guide and two other people somehow stepped over a black cobra on the path while the fourth person in line saw it.  Had it bitten, that person would have died within five minutes.  This is not Disneyland.

 

After the walk, the locals offer to take us to the swimming hole.  There was a warning: bloodsuckers.  I pass.  Several people go and a friendly leech is discovered between one woman’s toes after the swim.  Eeeeee.

 

Back at camp, the local women sit with women and men sit with men.  The women prepare the food and the men collect firewood and guard the camp.

 

I feel very lucky to be here.

 

Bush Camping in the Okavango Delta – Day 16

Everyone in the group set out for a planned four-hour nature walk this morning.  I stayed behind in camp because I needed sleep and silence.  I’m not interested enough in wild animals to risk stepping on a cobra.

 

Mxolisi tells me he didn’t sleep much last night because he was on hippo watch and heard them in the area.

 

After the return of a hungry bunch we had tons of leisure time which I loved.  I’m quite content to sit and stare into space for hours at a time.

 

After the rain.

 

Around 4 pm, the locals look at the sky and start scrambling to tie rain covers down securely.  What was happening?  Ten minutes later, a thunderstorm hits, pouring massive amounts of rain.  Nicole and I hide in our tent with another woman seeking refuge.  We wait for it to pass.  And wait.  And wait.  We fall asleep waiting.

 

Around 6 pm we hear the locals and I peek out to see them making a fire.  How?!  Wisdom and experience.

 

Unable to acquire a raincoat in Maun I resorted to garbage bags and wore a matching set to the campfire party.  Apparently, this really hits the German funny bone.

 

At night we sit around the fire and the locals perform a show of singing and dancing.  The singing was awesome (video below) and the dancing was actually hilarious with a lot of comedy infused into the dances by the men.

 

I love nothing more than a campfire and this night was really special.  I think I could stay here for a long time.

 

 

Okavango Delta to Nata, Botswana – Day 17

We pack up our muddy tents and collect every speck of garbage to be disposed of back in Maun.

 

I enjoy the mokoro ride back to the truck.  These local women are so strong.  Hard labor day in and day out.

 

Water lilies

Water lilies

 

This time the drive back to Maun was even more treacherous.  The rains had made the streams into rivers.  The truck drove right on through.  I bounced around like a superball.

 

We then drove 300 kilometers through flat, flat Botswana.  You could roll a marble across Botswana with one push!

 

We arrive in Nata late in the afternoon to a campground littered with Amarula fruit.  I taste it.  Sour!  How can this make such a delicious drink?

 

Everyone runs to the shower while I help Mxolisi with dinner.  Early to bed and early to rise.

 

Lots of pictures below.

 

Disclaimer: Nomad Tours offered me a discount in exchange for documentation of the experience.  I have complete freedom to share my thoughts.  All opinions are my own.

 

Official Itinerary from Nomad Tours:

Day 15/16 Maun – Okavango Delta

This morning we board the big 4×4 truck that will take us into the Delta. In high-water season it is sometimes necessary to take a boat to the poling station where we meet up with the members of a local community who will be showing us their homeland. We spend 2 nights bush camping in the wilderness and, if the water level allows, we will take a mokoro (traditional canoe) trip through the waterways. We will also be going on some nature walks in the hope of seeing some wild animals in their natural habitat. Please note: If you have not purchased the Activity Package you will stay at the campsite in Maun for the following 2 nights.

Maun

Maun, the fifth largest town in Botswana, is known as the tourism capital and the gateway to the Okavango Delta. It is an eclectic contrast of modern buildings and traditional huts. Now home to over 30 000 people, the town were founded in 1915 as the tribal capital of the Batawana people. It originally serviced the local cattle ranching and hunting operations of the area, and had a reputation as a hard-living ‘Wild West’ town. With the growth of the tourism industry and the completion of the tar road from Nata in the early 1990s, Maun developed swiftly, losing much of its old town character. However, it is still infamous for its infestation of donkeys and to lesser extent, goats. These animals can be seen wandering around freely as the local farmers arrive in the innumerable taxis to sell their wares on the kerbside.

With the influx of tourism dollars, the typical traditional rondavels (round huts) of the past have been replaced by square but modestly sized cinderblock homes roofed with tin, or sometimes tiles. It is not unusual to see mud rondavels with satellite dishes, attesting to the increasing affluence of Botswana, and the increasing reliability of power and communications in the town. This striking contrast of the traditional and the modern is also evident in the multi-level air-conditioned shopping centres incongruously surrounded by potholes, dusty parking lots and lively market places.

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta, a labyrinth of lagoons, lakes and hidden channels covering 17 000 square km. It originates in Angola – numerous tributaries join to form the Cubango River which then flows through Namibia, becoming the Kavango River and finally enter Botswana where it is becomes the Okavango. Millions of years ago the Okavango River used to flow into a large inland lake called Lake Makgadikgadi (now Makgadikgadi Pans). Tectonic activity and faulting interrupted the flow of the river causing it to back up and form what is now the Okavango Delta. This has created a unique system of waterways that supports a vast array of animal and plant life that would have otherwise been a dry Kalahari savannah.

There are an estimated 200 000 large mammals in and around the Okavango Delta. On the mainland and among the islands in the delta, lions, elephants, hyenas, wild dog, buffalo, hippo and crocodiles congregate with a teeming variety of antelope and other smaller animals – warthog, mongoose, spotted genets, monkeys, bush babies and tree squirrels. Notably the endangered African Wild Dog is present within the Okavango Delta, exhibiting one of the richest pack densities in Africa. The delta also includes over 400 species of birds, including the African Fish Eagle.

Many of these animals live in the Delta but the majority pass through, migrating with the summer rains to find renewed fields for grazing. With the onset of winter the countryside dries up and they make their way back to the floodplains. This leads to some of the most incredible sightings as large numbers of prey and predators are pushed together. Certain areas of the Delta provide some of the best predator action seen anywhere in the world.

Day 17 Nata

We leave the Delta behind us and travel east towards the town of Nata. The shady tree canopy surrounding the campsite is a hive of activity, with a bird feeding area and active water feature providing the bird watcher with the opportunity of viewing a variety of species from the comfort of the pool deck. The Helmeted Guineafowl, Crested Francolin, Yellow Hornbill, Pied and Arrowmarked Babblers, Glossy Starling, Meyers Parrot and Paradise Whydah are just some of the species you may encounter during your stay at the lodge.

 

Photo Gallery of the Okavango Delta:

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