Sunday is always a tough day in Africa. We have the entire morning to spend here in Maun but most of what I want to do – go to the post office, make phone calls, go to the bank etc. – is unavailable because those places are closed. At least the internet is open, although still I am struggling to upload photographs. Facebook is endlessly slow and for some reason I cannot sign in to flickr. I keep persisting, but the effort is frustrating.
I spent the last few days in Maun, Botswana – the gateway to the Okavango Delta. The delta is best explored in local two-person dug-out canoes called makoros. With our thermarests laid out on the bottom of the canoe and our day-packs at our backs, it was one of the most serene and comfortable rides I’ve ever had in a boat. The makoros sit so low in the water that you cannot see above the thick, tall reeds that rise up all around you. Water lilies spread out all around, their white flowers fully open to the sunlight. My poler made me a waterlily necklace and we drank from the delta through the stem.
It took about an hour and a half to reach the island where we made camp. Just over half of the Oasis group decided to make the journey, so we relaxed on straw mats in the sun, played games and swam in the delta. This particular part of the island was hippo and croc-free due to the density of the reeds, so we could swim without fear. The water was deliciously cool and beautiful to swim in. We had the chance to test our mettle by poling the makoros ourselves – not too difficult until you have to turn around! Only one person succeeded in falling in and later he had to be rescued when he couldn’t turn the boat around to go back… needless to say that he won our truck’s “dummy” award for that one.
In the afternoon there was a brief game walk, but truly there was little to see. I have been so spoiled by the amazing game viewing I have had so far that when we struggle to find game, there is a little disappointment. Unfortunately I had also been spoiled by our fabulous guide, Andy, in Matopos. The guides in the delta were not nearly as forthcoming with information as he was, which made it less enjoyable still. But the best was yet to come. The sunset over the delta, followed by the full-moon rise, was just spectacular. Camping in the bush is one thing I will never forget from this journey. The night is never silent, as one might imagine. Instead it is filled with the sounds of insects, hippos, elephants and birds. Speaking of insects, the mosquitos were particularly annoying around the Delta, although I am proud to say that I have yet to be bitten… a fate reserved for the very fortunate and the well-deeted.
There was another game walk in the early morning, at about 6am, which was a little more fruitful but not much. It was the makoro ride back that we all looked forward to, and more than one of us fell asleep to the blissful ride back through the water and the gentle humming of the polers as they guided us back to camp.
Most of Oasis joined us then to go on a flight over the Delta. We were seated in small 5 or 7-seater Cessna aircraft and taken up for a 45minute ride for a bargain $60 each. Our pilot was much less of a daredevil (unfortunately) than the other pilot, but we got an incredible look at the delta from above, with all its plentiful game (surprise!). We flew very low to the ground, just above tree-level. The delta is so vast that even from the air we could not grasp the full scope of it. In fact, it barely looks like a delta from the air – at least not the deltas pictured in the geography books – but rather a series of small islands surrounded by swampy but bright green reeds and grass.
Speaking of things moving at lightning speed, we leave Botswana today. One night of camping with the bushmen and we end up in Namibia. The part of the trip I was most looking forward to is coming up… the Namib dunes. Internet is improving too as we move further south, so I will try to update as much as possible and maybe throw in a few photos too.