Okavango Delta

There are some places that speak to you on the level of their immensity, their beauty, their unique position on our planet, and one of those places for me is the Okavango Delta. This place is amazing- it is the area where the Okavango River from the Angolan highlands ends in the Kalahari Desert, miles and miles from the ocean, covering 15,000 square kilometers. It’s billed as “the world’s largest inland delta” but frankly any guide will tell you there aren’t really any others upon questioning, and there is really nowhere else quite like it on Earth.

So naturally, we had to check it out.

All aboard at the poling station! Now the water in most of the Delta isn’t very deep- think waist-deep if that- so the local tribes in the area get around by a flat-bottomed boat called a mkoro made from a sausage tree. These days there are two types of mkoro, one from original wood and one from fiberglass, and if you ever go into the Delta I recommend the fiberglass kind as they’re roomier and less likely to take on water. Plus they’re better for the environment, as the sausage trees are not sustainable for the demand…

What our group ended up doing was two nights of true bush camping in the Delta, as in the no running water dig a hole kind of camping, on one of the larger islands in the Okavango area. This means we needed to fit everything onto the group mkoros for the journey in and out, and there was lots of chaos at the poling station as we got ready!

If you’re wondering why the starting point is called the poling station, it’s for the simple reason that a mkoro is propelled by a poler/guide, who are native to the area. You can try poling a mkoro but it’s surprisingly difficult, most people fall in their first try…

This year is a record flood in the Delta, the largest flood in 40-odd years!, meaning what was normally a 1.5 hour mkoro ride to our campsite was transformed into a 3-hour odyssey (and, of course, three hours getting back). We definitely felt sorry for the polers by the end of it.image260

A picture of Ruth, our tour guide for the overland adventure, who was on her nth ride into the Delta. She is hugging her giraffe water bottle which I confess I was insanely jealous of on the entire trip, both for the cuteness factor and the fact that water bottles are awesome.

Oh, and just so no one ever accuses me of making Africa sound a lot more rosy than it really is at some times, see those little black specks on my sister’s backpack in this picture? Bugs. Thousands of thousands of bugs that were hiding in the reeds of the Okavango and attacked our mkoro while we were going, whose only goal in life was to find the most awkward crevice on your person and die there. Don’t come to Africa if you don’t like bugs, ok?

I’m the hip-hop-opatamus, my lyrics are bottomless!

Another cautionary warning to African adventurers- beware the hippo. Most people don’t realize it but they’re the most deadly animals in Africa because they don’t like boats and are known to attack any that come into their pools. They’re kind of hard to spot too, just poke their heads up on occasion before disappearing below again.

Now our guide isn’t crazy, so this picture was taken from the reedy edge of a hippo pool on our sunset mkoro ride, and Linda and I were perfectly happy to sit on the edge where we could see the bottom. Some of our other tourist friends apparently did not get the memo of “the game is Hungry Hungry Hippos for a reason” and kept complaining about how they wanted to go closer, wanted to see the hippo charge or somethin’… Their polers flat-out said they were too scared to go closer while Linda and I stared in mild amazement. If you’re going to come to nature you’d better show some respect, as if you want a perfect shot you can go to the zoo instead!

Speaking of animals, you know what the coolest thing about the Delta is? You go on safari here, but on foot instead of a car! It gives a completely different feeling to the whole safari adventure to examine all the tracks and scat and learn a lion walked where you’re standing the night previous, or try to sneak up on a heard of animals… but not too close…

Our poler and guide Kapinga, the man we de facto entrusted our lives to. He was also awesome and knew everything about the bush you could imagine, such as an explanation here about how termite mounds have built-in air conditioning. At the end Linda and I gave him an extra 20 pula tip (about US$3, the amount each person was advised to tip the group of polers) and I never saw anyone so happy with such a small amount.How the cool kids gear up for an Okavango Delta safari, or at least the kids who have an older sister who don’t want to carry the sunscreen and bug spray.

Back through the reeds on the mkoro on our way out of the Delta (much less buggy this time). Imagine this going on for about three hours and you get an idea of what going through the Delta is like. Though if you’re having trouble getting the scale of things and wish you could see it from above, just wait until the next post…

3 responses to “Okavango Delta

  1. These photos bring back memories of my trip into the Delta last November. I was just telling some old coworkers about the scenic flight and how cool it was to see herds of elephants traipsing across the open grasslands.

    And the mokoros! Did you ever get the distinct feeling you’d capsize in them, or try your hand at poling them?

    Those rides were some of the most relaxing moments of my trip.

    • Thanks Dave! I remember loving your blog as I was planning my own rtw, a true trove of great information. 🙂

      Our mkoro was made of fiberglass so it was definitely higher above the waterline than the inch or so for the wooden ones. And as it’s wintertime now I didn’t much fancy poling one, lest I fall in, but some in our group tried and were quite successful.

  2. Pingback: Vida en el Kalahari - Foro Kinesiologas Escorts Saunas Night Clubs Lima

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