I couldn’t believe that I was in the midst of the Kalahari Desert! It was green, full of marshes, watery channels and huge expanses of flooded plains. Of course this was the Okavango Delta – an area of desert (graded by the lack of rain), which is flooded by rivers that flow from as far away as Angola and Namibia – thousands, millions of gallons – the lifeblood of Botswana.
It took a while to understand the geography of Botswana, but as I travelled out over the bush and watched the fabulous birds, the hippos, the elephants, crocodiles and deer, I realised that this is a delicate balance of Nature that so much and so many depend on for life.
Safari Botswana is remote; travelling between camps is by small aircraft, landing on dirt runways, once the giraffes have been chased away!
But the experience is like no other African country. The wildlife is spectacular and plentiful, not really even having to track it – they visit you in camp, at the waterhole, or even your pool! One night I fell asleep to the sounds of an elephant having a feast of tree branches and leaves outside my window. What a noisy eater!
Game drives in the Delta are by speedboat, or dug out canoe – and when an elephant crosses your path in the water – the ripples don’t just rock the canoe! Out on the water you have great views of the reeds and grasses at the water edge, spotting birds – Kingfishers, to Fish Eagles swooping and soaring or just drifting on the currents above.
There are not many big cats in the Delta, so it was safe to take a walking safari – and that was fun! Walking together in a line we got very close to antelope and zebra – skittish and shy, we had to talk in whispers and not make any sudden movements.
In contrast to the Delta, we headed a little further north to Chobe, just 40 minutes by 4-seater light aircraft! Chobe is very close to the Zimbabwe and Zambia borders – so, easy to visit those mighty Falls at Victoria!
Chobe is a classic safari experience – high 4-wheel drive jeeps for game drives and bumpy chases to far corners looking for the Big Five.
And you’ll see them – elephants are like pigeons were in Trafalgar Square – there are over 50,000 in Chobe. We got amidst a herd of buffalo – a line that stretched as far as the eye could see, and we estimated about 500-700 in one herd, walking along together in no hurry whatsoever.
Lions, lionesses and cubs are everywhere (mostly sleeping!) Leopards also asleep in trees, wild dogs and pups – we saw the full complement of predators in Chobe.
Highly camouflaged and in huge numbers – all the antelope families – Impala, Kudu, Bush Bucks go about their everyday lives – the dominant male and his harem, but ever vigilant for the sounds of a predator nearby.
I soon got used to the sight of warthogs, mongoose, and giraffes at every turn – but I never got used to the panorama of the bush, or the orange sun setting into a haze, or the huge silver moon silently climbing into the velvet sky.
I catch my breath when I remember the welcome smiles from the staff at the lodge, who looked after me with early morning tea, and a late night nightcap around the Boma fireside.
Yes I do believe Botswana is Bee-U-Tee-ful!
Did you know?
Hippos secrete an oily red substance when they bask on the shoreline, which gave rise to the myth that they sweat blood. The liquid is actually a skin moistener and sunblock that may also provide protection against germs.