Botswana: Going Nowhere Slowly in an Okavango Dugout
written by Richard Farrell
Do you fancy a week in nature as far away from city life as you can get? If the thought of going nowhere slowly in an Okavango dugout appeals, then north-eastern Botswana could be your special place. This reserve is larger than New York State, yet fewer than 3,000 people lived there at the last count.
The Okavango Delta is a never-ending network of waterways that hippos keep clear, and lakes studded with waterlilies that are home to vast numbers of fish. Cheetah, lion, black and white rhinos, and wild dogs roam the islands between them. The water gradually melts away in the sand until seasonal rains and floods return.
Life is laid back here
This place was once a great river meandering through. An earthquake blocked its path 50,000 years ago. The seasonal waters spread out across the gentle plain as they gradually created one of the last remaining paradises on earth. Visiting the Okavango is not a budget holiday. The government maintains high standards. Cost and remoteness keeps busloads of tourists away. Visitors fly to main rest camps, and then take leisurely drives or fast speed boat trips to isolated camps where there are no fences. Guest numbers are small. Luxury camps have all the modern necessities, except internet. Would you cope?
Adapt to nature’s rhythm
Your sense of time adapts to nature’s rhythm. Rise early at sunrise, take a bush shower and relish a delicious breakfast. They prepare food over open coals here because there are no utilities. Voices rise in excitement as the host discusses thoughts for the day. Shall we explore the Okavango in a flat-bottomed mokoro punt? Powerfully muscled young men carved these boats out of trunks of ebony trees once. Nowadays they are most likely to be fibreglass for the sake of nature. However their ‘gondoliers’ can still pole them gently through the reeds onto an island, where a short walk may be possible under their watchful eyes.
Relaxing evenings beside the campfire
Guests gather around campfires in the evenings to share the highlights of the day over perfectly chilled drinks. The aroma of a delicious meal cooking wafts through the air. The food is exceptionally good and prepared to the standards we might expect in a place like this. Where else could you possibly want to be tonight? The conversation quiets as the sounds of the night arrive. A sharp bird call sounds an alarm as a lion coughs somewhere and another roars. We hear the silky sound of a crocodile sliding seamlessly into water. Yet we feel strangely safe as we zip up our comfortable tent, and fall asleep to our dreams of an exceptional day.
Venture into the heart of the Okavango
A trip into the untouched heart of the Okavango Delta is like few others anywhere in the world. You could transition from reed and papyrus fringed waterways to dry bushveld savanna where lions rule in an hour. The vegetation is so rich, and the game so numerous it’s a modern marvel to find a place as lovely as this. Buffalo, elephant, giraffe, rhino and zebra pound the plains with thudding hooves under the watchful eyes of lion, leopard, and cheetah. Crocodile and hippo appear to doze on riverbanks while shy duiker, impala, red lechwe, reedbuck, waterbuck, kudu, steenbok, hartebeest, wildebeest, sable, roan and tsessebe come to drink.
Plan your trip carefully
There is a season for everything in the Okavango. Do your research, so the game you wish to see will be there when you arrive. This Delta belongs to the people who have lived here for 100,000 years. They are friendly custodians. They know nature well and they have secrets to share. Scheduled flights connect Maun International Airport to the main basecamps from where you fan out. Booking is essential. There are no facilities for backpackers and day visitors here. Book a tour with an experienced guide who knows this place well. The local people are friendly. The boats are ready and waiting patiently for you.
Let Mundana open up the world of the Okavango – why not give us a call to discuss your requirements?