The next stop on our trip was to the Okavango delta for a two day excursion into the wilderness. The Okavango delta is the world’s largest inland delta. The massive area of land is home to over 200,000 large mammals during the winter season. The day began with a long two hour, off road, open truck ride on a brisk morning. We traveled through mud, deep standing water, with trees smacking us in the face….we’re slowly learning that all the worthwhile sights to see in Africa take a little work to get to. Upon arrival at the delta greeted with about twenty locals and man-made boats carved from tree trunks called Makoros. This is what we’ve been waiting for, the “real” Africa, with local people to interact with a setting in a the middle of nowhere. No electricity, no cell phones, no toilets, no vanities to check your make-up.
After getting briefed on our journey, Adam I meet Margaret, our poler. She was a really nice woman that didn’t know much English, so our journey through the Okavango Delta waterways were peacefully silent, all we could hear is the occasional hippo, birds and swaying of the grass. After a two hour Makoro ride, we arrived to our camp and notified of some safety precautions. We were placed right next to water where hippos and crocodiles live and all of the other animals come to drink the water. The guides warned us to take a buddy with us to the “bathroom” at nightfall, not to go near the water at night, and don’t scream if you see any animals in the camp site. Sure, no problem!
Late in the afternoon we went out for our first walking safari with our guide Lucas. We were warned again about the dangers of being so close to these animals and that if they start to charge at us we need to run into the brush or if we were good climbers, get up a tree as fast as we could. Lucas told us that our life depends on how well we listen to him, that if we freeze with fear then we can kiss our lives good-bye. I was terrified, how am I to know if I am going to freeze in fear cause an elephant is charging me. Then I start thinking if I’m a fast enough runner?
In the beginning of the walk I was really jumpy. When a bird would fly out of the bush I jumped, but after awhile I warmed up to walking and following what he was talking about. He taught us all about the animal tracks and how to tell if elephant tracks were male or female, how to tell if giraffe droppings were male or female, and what droppings belonged to what animal. Adam made the comment of how it didn’t smell bad despite all the droppings around us. During the walking safari we saw zebras, giraffes, impalas, and baboons. This was first time I had ever seen these types of animals out in the wild, in their natural habitats. It was so surreal standing about 50 meters from a herds of giraffe or zebras as they would make their way across the plain. Adam took some great pictures of these animals but it will never compare to seeing them with your own eyes and having them stare right back at you. We all had a pretty quiet night that evening, cooking dinner over campfire (tuna casserole) while Adam was recovering from a fever and dehydration from not drinking enough water. I thought trying to fall asleep that would be nearly impossible with all the frogs and bugs which were quite noisy, but I slept like a rock.
The next morning we woke up early for our dawn walking safari. An elephant walking straight towards us, and he didn’t know we were so close because we were standing upwind, so he couldn’t smell us, and elephants have terrible eyesight. Later on in the walk we were walking straight into a herd of water buffalo which is one the “Big Five”. The other Big Five animals are: Lion, Leopard, Rhino, and Elephant. Lucas also introduced us to a local game that involves *ahem* spitting Impala poo into a circle about ten feet away. While no one ended up winning, it was one of those things that we’d probably only do since we were in Africa.
Later in the afternoon the boys all played in the water trying to drive the makoros around making fools of themselves (the locals found this very amusing), while the girls laid out in the sun. It was the first day we didn’t have any activities planned and we could do as we liked, which was nice. We went on a sunset makoro cruise to see some hippos and watch the sun set over the Okavango Delta. Later that evening the local guides sang traditional Botswanan songs and dances for us. It was a truly soulful and spiritual experience. We all joined in until the late hours of the night, putting an end to a perfect evening on an incredible two day adventure in the Okavango Delta. These two days of interacting with the locals and our daily walking safaris were priceless. It makes sleeping in tents with the rain or spiders all worthwhile.