“What, you haven’t been to the Delta”?
It was a common refrain amongst colleagues and friends, who, aware of my love for Africa could not comprehend why I hadn’t visited one of the continent’s shining jewels.
Up until now, the lure of the Masai Mara had been too strong to resist but following a conversation with a friend, the opportunity arose to take a trip with & Beyond, staying at their lodges and camps in the Okavango Delta.
It is May and so following the long rains, the Delta is fully submerged and in rude health. Give it another 2 months and water levels will be even higher as the floodwaters from Angola arrive, gushing in along the Cuito and Cubango (Okavango) Rivers. Unsurprisingly then, many of the activities in the Delta are water-based however classic 4WD safaris can also provide rich pickings.
The first camp I stayed at was Sandibe in the Moremi region of the Delta, and within 30 minutes of the first game drive, Gee, our local guide was proudly pulling alongside 3 wild dogs, sat contemplatively next to a termite mound. After a few minutes, the alpha female stood up to reveal a nasty wound on her left flank, doubtless incurred on a recent hunting foray. Immediately, her two younger subordinates ran to her side and began licking her wound. The dog’s saliva contains antiseptic qualities and so helps in the healing process.
With the bar set high, I was sceptical as to whether the rest of the trip would match such an exceptional sighting – I was not to be disappointed. Over the next few days I saw inquisitive hyena pups leaving their den to inspect our vehicle, lions stalking massive buffalo herds on Duba Plains a leopard inching closer and closer to an unsuspecting kudu (her position was ultimately betrayed by a lilac-breasted roller and the kudu scarpered) and a marauding honey badger on a night drive.
What has left the most lasting impression though is the Delta’s overwhelming sense of space and endless wilderness. Botswana is wild and beautiful and no more so than at the country’s epicentre, the Okavango Delta, where the combination of big skies and seemingly endless flood plains make for a landscape that touches the soul.
For the most intimate perspective on the Delta, take a traditional mokoro ride through lily pad carpeted waters. On our final morning in Botswana, the sun rose and bathed the Delta in a benevolent and serene first-light. As the boatman effortlessly pushed us along in the direction of the current, I felt an overriding sense of timelessness and the warm glow that one gets at times when nature reminds you of your place in the world.