After wrapping up our adventures in Capetown and the Western Cape we boarded an early flight to Maun Botswana, gateway for the Okovango Delta. Botswana would be our venue for the game viewing portion of the tour. The twin engine prop plane was tiny but the flight was smooth and we arrived ready to explore the Delta.
Our first activity was a Mokoro exursion. Mokoros are the traditional mode of transportation in the Delta. The Okovango, one of the largest inland deltas in the world (it dissipates into the sands of the Kalahari Desert) swells to immense size after the rainy season but nonetheless is never very deep. The Mokoros, carved from the logs of Sausage Trees (yes there really is a Sausage Tree) are shallow dugouts, propelled by polling. They are perfect for the shallow and ever-changing channels of the delta. It has become a traveler's checklist activity to explore the delta via Mokoros.
We were driven to a nearby dugout "station" and divided up among 10 or 11 of the small boats. It was our fist exposure to Botswanans and we all found them to be wonderful, charming, and self-assured folk. A highlight of this first encounter was getting to know one's respective "poler." The Botswanans all go by nicknames, mostly self chosen. So one hears some pretty interesting names: Galaxy, Captain, Master, Lucky, etc. When I told my poler Moonshine that nicknames are only bestowed from without in our culture she seemed incredulous and giggled at the thought.
The excursion itself was peaceful and unspectacular. Gliding along with a water-level perspective does not necessarily allow for much in the way of visual fireworks. Rather, it was the enjoyment of exploring the delta environment in silence, looking at papyrus reeds, water flora, and the occasional amphibian or spider for wildlife. I'm made to understand that people see hippos, crocodiles, and even elephants from Mokoros, but we encountered no mammals. Our biggest highlight was the sunset sky.
I think everyone enjoyed the experience, though all spirits were literally dampened when the skies opened and we got rained on for the last 10 minutes. Many of us (me included) got caught unprepared and got really soaked. It made for a soggy and cold 45 minute ride back into Maun to rendezvous with our baggage, change into dry clothes, and proceed to our Safari Camp, Mogothlo. Our already tight schedule was delayed by a vehicle breakdown and we arrived very late in camp. But my intrepid veteran Imprint travelers maintained a positive attitude throughout and we eventually settled in for the night.
The discomforts of the previous day's rain and delays were quickly exorcised by the experience of the early morning game drive and the genuine kindness and cheerful nature of the lovely people running Mogothlo Safari Camp.