Okavango Trip

I was asked to give an account of our wonderful trip to the Okavango Delta – so here it is. We were a group of 12, Bryan and Gloria Mockford, who did all the organising, John and Pat Wright, Henry Harman and Peter Stuart-Thompson, Francis McComb and Bronwyn, Rodney and Anne Harman and Heinz and I. We left on Friday the 2nd June and took a leisurely drive up to Alldays and then on to my younger brother, Peter Mockford’s lovely game farm on the Limpopo River.

Next day we crossed the border at Platjan then on to Nata via a terrible potholed road, facing the sun with huge trucks both coming and going to Zambia. We camped in the sand at Nata. From Nata to Maun it is only 300km and is usually a very good road. Unknown to us though, Botswana had had exceptionally good rains and the road was full of potholes and a huge stretch which was flooded! What a beautiful sight though, to see vast stretches of water where normally it is scrub bushveld! We all made it safely through except that the fender on Rod and Anne’s Lexus was badly damaged and had to be taped up. On special request from John we then set off to see Baine’s Baobabs, a “must see” if you are in the area. Then the “fun” started! John had had a double tank for Diesel fitted but unfortunately the connecting pipe disconnected 3 times on our way to the Baobabs! Each time necessitating a wheel being removed enabling the pipe to be re-connected. Poor John was so frustrated and I’m sure there were a few choice words silently uttered! The ancient Baobabs are a magnificent sight set on the edge of a huge salt pan. They were painted by Thomas Baines over a 100 years ago and look the same today as they did then (it is well worth looking up David Livingstone’s history and finding out why Baines had joined him at that point) On the way back to the main road Francis suddenly noticed smoke pouring out from under Rod and Anne’s car! Thank heavens for 2-way radios – Rod and Anne were told to bail out quickly. Peter became the hero of the day when he managed to fish out a “nest” of smoking grass that had lodged itself under the exhaust. Happily, we all arrived safely in Maun some time later.

The following morning we were allocated our places on two flat bottomed boats and our magical journey north through the swamps began. Initially we passed huts with donkeys and horses standing knee deep, grazing the lovely green grass rising above the water. Then on we went into a vast watery wilderness. The whole area is a series of narrow channels made by hippos, through the sedge grasses and reeds. The water is crystal clear and there is no pollution – I never saw a plastic bag or paper. Anne decided to start a bird list – so the hunt was on! By the end of the week we had spotted over a hundred birds- many of them being “lifers” for most of us. Our guides were Ace and Koster, both of whom had an incredible knowledge of the birds, trees and wildlife, which made the trip so much more enjoyable. We camped at two different sites on Chief’s Island in the Moremi Game Park – it was wonderful to hear the lions roaring at night! Every morning after coffee and rusks, Ace and Koster would take us for a short but very informative walk on the island, followed by a hearty breakfast, then onto the boats again till lunch time. This was followed by a short snooze then tea and a final sundowner cruise. Watching a fiery sun silently dip behind silhouettes of elephants and trees was pure magic. Returning to camp we would be welcomed to the sight of a beautifully laid candle lit dinner table under the trees. Jackie, the chef, Moshe, the waiter and David the camp help, saw to our every need. Every evening we were given a three course dinner, with Jackie announcing his menu beforehand. One morning while on the boats, we came across a group of men stacking logs on the water’s edge. One of the chaps wondered off to the far side of an anthill – it was hilarious to watch as he suddenly came face to face with an elephant! Both man and beast fled in opposite directions! We also watched a beautiful little Painted reed frog who is able to change colours like a chameleon. Interesting too were the water lettuce- Otelia – which have a little pod filled with distilled water which is used by the locals to rinse out sore eyes. The animals we saw were the lovely Lechwe (a species of Antelope found only in swamps), elephant, a few giraffe, kudu, hippo, crocs monitor lizards and warthogs. Our main focus was on birds. All too soon it was time to pack up and follow the majestic tree line of Leadwoods, Mangosteen, Apple Leaf, Lala palms, Sycamore Figs, Kudu berries etc back to Maun. Ace “Scumacher” raced us out on a freezing cold morning, cutting round corners at, what felt like, great speed, though he was only doing 40km an hour. Good fun.

Our trip back to South Africa via Orapa was uneventful. We all enjoyed every minute of the trip, especially Peter, as this was his first experience of camping in the bush. We thank God for a really blessed holiday.

– Lorna Haas