Close Encounters

Trip Start Jun 03, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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bush camp

Flag of Botswana  ,
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The rain in the Angolan highlands sends a giant pulse of water coursing across Africa which eventually drains into the channels of the Okavango.The flood is at its biggest sometime between June and August,and the delta swells to three times its permanent size, attracting animals from miles around and creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of  wildlife. At its widest point in a big flood year the seasonal swamp stretches to 150 km across from east to west. The area is extremely flat, and full of tiny islands and channels. There are an estimated 20,000 large mammals in and around the Okavango Delta, and of the species migrate to Botswana to drink from the Delta.

We entered the Okavango Delta on a truck. We had to make several river crossings through pretty deep water- this year, the flood in the Okavango Delta is the largest it has been since the 50s. Two hours in, we met our our Makoro polers. A makoro is a type of canoe traditionally used in th Delta, it is propelled through the shallow waters by standing in the stern and pushing with a pole. Makoros are traditionally made by digging out the trunk of a large straight tree, such as an ebony tree. Each Makoro sat 2 people. Lindsey and Brittany's poler was Florence, and Sarah and Kaito had Charles.

We had a two hour ride through the reed channels of the Oktavengo Delta. Although the Makoros feel unstable, the polers are extremely good at balancing and they rarely flip. Riding in a Makoro, you are seated only inches from the water. As you paddle through water lilies, thick reeds, spider webs and gnat swarms, you are able to see the animals that come to drink from the delta. On our trip our we saw giraffes (our first ones!) and heard the distant rumbling of the hippos. Makoros can be tipped by hippos, and you have to hope you don't run into one in a tight channel. The Polers seemed far less concerned by this than we were.

Once we arrived at our camp site, we set up our tents and started a fire. Then Charles led us on our first bush walk. Although we had seen Africa's animals from a truck and a boat, seeing them while on foot is a completely different experience. We had already been warned that we could not leave the tents at night, and that after dark we would have to have a buddy with us if we wanted to go to the toilet. We were also only allowed to walk out of the camp in one direction.

On our first bushwalk we saw mostly antelope such as springbok. We returned to camp for dinner and a campfire. The next morning we woke up early for a sunrise bush walk. This time we split into two groups. The first thing we saw was a group of giraffes. There were 5 fully grown giraffes and two babies. We tried to get closer to get better pictures, but every time we moved, they moved away from us. Then, in the very far distance, we saw two water buffalo. These can be quite moody and dangerous, but Charles and Florence assured us we were far enough away. Then, out of nowhere, something caught our eye, and we turned around to find a huge single male elephant standing in the bushes 5 meters away from us. It is astounding how quietly such large animals can move. The elephant noticed us about the same time we noticed him, and began to flap his ears and turn to face us. Charles urgently told us we had to get behind the trees, so we did, and the elephant moved on. Then we saw a group of monkeys climbing and swinging through the trees.

That day back at camp we went swimming, and the polers let us try our luck at poling. Apparently, most people fall on their first time. Paul and Emma had punted before, and were at an advantage. Then Lindsey and Brittany tried and were also successful. Sarah would have been successful, except for two very mischievous people that insisted on rocking the makoro until she tipped. Karen just fell.

We returned to camp for a sunset ride on the makoros. We pulled up to a wide open part of the river where we had an excellent view. Then, we heard the grunting and hippos started surfacing all around us. We were all really scared, the polers seemed mostly okay, but there were a few times they would abruptly start backing up. We all sucked down our wine out of the tin cups to try and calm our nerves. When we returned to camp, the polers all sat around the campfire and sung traditional Botswanan songs while dancing, we joined in the dancing, and then were at a bit of a loss because we were expected to respond with our own songs. Luckily Paul, our resident scout leader, had lots of call and response songs at his disposal, so we were all able to easily follow him.  We regaled the polers with our renditions of "Climbing up Sunshine Mountain," "Do you know the Muffin Man?" and the all time favorite, "10 Little Monkey Jumping on the Bed." They seemed quite impressed.

The next morning we went on our final bushwalk and saw absolutely nothing. We finished our time in the Delta with a 2 hour Mak
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acain on

I don't like having to give ALL my comments titles
What I wanna know is if you actually learned and memorized all these little facts about the Angolan highlands, or if you have been doing a little wikipedia searching. I mean who seriously remembers all that stuff a month later??? haha

rayray51 on

i second acain. that whole first paragraph is copy and pasted from the planet earth script.

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