After a great few days at the Elephant Sands camp, we drove on to the Okavango Delta. We would be staying at the nice Delta Rain campsite for a night before heading out into the Delta, where we would be bush camp for one night. We had to bring our tents, plates, pots, and food for the day and next morning. We woke up early in the morning and were taken in a very old truck to a little village in the middle of nowhere and from there we would go on traditional makoros, which are a type of dug out canoe. The makoros are propelled by a person standing in the back of the canoe using a long wooden pole to move and steer.
We split up into groups of two and got introduced to our poler, who then led us to the makoro. We carefully sat down, as the canoes seemed quite unstable and like they would turn over with one wrong movement, but we didn’t need to be worried as our poler did a great job manoeuvering us along the river. We glided through high seagrass and narrow passages, with the river never being deeper than a meter or so. The journey to where we would bush camp that night took us about two hours and even if we didn’t see any wildlife, we really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the makoro ride through the delta.
Our canoes landed on what seemed like a huge dry island in the middle of the otherwise very wet delta. We picked a spot to set up our tent and then had some lunch. It was supposed to cool down in the afternoon and we would head out with our guides to do a bush walk then, but in the meantime it was too hot to do much. We asked the guides if we could go swim safely around our camp, as they had told us before that there were hippos and crocodiles in parts of the delta. After being reassured and spotting some other people already in the water, we waded in too. The water was nice and cool. It was very shallow and the ground was very muddy and covered with seaweed, but after about ten meters we reached a sandbank. The river was even shallower there, but it was much more pleasant, so we stayed there for over an hour. As soon as we stopped moving, some little fish – and some other not so little ones – started swimming around us and nibbling and even biting on our skin. It wasn’t the most pleasant feeling!
While we were sitting on the sand bank, we saw another couple not to far from us, when their poler with a makoro showed up and asked the guy if he wanted to try piloting it. Very amused we watched his attempts at steering and balancing the canoe. He fell in twice and basically got nowhere, so we assumed it must be very hard. When one of our polers came into the water with his makoro, we asked him if he could teach us. He explained how to best stand in the canoe and how to use the pole to move forward and steer it. It sounded easy enough so I tried it first. Having seen the guy falling in before, I expected it to be hard to keep my balance, but that part was actually pretty easy. The makoro seemed quite stable and the only hard part about it was moving in the current of the river or trying to steer it in a certain direction, but nevertheless it was good fun! David tried after me, and also seemed almost like an expert after a while.
After almost two hours in the water we waded back on land and got ready for the bush walk. We split into groups of six and started walking. We walked across the flat savanna, while the guide explained some things about plants. After half an hour we reached a big group of zebras, but we couldn’t get very close to them. We walked on and saw an elephant in the distance and heard more about plants and the delta before watching the sun set over the delta and then heading back to the camp. Some of our group who didn’t want to go on the walk already awaited us with dinner. After dinner we headed back to our tent and started getting ready for bed, when we heard some singing. We went back over to the campfire again, where our guides and polers were singing traditional songs and dancing. After a while they started to entice our group to join their dancing. We couldn’t understand what they were singing, but it was a lot of fun.
The next morning we woke up early and broke down the campsite before going on the canoes again to head back to the village. The makoro ride was quiet for the first hour, but during a short break we spotted two elephants close by. Two of our canoes, ours and other, were way behind the others and suddenly we saw the elephants! They were right next to the river, standing in high grass. The other canoes already passed them when one of the elephants started wading into the water to cross the river. Our poler and the other one started to panic and steered our makoro backwards very fast. We didn’t really know why and were surprised, when even after both elephants had crossed and walked quite a way away, the girls still seemed very scared. We later learned that one of their friends had lost their canoe to an elephant recently. The polers decided to play it safe and took a short cut through some very high grass on a very narrow and shallow arm of the river – at some points they had to get out to push the canoe.
We got back to the village safely and were ready to hop back on the truck to take us back to the camp, when we learned that we would have to wait for some people from our group who had booked a helicopter flight over the delta. We ended up waiting for two hours next to the little village before finally heading back to the campsite.
The next morning we drove on toward the next country on our journey: Zimbabwe.