Jason’s Adventures in Botswana Part 1
On Safari in Botswana Part 1
Be sure to read Part 2 of this blog article!
The Okavango Delta is not the easiest place to get to. Maegan and I arrived via Dubai into Johannesburg and then onwards to Muan, Botswana, the gateway to the Okavango Delta. From Maun, we boarded a small Air Van and headed into the bush. From the air, you get a unique perspective of the Delta. Hippos are seen clear as day in the shallow waters and small herds of elephants are easy to spot as you soar over the dirt roads.
Touching down at Kanana airstrip, you are immediately filled with a sense of adventure and discovery. The camp’s “tents” are incredible and tents in name only. Four poster beds with mosquito netting, hot and cold running water and a front porch with a view of the waterway the camp is built on. They could be more accurately described as cottages or suites. My favourite part about arriving at the camp is everything is arranged for you from that point on by the camp staff. From waking up to closing your eyes after dinner, you simply need to present yourself and enjoy.
We arrived in the mid-afternoon heat just in time to grab a late lunch and change before heading out on our first game drive. First thing you notice about a drive in Botswana is that you are alone… like really alone. It’s not uncommon for you to not see another vehicle, human or even get cell reception for your entire time out. The privacy is really something to behold. This is truly just time with nature. Your guide is assigned to you for your entire time at Kanana so you’re able to build a relationship during your stay.
Our first drive was quiet on the predator front, but on later drives we were lucky enough to find a leopard and her week-old cubs. As we kept a safe distance to not spook her, we just watched the cubs playing and saw the mother spend a few minutes cleaning them before taking a nap. Of the big five, only rhinoceros are harder to find than leopards, so to see cubs of this illusive predator was amazing.
Evening meals are family style, allowing you to debrief your day and get to know the dozen or so other guests. Later we were escorted back to our tent, and we immediately noticed that the staff had placed a couple of hot water bottles in our bed, because the temperature typically dips to around 5 degrees Celsius after sundown. If you’re anything like Maegan, you’ll rank the never ending supply of hot water bottles as one of your trip highlights.
Overnight, we were serenaded constantly by what can only be described as the loudest animal ever, the hippopotamus! Its calls sound as though it is laughing hysterically at a joke you didn’t hear. On one of our nights at Kanana we were woken up by a loud crashing just outside the tent. As we peaked out of the mesh windows, we saw a large elephant pulling branches down from a nearby tree for a midnight snack. The camps are open to the surrounding wilderness so these close encounters with wildlife are part of the experience. As a result, for added precaution, guided walks to and from your tents after night fall are a standard.
As dawn broke we were woken by our guide along with hot tea and cookies which made a very early start quite tolerable. The mornings were pretty simple; roll out of bed, throw on layers and stumble over to your early morning game drive, complete with hot water bottle insulation. A full breakfast was either out in the bush with your guide or back at camp, depending on the schedule. The Delta is buzzing with wildlife in the early morning as animals move about more to avoid the heat later in the day. The mornings were cool but temperatures rose in the day to much warmer, so layering clothes is a must.
A more unique feature of Kanana is the opportunity to join afternoon safaris by water. A maze of permanent and temporarily flooded waterways weave their way through the bush around Kanana because of the 11 cubic kilometres (11 trillion litres) of water that sweep into Botswana from Angola every year.
On these safari’s two types of boats are used; full sized metal boats for the permanent, deeper water ways and small canoes called mokoros for the shallows. By mokoro, your water level view allows you to see a wide world of semi aquatic wildlife like red lechwe and reedbuck as well as a menagerie of water birds. Our guide, served as wildlife spotter and gondolier while expertly navigating the labyrinth of passageways searching for wildlife. The flood plains of Botswana are home to what seems to be every bird in existence, tiny bright blue fishers and huge fish eagles are never far from sight. Kanana’s Heronry is accessible once you swap your mokoro for the bigger metal boat. The noise is quite something but the pelicans, herons and cormorants will always put on a show for you. From the boat, we were lucky to see elephants crashing and splashing around enjoying the water and eating the tall papyrus plants.
For bonus safari adventure points, ask your travel consultant to organize a “sleep out” for you. You’ll drive into the wilderness after night fall and enjoy a private, candle and moonlight lit meal, perched on a twenty-foot tall platform as the plains come alive around you. After a cup of tea by the fire, call it a night and curl up in your four-poster bed on top of the platform (complete with hot water bottle). Heavy blankets make sure you’re never cold, so don’t let that stop you from this unique opportunity. When the sun rises slowly at your feet and you are quite literally surrounded by herds of antelope, impala, giraffe and zebra, you’ll understand just how special this place is.
No matter how you spend your days and nights at Kanana, you’ll end all of your afternoon activities with a sundown cocktail. There is nothing like parking your truck by a waterhole, and taking a few moments to appreciate the remoteness of it all. Animals slowly approach the water hole, getting used to your presence, as you and your travel buddy chat quietly about the days’ experiences. You’ll be interrupted only by the sound of a champagne cork popping and a toast to an amazing day, as the bright red African sun dips below the horizon.
Be sure to read Part 2 of this blog article!
February 6, 2018