Wonderful safari experiences in and around the Okavango Delta, Botswana. We try to share some aspects of the safari on our blog - a glimpse of what can be seen and done and heard in Moremi Game Reserve.
Does the wilderness ever call your name? I often hear my name. Today I am answering the call and feeling fortunate to be looking at a packed safari vehicle with open air seats and a canvas roof. By 8:30 am. our group of seven is ready to head from Maun to Moremi Game Reserve for a three day safari. Qani, Shaka, Allan and Shylock are from Botswana, Trevor is from England, Kelly is an Australian and I am from Canada.
The first 25 kilometres are tarred roads. Before leaving the tar we stop to buy firewood. Another 50 kilometres of gravel road brings us to South Gate, one of the Reserves main entrances. While Shylock, our guide, registers the vehicle and occupants we stretch out legs, warm ourselves in the sun and have a cup of hot coffee. We are heading to Khwai, our campsite for the next two nights. The road becomes more a worn trail and often we are holding on because of the dips and ruts. Heavy seasonal rains have caused considerable damage. The trip is now a game drive. Impala, kudu and giraffe are spotted along the way.
Camp is close to the River Khwai. The tents are erected in a semicircle, facing our vehicle, portable kitchen and chairs. From time to time our attention is drawn to the peaceful grunts of hippos enjoying themselves in the river. After a light lunch and brief rest, we are ready for the afternoon game drive.
Our camp is in a mopane forest. Elephants like to eat mopane trees for food and it is not long before we come upon two elephants feeding themselves as they make their way through the forest. Elephant spore or huge balls of dung are regular occurrences in this kind of habitat. The river is starting to overflow its banks. We explore some of the plains areas that run off the river. Soon the plains will be closed off to vehicles by the increasing annual flood. The soft late afternoon light gives us a beautiful sighting of a small herd of impala. They are relaxed and graze quite close to the vehicle. Moving further around the edges of the plains we meet 5 or 6 wildebeests – the clown of the plains. They tend to be more animated than other large animals and often entertain with their characteristic canter and toss of their head and horns. Getting back to camp at twilight, everyone is pleasantly surprised that Shaka has setup camp chairs around a bright fire and has some refreshments on the dining table. Allan, Trevor and Kelly sit together by the fire and reminisce. They last met as a group 25 years ago in Australia. Our safari is part of celebrating their reunion. Shaka has prepared a tasty curried chicken dish. The stories of these old friends flow around the table, like the quality South African red wine that is washing down the gourmet meal. A bottle of whiskey appears after dinner and the stories become more animated and comical. I feel quite honoured to be sharing highlights from the lives of good friends. No doubt, our trip will become part of the stories of future reunions.
We look somewhat unsteady, getting out of our tents the following morning. Over toast, coffee, jam, eggs and hot beans we discuss the cause of the unsteadiness. Kelly decides it is because the cots are low and none of us have camped out in quite a while. Pulling on some extra clothes to ward off the morning chill, Trevor observes how low the whiskey bottle appears to be. We allmutter some level of surprise, with explanations verging towards the mysterious. Today we do two game drives. The morning drive is all about birds. Shylock knows the name and habit of all the birds, but I am also impressed with the knowledge of my fellow travelers. Shylock has been a professional guide for over twenty years. When one of us make a spotting or express an interest, he always expands our understanding. According to Shylock, “An interested guest is a guides best friend.”
The terrain we are covering is similar to yesterday, although in the opposite direction and more inland from the river. Fortunately some water remains from the rains of three months ago. We come upon a picturesque small, receding pond. Henry David Thoreau would have been happy to be with us. The collection and activity level of the birds is priceless viewing. Qani is filling up her notebook with English names and descriptions of the birds. There is a balance, peacefulness and interaction that is miraculous to watch. Coffee and cookies are served. Grey Heron share the deeper water with Maribou Storks. Kingfishers are flying around and occasionally make way or Egyptian Geese coming in to land. Kelly’s attention is captured by the Pinkbacked Pelican. Much to our amusement he starts to hum an old ditty, “A funny old bird is the Pelican, his beak can hold more than his Belican...”
The group is in high spirits heading back to camp for lunch and a rest. The afternoon game drive takes us across The Bridge Over the River Khwai, an assortment of floating mopane logs. Trevor has been hoping for a lion sighting and Shylock is out to give it his best shot. After about an hour drive and only seeing one old male elephant, Shylock appears to stop for a rest. Trevor is more than a little startled and draws our attention to a male lion resting in the tall golden grass. Suddenly we are all startled. There is also another male and female lying in the grass, not twenty metres away. It may seem over done to you, but we are using binoculars. The males have been fighting over the female and we are looking at the damages of battle – the cuts and bleeding. We leave wondering if the fighting is over or whether nightfall will bring another ferocious encounter. The following morning we do a final game drive, determined not to leave any leaf unturned. It is the quality of game viewing that makes Moremi so enjoyable. Often you do not see another vehicle during an entire game drive. You never feel rushed or harried by the outside world. Many visitors come for a once in a lifetime trip to Africa. Here is the ideal place for that trip of a lifetime or as in our case the reunion.