Leaving our campsite in Maun, we started our intrepid journey into the wilds of the Okavango Delta.
Botswana was the seventh country on my two and a half month overland safari through Africa. We’d camped in the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater, stayed in beach huts on the turquoise shores of Zanzibar, slept on a houseboat in Zambia but was to be our first real bush camping experience.
No toilets, no facilities, no electricity, we were truly going into the wild and I couldn’t wait.
After loading up our mokoros (traditional dug out canoes) with all our camping equipment, food and water for the next two days, Nathan and I climbed in, played around with our bags to find our comfortable position. As we lay back and relaxed, our expert guide used his tall wooden pole to punt us through the shallow water. Reeds sprung up around us, brushing our skin as we passed. I reached over the side of the boat, my fingers catching water lillies sitting prettily on the surface of the shallow waterways. The peace was only shattered by the sound of the drag of the water against the boat and the occasional yelp as little white spiders flicked off the reeds and in onto us.
We eventually pulled up to a small island where we set up camp, before heading out on a walking safari, where our guides talked us through the wildlife of the Delta. We saw giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and some elephant dung, but no elephants as the sun set in a deep red haze behind the trees.
We returned to the camp, where we were introduced to our toilet, also known as the shovel. There was a hole, around 20 metres from camp in the bush.
Once you were done, you simply covered up the evidence with a little sand. If the shovel was there, the toilet was vacant. If it was gone, it was engaged. Or as I say- ‘if the shovel’s missing, don’t come a pissing’.
That night we went to sleep in almost blackness, with just the sounds of the bush for company.
The following morning we awoke early for a bush walk, followed by midday swimming in the lukewarm, yellowy water (yes it looked and felt like wee) and practicing our mokoro skills – which as it turns out, weren’t great. One of our group, who shall remain nameless made a spectacular splash falling off a mokoro.
As the day continued, we relaxed in the sunshine as the fire burned gently, filling the camp with one of my new favourite smells, woodsmoke. All the while, our female guides tirelessly made beautiful baskets and bracelets to sell. I was fully immersed in nature and I loved it.
That evening, we took a sunset mokoro ride, finding ourselves just metres away from a pod of hippos. Their eyes and ears poked out above the surface, which was as comforting as it was unnerving. At least if I could see them, I knew we were at a relatively safe distance. I held my breath when they disappeared below water. I’d have been lying if I said I wasn’t worried about where they might pop up, but our guides reassured us that we were ok. After a little while, as the sun disappeared below the horizon, we pushed back and headed home.
My favourite memory from the Delta had nothing to do with animals, or Africa in particular. It was something really random, sharing another moment of many in my African adventure.
As we were sitting around, someone (thanks you whoever it was – Ali? Denise? Bec?) suggested that we make teeth out of orange peel. So my friend Lisa and I got to work with our trusty pocket knives. After a few minutes we were ready to go, so we popped in our gnashers and grinned at each other. Oh. My. God. Everyone fell about laughing. In fact, I can honestly say I have NEVER laughed so much. Tears rolled down our faces and we tried to control ourselves but it was to no avail. The laughter carried on for what seemed like an eternity. It was one of the funniest moments of my life.
* All photos marked with an asterisk are courtesy of my good friend Lisa Englefield and her fabulous photography skills! Thanks Lisa!
Would you go wild camping in the Okavango Delta?