With the rising water levels we were excited to get the boats ready for a boating safari. Something we’d been dreaming of since our arrival here, exactly one and a half years ago. Unfortunately the flood never made it to town last year. So to make sure we weren’t going to miss it this year, we packed three boats with the necessary equipment for an expedition upstream. We were joined by my parents and sister with her boyfriend.
The first part of the journey took us along riverfront houses, on a obviously newly flooded riverbed, without any aquatic plants. This made it challenging to see the main channel at times, luckily the channel is quite narrow, so no under water banks were hit. As we made our way further north the landscape changed. It became greener and more open. The flood waters had turned the dry Okavango into a water world. Large plains had been filled with water, aquatic plants had begun to grow and islands emerged over the surface wherever you looked. The further away from town we got the more wild animals we saw. First were the hippos and there were many of them. They all seemed to have found their way to the main channel and without tourism they have had the river to themselves. Quite a few of them did not enjoy our company and made it clear we better not hang around.
And of course we saw elephant and giraffe, an antelope called Lechwe, reed bucks, some huge crocodiles and a few herds of Buffalo. Though water plants had begun to grow, they were still sparse in numbers and not fully developed. This and the murky fresh flood waters made it challenging to read the river and keep the boats on the main channel. Hitting sand banks regularly and having troubles getting onto the plane, we advanced a lot slower than anticipated earlier that day. As the sun began to set we had to find an island for the night. Luckily that was not a challenge. The next morning we packed up and continued upstream.
Not long into the day of navigating, or rather guessing and boating my sister and her boyfriend’s boat gave up. The engine didn’t sound healthy so we stopped to check it out and make a plan.
We eventually came to the conclusion that the boat wasn’t taking us anywhere. So we decided to tow it back to a lodge we had passed not long before. They were happy for us to leave it there while we continued on our expedition upstream. Heavier and more people on the two small boats we still had, the journey got cut short. But before heading back we spent a few days in this peaceful paradise. It became clear that the world was quieter due to the covid 19. We didn’t hear a single airliner cross the sky above, usually en route to Europe crossing the Okavango delta in frequent intervals throughout the day and night. Also all the small planes, usually conveying tourists in and out of camps, were not to be heard.
Though the water was relative high, we managed to find a sandy little beach to cool off in and have some fun. Not that we needed to cool off, as it is winter here now and the water temperature feels way below 20C. But the kids were unstoppable.
We had elephant close to our tents and heard lions in the distance. But the scariest situation arose one morning when Robin (8) went out for a pee early just around sunrise. Our kids have gotten used to the bush and wilderness and fortunately do not fear the wild, but know to respect it. So Robin had a peek around, just in-front of the tent, to make sure the coast was clear. When he spotted two male buffalo 30 meters behind our little tent, lying by some bushes Robin very calmly though quickly made his way back into the tent. Now, you might think buffalo are harmless, but quite in the contrary they can be quite ferocious. From the inside of our tent we quietly watched them. The need to empty the bladder had miraculously disappeared. Luckily these two gentlemen did not hold a grudge and finally moved off.
As with every trip, also this one was coming to an end. So we packed the boats and made our way down stream again.
Now with only two boats we were quite a bit more packed, though weight wise I think we might still have been lighter anyways. We had burned a lot of fuel and drinks were down to a minimum as was the food. The homeward journey started well, until our first stop, where the pull start of my boat did not engage. Once we had opened it up we saw that it was damaged and we did not have anything to fix it. So from there and the rest of the day I used a rope to start the engine.
We eventually made it back safe and sound. Having enjoyed our first boat safari. It is quite different to safari on a car. The river is a lot less bumpy than the roads tend to be. And there is less dust. In addition it is quite magical to glide passed wild animals and the fabulous nature this paradise has to offer.
Now we will be focusing on continuing the building on our house and going on the odd bush trip here and there. As long as we aren’t forced into another lockdown…