Delta dreaming in the Okavango

“For the first half an hour everyone was blown away by the beauty of it all: marshy swampland as far as the eye can see, beautiful plant life and millions of little animals flying, crawling and swimming all around us.”

I have always looked on tour-guiding as a job straight from heaven. You get to travel to exotic locations, meet interesting people, live in five-star luxury – and get paid for it! So when I was recently asked to help out on a student trip to Botswana, I jumped at the chance. Finding out that we’d be exploring the Okavango Delta (a place that I really wanted to see), and that the ratio was a rather favourable 26 girls to two guys only increased my excitement for the trip. But as I was to find out, taking a bunch of girls camping for a week is easier said than done…

Our group met at Johannesburg airport, where the other guide, the chef, the driver and 28 excited American students all gathered. We boarded Big Annie (our hefty two-ton overland truck) and set off for the border. Big Annie was even slower than she looked, but sitting high up, with the canvas windows rolled up, a nice breeze blowing and a bird’s eye view of the surroundings gave the trip an immediate ‘safari in Africa’ sort of feel to it.

Lunch Broken Truck
Having lunch on the road while we perform some running repairs to the truck.

Sunset and mokoro - high res
Another sunset on the Delta.

The oarsmen are insanely skilful. The whole delta is pretty shallow, so they stand on the back of the mokoro and steer it along by pushing a long wooden stick off the bottom. For the 1st half an hour everyone was blown away by the beauty of it all: marshy swampland as far as the eye can see, beautiful plant life and millions of little animals flying, crawling and swimming all around us. However it wasn’t long before the peaceful motion of being gently pushed along (and the warm sun on our faces) had most of us in a blissful snooze. I was in a mokoro with our chef Tichawena, who had become a little too acquainted with hippos on a previous trip, and was keeping a sharp eye out for what he referred to as ‘ those dangerous beasts.’ Thankfully we managed to avoid hippos and crocs for the whole trip. After about 2 hours of gliding through this water wonderland we landed at our little island and soon had camp set up. Tich prepared lunch while we explored our paradise, which would be home for the next three days.

With so few possessions we probably should have got bored during our time on the island, but somehow we never did: We spent hours trying to learn to steer a mokoro in a straight line, and ended up spending a lot of time falling off – even by the end of the trip none of us had mastered this very tricky art! We also spent a lot of time playing the water version of American football – a game involving a tennis ball, a few mokoros and an underwater camera which kept us endlessly entertained.

Fun in the water
Having fun with a mokoro in the water.

On the final evening the mokoro oarsmen and guides entertained us with a song and dance performance, which we tried to match with a few of our own songs (Country Roads and Shosolosa) but definitely came off second best. The next morning we planned to be on the water at eight to get back to meet our truck, but on our early morning game walk the guide found lion spoor tracks… needless to say we got a bit ‘sidetracked’ and got back to camp late morning. All was fine though as we met up with Big Annie again, said our sad goodbyes and continued on our merry adventure.

Cruising through the never-ending alleys and gulleys.

Flights:                         Air Botswana flies directly from Johannesburg to Maun.
Accommodation:        Accommodation options vary greatly, and can be found from USD $8 pp sharing (see Drifters Maun Camp) up to USD $500 for the more luxurious lodges.
Trips into the Delta:    Camping trips in the Delta are priced between USD $100 and USD $200 per day per person in the delta, with boating safaris private trips and tented safaris also available at a higher cost.
Currency                     1 USD $ = roughly 11 Botswanan pula (both currencies widely accepted, as well as South African rands).
Must pack items         A camera (preferably waterproof), costume, hat and sunscreen.

Sam Bradley

Sam Bradley is a travel and adventure enthusiast with a passion for scuba diving, paragliding and skydiving. He has travelled to four continents, lived in the Peruvian jungle for six months and tour guided through most of Southern Africa. He is married to Cristie and is a committed Christian, and is currently living in London along with a whole bunch of South Africans.

2 thoughts on “Delta dreaming in the Okavango

  • August 6, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Lovely article

  • December 10, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Great article. It’s very unfortunate that over the last several years, the travel industry has already been able to to tackle terrorism, SARS, tsunamis, bird flu, swine flu, plus the first ever true global economic depression. Through it the industry has really proven to be effective, resilient plus dynamic, obtaining new methods to deal with adversity. There are continually fresh difficulties and opportunity to which the industry must again adapt and act in response.


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