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Chobe River, Okavango Delta, & Kalahari Desert (part 2)

Our single engine 14 seat prop plane landed on a dirt strip with two jeeps flanking the runway to keep the animals at bay as the plane taxied.  Welcome to Motswiri in the Okavango Delta!

The Delta is wet, green, remote, and loaded with animals.  It is a swampy inland delta fed by the summer rainfall in the Angola highlands. All the water is ultimately evaporated with the high regional temperatures, never reaching a sea or ocean. When the flood peaks during Botwana’s dry winter, the delta swells to 3 times its permanent size.  The result is a huge concentration and diversity of wildlife.

 

Our guides met us at the airstrip with two huge Land Cruisers.  These would be our safari vehicles for the next few days.  Land Cruisers go anywhere! Sand – no problem.  Water – lift your feet and raise your bag because the water might be coming  over the hood of the vehicle and into the floorboards. This would happen several times a game drive as we moved from swampy marsh to little island and back into the marsh. It was great fun sloshing through the swamp in search of creatures large and small.  Not once did the vehicle stall out as it slogged along.

Home for the next few days was an amazing camp on the banks of the river.  Each huge tent had a  king-size bed, hot shower, electricity and beautiful mosquito net canopies.  Not the old scout tent, that’s for sure!  We were free to move around the camp as long as there was daylight.  After dark, we needed an escort because you never knew which animals might be noshing overnight.  One night it was elephants just outside the tent, another it was hippos that came up from the river for a midnight meal. We could hear the lions every night.  Food was again plentiful and amazing.  Brunch after the morning drive, high tea before we headed out in the afternoon and dinner after dark.  We even had a “braai” or barbeque on our last night in camp.  Too bad we can’t go for a walk to burn some of it off! 

Big game included LOTS of elephants, plenty of buffalo, and zebras and the occasional bloat of hippos.  Then there were the birds! Those in California seem pretty bland compared to the colors, sizes and shapes in Africa.  The terrain varied from dry sandy high ground to marshes with 3 feet of water. The large game wandered through the water from one food spot to another. Birds were fishing for whatever they could find. 

We broke into two groups for safaris, so it was easier for everyone to get their shots.  This meant when we headed out, we had a better chance of spotting key animals.  Our guides would connect over the radio, so we missed nothing.  Early on our second morning, a beautiful young female leopard was spotted high in a tree trying to hunt the vervet monkeys.  Leopards are very elusive so we were very fortunate to find her.  

We watched as she waited, stalked, and ignored the vervets. As they taunted her from a nearby tree, she switched locations to see if her luck would improve.  It did not but it was fascinating to observe and photograph her.  We must have spent 1½ hours moving around the site for the best views as she silently moved among the tree limbs.  Having had such a successful morning, we expected she might have moved on by the afternoon drive.  However, when we arrived at 4:30, she was resting in the grass, waiting for her evening hunt.  More pictures!

We watched as she waited, stalked, and ignored the vervets. As they taunted her from a nearby tree, she switched locations to see if her luck wouldThe birds in the Delta were plentiful – some the same as we saw on the Chobe, some different.  Over 400 species call the Delta home for at least some part of the year. We found several species of storks, cranes, herons, egrets and eagles– yellow billed stork, saddle billed stork, open billed stork, the endangered wattled crane, fish eagle, and martial eagle to name a few. Among the most colorful birds were the lilac breasted roller and the bee eaters – not large birds but among the most beautiful.

We took thousands of pictures which then had to be culled and edited.  There are lots of duds when photographing animals.  There were plenty of good ones though.  As we hunkered down over our laptops during our downtime Will, our professional photographer, did an amazing job coaching us through some edits.  Thanks Will!