Jump to content

BOTSWANA NOV 2019 - Part 2 (Okavango Delta)


Recommended Posts

CAMP OKAVANGO INTRODUCTION - This trip report picks up after departure from the previous destination, Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve.  As you might have inferred from my Part 1 trip report, I was a bit frustrated with the wildlife photography situation at Camp Moremi, and had high hopes for Camp Okavango in the heart of the Delta.  Though my high hopes were tempered by concern that the reported low water levels in the Delta would impact the places we could go and the wildlife we could see.  Some offered the opinion that low water levels tend to concentrate the wildlife around the available water sources, making that wildlife easier to find.  We shall see . . . 


The airstrip serving this camp is literally within walking distance of the entrance to the camp.  The camp itself is very nice, and while the tents themselves are slightly smaller than the ones at Camp Moremi, they are equally nice and equally comfortable.  Everything is built on raised wood platforms, connected by wooden boardwalks.  The following is a view of the dining room looking out onto the Delta.  I assume that much of this area immediately surrounding the camp (but not the camp itself) would be under a few inches of water during higher water levels.  One nice feature of these camps I should point out - they have ceiling fans over the beds.  Normally, I understand the camp operates on solar power during the daytime, when there is electrical power to the guest tents, and there are battery-powered lights available in the rooms for nighttime use.  However, due to very warm temperatures (we hit 42 degrees Celsius one day, can't remember whether it was here or at Moremi), the camp managers ran their generators at night so the ceiling fans could remain on.  Thank you, as sleeping well would have been a challenge without these fans.  The second photo shows one of several lounges at this camp, which calls for another positive observation.  All of the Desert and Delta camps and lodges provided very ample lounge space relative to the guest capacity.  Even with a full complement of guests, one would never have trouble finding a comfortable and quiet place to sit during the midday breaks.






Even without leaving camp, we did observe two non-human guests of the camp.  The first is this delightful little African barred owlet, resting in the area underneath one of the boardwalks.  One of the guests mentioned that some resident bats subsequently drove off this owlet.  Don't know if the bats and owlets compete for the same food source, or whether the owlet is viewed as a threat to the young bats.  




I also include below a photo of a Peter's epauletted fruit bat, not because this would be one of those which drove off the owlet (this bat is a fruit eater), but to remind me of another bat-related point.  My tent came with a resident bat.  The camp staff did not seem very motivated to remove the bat, so I spent the first night with the bat for company.  I managed to catch it the next morning by throwing a towel over it, and gently relocated it outside without getting bitten or scratched (I think, though I am developing a strange aversion to  sunlight now :P).  The point of this story is that there were significantly more insects in the room on the second night.  The lesson: keep the bat, it is better than mints on your pillow.




There seem to be three basic activities at Camp Okavango: a boat ride out into some of the nearby channels of the Delta, a guided walk of 3-4 hours duration on a nearby island (accessed by boat), and a boat ride in a mokoro in a small channel near the camp.  The mokoro is the traditional wooden canoe made from a hollowed-out log, but the camp uses more modern fiberglass versions, handling two guests plus one guide poling the mokoro.  I had heard there was a decent bird rookery nearby, but was informed it takes an hour-and-a-half boat ride to get there; possibly the camp would be more willing to visit this area for guests who stay for a longer period at this camp.


There are some hippos in the water of these Delta channels, and we did see one elephant grazing on grass at the water's edge, but I personally found the birds more interesting.  First up is this pied kingfisher.  I always think that the bills of kingfishers seem abnormally large compared to the size of the head and the overall bird.






There were two different pods of hippos within 10 minutes of camp, in two different channels of the Delta.  The first photo gives the reader a good sense of the kind of boat used at these camps.  The telephoto perspective of this photo makes the boat appear closer to the hippos than it really is; the guides are careful not to approach these animals too closely.







As with the Xakanaxa Lagoon, being out on the water of the Delta is a pleasant place to watch the sunset.  Amidst the stands of tall grasses bordering the Delta channels, there were occasional patches of papyrus plants, something we did not see at the other Botswana locations.




The next morning, a group of six of us (along with two guides, one armed) went on a game walk on a nearby island.  While it was nice to get out and walk for a bit, I didn't find this island walk to be very productive photographically.  Most of the animals we sighted (Cape buffalo, impala, red lechwe, elephants) were VERY far away, even with a long telephoto lens.  The fact that I am showing only four photographs from a 4-hour hike conveys that better than any words I can write.


The little bee eater was more focused on the flying insects than the nearby humans, and let me approach reasonably close.




The only mammals that let us get reasonably close to them, and seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them, was this small group of kudu.  There are very large and elegant antelopes (but then all the antelopes are pretty elegant animals).



While far away (and getting farther away by the minute), this tower of giraffes was still quite impressive.  Even from quite a distance, these are clearly LARGE animals.  This island walk experience did highlight for me the fact that we can get much closer to the animals by being in a safari vehicle than by being on foot.  Lesson learned.





As with the boat ride out to the island, the ride back to camp was better than the island hike, as it brought us to a very showy malachite kingfisher.  The first and third of these photos have nice simple compositions and non-distracting backgrounds, neither of which are present in the second photo.  But it does come with the added benefit of a freshly-caught fish.








Here is another African darter, somewhat ungainly it is true, but also pretty darn impressive in flight.  Compared to other large birds in flight, this particular darter seem to have a lot going on with its feathers in flight.  Maybe the individual feathers are more mobile and individually controllable than I had thought.



Blacksmith lapwings are fairly common birds to see on safari, but this long-toed lapwing is somewhat more unusual.  Take a look at its feet in the second photo and you will see that it deserves its name.






The afternoon mokoro ride was something of a bust, largely due to a windstorm blowing up while we were out on the water.  Not at all conducive to wildlife photography.  But the dust did make for a colorful sunset that evening.




As you can probably tell, I had high expectations for the Delta and was largely disappointed.  There are lots of places in Africa where one can do good driving safaris on dry land, but getting out on the water of the Okavango seemed to be a relatively unique experience.  And it is different, and a refreshing change from bouncing around in safari vehicles.  But as with Moremi, I simply did not see the numbers or variety of wildlife here that I expected.  It may be a function of the water levels in the Delta, but I have the sense that even with a much larger area flooded with several inches to several feet of water, that does not necessarily translate into more photographic opportunities.  I suspect the boats are restricted to a handful of channels with sufficient water depth to avoid scraping bottom or fouling the prop.  Absent an Everglades-style airboat, I don't know that these extensive flooded fields are very accessible to camp visitors.  One couple from this camp did do a short helicopter ride (ala carte, and not inexpensive) the last morning and said it was worthwhile; that might be the best way to view wildlife occupying these flooded fields during higher water levels.  


Thanks for reading.  Next up is Part 3 in a couple days, covering Savute Safari Lodge in Chobe National Park.  



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry you were disappointed - I do think you were unlucky with predator sightings especially. Wildlife density is lower in Southern Africa compared to places like the Mara. But your photos are top notch, really beautiful!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Excellent photography again!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

More of great photos posted. And interesting info. The sunset photo is a stunner.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Excellent photos of the wildlife you encountered. I appreciate your information as well. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Sorry to hear it didn't meet your expectations. Although you might not have had a lot photographic opportunities, you sure did make the most of it. Some excellent photos you've posted in your report. Really like the details of the close up hippo shot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy