Notes on an Okavango Odyssey | GeoEx
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Notes on an Okavango Odyssey

By Matt Wilkens | May 9, 2014

There’s something magic about being in the Delta.

“The Delta” is the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, in central Southern Africa. It is the largest inland delta in the world, a singular geologic basin that floods every year—placidly, majestically—to form a stunningly rich and diverse ecosystem.  This area is home to countless phyla—from sitatunga to aardvark, kingfisher to bee-eater, baobob tree to fire lily, elephant to elephant beetle.

But you know all that—the amazing abundance of creation to be seen in Africa. What you don’t know, not until you’ve been there, is that there’s something indescribable about being on safari in the Delta. Something you feel.

It’s before sunrise when you receive your wake-up call.  A soft “hello” from outside your tent, a tray of coffee and tea on your porch.  Some breakfast—eggs, yogurt, a muffin.  Then you’re in the back of the jeep—you’re on safari.

The sun rises softly, like silk in the sky, drapes the savannah in pink light. You watch, enchanted, as dawn breaks in the bush. Sounds surround you—the world is filled with mesmerizing sights.

You want to point out everything to everyone.

Antelope everywhere, a baby one on adorably wobbly legs. A lilac-breasted roller poised there on a branch—an African fish eagle, a francolin, a jacana. A warthog mother and her two piglets. Six zebras turn their heads to stare.

You hear him first, the hippo, the powerful snort—it sounds like a laugh, or a belch—then you see him. Just his eyes, two pebbles on the surface of the still water. He lifts his head, he lean backs, he bares his teeth—what a sight!  A mouth has never opened so wide. He groans marvelously. Meanwhile a giraffe is chewing leaves, two kudu are there near that shrub, a monitor lizard is in the road. And eleven baboons are sitting in that marula tree. Look!  The baby is about to fall off that branch—oh no!—but she lands safely in a bush.  It is hilarious.

Then you see a leopard.

…And this is how your day goes.

Eventually, you return to camp. You unwind, you take a dip in the pool, then have a nap—the afternoon passes in comfort. Toward evening, you’ll have treats at teatime—and off you go on your second game drive: more sights, more sounds, more life.

Then it’s sundowner cocktails in front of a glorious tableau. A cragged tree, birds chattering and chirruping and waddling around a pond, a herd of elephants in the distance. The sky is painted the most wonderful orange, an orange that you didn’t believe could exist.  Dusk comes, and slowly like a blanket, the night wraps around you.  You hear the nocturnal creatures start to stir.

Later, when it’s dark and you’re back in your camp, you’re gathered around a whispering fire, holding a glass of wine, digesting your perfectly prepared lamb, laughing with shared delight at the day’s adventures. You look up and see stars, so many stars—the Milky Way.

Then—suddenly—you hear a lion roar. Close. Just outside of camp.

It’s on the hunt.

Everyone is still for a moment. No one speaks. The guides grin—but they too peer out into the darkness.

The time comes for you return to your tent—too soon, you think. Too soon. But you fall into bed easily, curl up in comfort with a chorus of frogs and cicadas your lullaby. As you drift off to sleep, you remember, smiling: you get to do this all again the very next day.

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For more information on Okavango Delta tours, see GeoEx’s Botswana safaris.

Photograph by Piper Christian

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