Okavango Delta

Maun, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is where we spent the most recent leg of our journey, at another “tented” camp called Kanana. We flew over the delta, expecting it to be full of water as this is the rainy season. Normally rain in the highlands of Angola drains into this unique inland delta, the only one on the planet. The delta channels flood and empty into the Kalahari desert, bringing life to a very arid corner of Africa. This year the rains did not come, which means the delta is very dry, with fewer flooded channels and many dry water holes, leaving the animals stressed.

Kanana Camp is situated on one of the flooded channels and accessible only by air. Getting there involved a flight from Windhoek to Johannesburg, another flight from Joberg to Maun, Botswana, and then a 6-seater – Safari Air – 20 minute flight to the camp

Once again, the service here at the camp has us feeling like Lord and Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey! Our tent, the staff, the meals, the open bar (very dangerous in this heat!), the sundowners in various fabulous locations perfectly suited for watching the day end, and our guides … all are exceptional. Our guides in particular are a very special group; locals who have tremendous knowledge of the bird, animal and plant life of the delta. We’ve learned more than we can ever remember and come away with an enhanced appreciation for nature. From the smallest bug to the largest mammal, life here works in concert. Would that the human world could do so well!!

John, our personal guide, grew up on the delta, hunting and fishing with his grandfather. He knows the medicinal use for all of the plants we see, can list the characteristics of every animal we see, carries a rifle on our game walks with ease, has scars on his arms from a fight with a baboon, and has a wonderful sense of humour. At the end of the day he puts on a white shirt and sits down to dinner with us, answering our many questions about life in modern-day Botswana. He’s truly a marvel.

We are also in the great company of a group of 4 couples who travel together when they have a conference to attend. From Bogota, Colombia, Sydney, Australia, San Francisco and Toronto they are an international group with whom we instantly bonded. We’ve shared many laughs over drinks and meals.

Greeting us our first night after dinner was a bull elephant who seemed oblivious to us watching him from the front deck of our tent. I am not sure flash photography was the best way to handle the situation, but at least we now have the photos to prove his presence. Since then he has made twice daily visits and has only tried to charge us once, when Craig had me standing on the deck a mere few feet away from him in order to get a photo. He looked up, locked eyes with me and out went the ears and down came the penis, both signs of aggression.

We feel surrounded by animals in this intimate setting. Besides the elephant, there are baboons who wake us in the morning with their fighting and/or defecating on top of the tent. Birds too numerous to name. A bush buck who sleeps in the grass by the path from the main tent to the washroom. Hippopotamus in the channel in front of the camp. And last night, a pair of male lion wandered through at around 3 AM, waking most of us with their calls.

We’ve seen the two lionesses who inhabit the area. John sighted the vultures in the trees, which led to a wart hog kill nearby. Amos, the senior guide and tracker extraordinaire, located the lionesses in a clump of trees, full and resting from the warthog feast of the previous night. As we sat watching and snapping photos, the older lioness got up and began to meow softly. Soon 4 cubs were scrambling out of the grass, one obviously smaller and weaker and having a hard time getting to her as mom lay nursing the other three healthier cubs. We all quietly cheered as the runt finally made his way to the “milk bar”. He only nursed a short time before she knocked him off and wandered off for a drink at the nearby water-hole, leaving him crying and bewildered. Soon he calmed down, looked at us for a few glorious moments and settled to sleep. He won’t likely survive and it is hard not to want to rescue him.

As the lioness made her way to the water hole all of the impala in the area alerted, stopped eating and moved closer together. They apparently know they can outrun her and the only way she can kill one of them is by stalking and surprising them, so it makes sense that they keep an eye on her rather than run away. So many great life lessons to learn on safari. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer?!

The final day John tracked the two male lions who had been wandering through camp. As we watched them laze, the sun was going down and a few hundred feet across the field a group of elephant were grazing. Maribou stork sat eerily in the tree tops. Bird call filled the air. Quintessential Africa!

It was no easy task choosing a few dozen photos of all the amazing animals we have seen here. And yes, Simba, the tiny lion cub, is probably over-represented, but who could resist that cute little face?

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