Our adventure into the Okavango Delta began with the exciting news that Justin “Iziphandla” Fisher would be joining us for a week in pursuit of the African Dream. Within a few minutes of collecting Fisher, we were immediately reminded of his greatest skill – talking! Sneaking up on anything would be impossible with Iziphandla.
Our adventure began at the Khwai Campsite – I’m still not sure why it is referred to as a campsite as the only facilities provided are the pristine wildness of the Okavango Delta. My favorite place!
Khwai proved to be a truly African experience. From long game drives watching elephants enjoying the lush green grass along the river, to collecting water from the river to wash dishes, showering under a solar shower hung from a tree, sharing a living area with elephant, hippo, hyena, various antelope and many other wild creatures was an absolute blessing!
Xakanaxa can only be described as an oasis in an oasis! We enjoyed lions mating for hours by ourselves, tracked wild dogs and managed to find an elusive leopard within the matter of a few hours, all while soaking up the mind blowing landscape and various habitats that the Delta provide.
After a short stopover in Maun we backtracked up the panhandle to catch a 3 hours boat ride to a private island in the middle of the Delta. 3 hours of hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and thousands of water birds were more than enough to keep us entertained as we enjoyed a few cold ales.
Paperi Island is 500m wide and 2 500m long, right in the middle of nowhere. We shared the island with 6 other Drifters guests and had a once in a lifetime experience. Each morning we would walk across the island, meet up with our Mokoro poler – James – and head off for another bigger island to explore what the Delta had to offer. Hippos, crocodiles, painted reed frogs, greater swamp warblers and many other Delta specials were savored only 10cm from the water’s edge.
The islands in the Delta proved to be extremely fruitful with amazing wildlife being witnessed on these remote, uninhabited and unknown treasures. Each day we encountered the remains of a fresh kill, which evidenced the vast wilderness that we were exploring. One such kill left us all awestruck and makes one wonder about the life changing and unique encounters that occur, but which us humans do not have the privilege of witnessing.
In grass higher than me (not that that is particularly high), we came across a circular flattened section. In that circle lay a massive dead male buffalo bull and a dead young male lion! After reading the signs of the wild and through local knowledge it was determined that a pride of 14 lions had attempted to kill the buffalo and in the titanic struggle that ensued, the Buffalo had managed to gaff one of the lions and kill the majestic beast before succumbing to his own wounds, which had been inflicted by the veracious lions. What I would give to have been a fly on the grass that day!
After saying a very sad farewell to Iziphandla, we drove in a much quieter manner to Savuti – the place of the elephant eating lions and the place where lions and hyenas are at war every night!
Our first few days were too quiet, and that wasn’t because we were missing Iziphandla’s stories, but rather due to the lack of game we saw. We had long discussions as we analyzed the maps, the terrain we had witnessed thus far and the signs we had picked up and decided to stick to our original plan – stick to the marsh – north to south, east to west. The tide must turn!
And did it pay off! Wild Dogs, Cheetah hunting impala at full speed, cheetah on a tsessebe kill, male lions, and many other great sightings were the result of many hours in the marsh. A place I can honestly say every person needs to see in one’s life, and a place I intend to return to many many times myself!
After Savuti we were treated to a few days of luxury at Chobe Marina Lodge in Kasane. An amazing spot on the Chobe River, where we enjoyed a sunset cruise with elephants swimming across the river, nesting African Skimmers and our first puku – taking our mammal list to 60 in less than 8 weeks!
A long lie in was greatly enjoyed before we joined the Kasane locals for a routine Friday afternoon American Scrabble golf game at Mowana Lodge. Not quite equipped for St Andrews, as all we had was a few clubs and a fanny pack with tees and balls. But looks can be deceiving and we certainly held our own – and in so doing maintained our unbeaten recorded outside SA.
Our last stop before heading for the Victoria Falls was Imbabala Lodge on the breath-taking Zambezi. 4 days of fishing, sunset cruises and living in our own little private house right on the water’s edge was absolute heaven. Herds of 400+ buffalo, elephant, lion and tiger fish were all enjoyed with a number of Zambezi Lagers on the mighty Zambezi himself.
Two weeks of the most pristine wildness I have ever witnessed. Not a sound other than the animals and birds themselves, not a light without a flame, not a flame without a brandy and not a memory that I will ever forget!