Best known for its untamed wilderness, Botswana is made up of hugely contrasting environments; the unforgiving semi-arid desert landscapes in the south of the country couldn’t be further from the floodplains found in the northern areas. Laura from our product team recently went out to explore Botswana, and here she tells us why travelling along the Okavango Delta by mokoro was one of her personal highlights.
Over the past few months Botswana has received copious amounts of rain and flooding, with much of the water travelling down from Angola into the panhandle of the Delta, and then moving into the rest of the country. This has hugely changed the landscape and has created something which, even by Botswana’s standards, has to be described as a wet wonderland. My first experience of the Delta was watching it come into sight from the window of my light aircraft. The vast expanse of watery marshlands, peppered by lush green islands, seemed to go on as far as the eye could see. It was unlike anything I have seen before.
Great flooding is not only beneficial to the environment and delicate ecosystem that the animals of the area rely on, but also creates the perfect opportunity for water-based activities. One of the best ways to travel around the endless waterways is by mokoro. For those who don’t know, a mokoro is a traditional African dug-out canoe, typically made from nearby trees and arduously carved out by hand over a couple of weeks. Mokoros are long and slim, just big enough for two people to sit, one behind the other. They are designed to navigate the reed channels causing minimal damage and noise.
On arrival into the airstrip, we were led along a wooden gangplank and welcomed with incredible views of reed beds stretching endlessly into the distance. From here, we would travel by mokoro to Delta Camp, where we would spend the next couple of nights. Our guide Vee effortlessly navigated us through the channels, with nothing but a long pole to control our speed and direction. After spending the past couple of days searching for game along the dirt roads of Savuti and Moremi in a bumpy 4×4 game vehicle, the smooth tranquillity of gliding along in a mokoro was a calm like no other.
Seats are placed on the base of the mokoro making the reeds feel enormous as they brushed past our heads; we could only see grass or sky. Our mokoro had been crafted by Vee himself, and he had been maneuvering through the reeds since he was nine years old, so I felt completely safe in his hands. We could hear hippos wallowing in the distance beyond the reeds, and Vee pointed out birdlife and insects as well as wonderful minute frogs, which were perched atop some of the sturdier reeds. Barely bigger than a fingernail, these frogs nap throughout the day and wake at night, creating a chorus of noise.
After around fifty minutes we began to pull into Delta Camp, the first view was of the treehouse – the honeymoon suite where I would be spending the night. Balanced within the tree and offering up spectacular views of the Delta and beyond, I knew I would be perfectly at home in this wild (and wet) paradise.