Once we left Chobe National Park we headed to Maun in Botswana which was where we would begin our journey into the Okavango Delta. The journey was horribly hot, it was around 45 degrees and myself and others weren’t coping on the truck with the heat. Luckily the campsite in Maun had a pool which we spent most of the day in the pool just to stay cool.
At 7.30am the following morning we were picked up to go to the Okavango Delta. We had an open truck that drove through the Kalahari Desert for 45 minutes before reaching the drop off point. The Kalahari Desert is exactly how you would imagine it would be, dry, barren and blistering heat.
Upon arrival at the entrance to the Okavango Delta we were then put into pairs and assigned a poler who took us in a mokoro through the thick reads in the Delta. A mokoro is a dug out canoe made from wood but most of the mokoros were made of plastic now.
Our poler took us deep into the Okavango Delta for around an hour and a half, at one point we stopped and stood up to see an elephant grazing nearby, it was the first of many we would see over the next 24 hours.
Being taken into the Delta on a mokoro was a very calm and a super chilled out experience, although it was hot, the water would splash me occasionally and cool me down for mere moments. How the amazing polers did this in the heat I’ll never know. The polers come from the local village and their names get drawn out once a month to complete a sleep over in the Okavango Delta with tourists like us. A lot of the money goes back into the village which was pleasing to see.
The place we set up camp was a tiny island in between the water that runs though the Okavango Delta. There were no facilities and it was a small area littered with elephant poo (luckily they only eat plants so it didn’t smell). We set up our tent nearest to the water in the hope we would get some sort of breeze, we didn’t though. The Okavango Delta does get flooded so the delta tour leader chooses at the time where is a good place to camp.
The afternoon was spent at a watering hole where we heard hippos grunting not too far away. It was quite surreal to be that close to such a dangerous animal but that is the beauty of Africa, you are never too far from animals. This was literally the only place to cool down so we spent hours in the watering hole chilling out, throwing a ball around and just enjoying the surroundings.
The mokoro polers also let us borrow their boats for the afternoon so Dan had a go around the delta and the watering hole whilst I sat by and enjoyed the view. Travelling by mokoro reminded me a little bit of a gondola ride in Venice but without the traffic, singing Italian and price tag!
At 4.30pm we all put our trainers on and headed out on a walking safari. Having done a jeep safari in the Masai Mara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and a boat safari in Chobe National Park I was eager to get out there on a walking safari as it was a totally new experience and it felt like total freedom as well.
The landscape was a mixture of greenery and dry. There was an abundance of elephants in the park and in Botswana as a whole. They have stopped hunting all together and protect the animals from poaching fiercely which was rewarding for us as we saw so many elephants during our walking safari and later that evening we could hear them from our tent.
We saw elephants as soon as we left the campsite, just near our camp we found lion footprints, kudu in the distance but the best part of the walking safari was seeing a huge herd of elephants.
There must of been at least 50 elephants approaching us, they were coming at a rapid pace so we had to change our route so the elephants by passed us rather than came straight for us. I can confirm that a herd of elephants is actually very quiet. We learnt that female elephants lead and the dominant bull elephant hangs back quite far to protect the group.
Upon arrival back at camp just after sunset all of the polers put on a delicious meal for us and performed for us that evening. They sang, danced and put on a great show for us. They sang a song about “beautiful Botswana” that I can still hear in my head whenever I think about it.
That night was a fairly tough sleep, there was all sorts of noises outside the tent and various animals coming and going. In the morning it was an early start and there was a huge elephant just by our tent. The Okavango Delta was such a magical place and even though there was no facilities and we were properly ‘roughing’ it I really enjoyed the experience.
Our poler took us back on the mokoro early morning after breakfast and it was so peaceful. The early morning ride back to civilisation was quiet and a good time to reflect on what a fantastic experience the sleepover in the Okavango Delta was.
Swimming in the watering hole
Singing and dancing from the polers
The mokoro ride
We farewelled our mokoro polers, tipped them and headed back to Maun via the Kalahari desert for a much needed shower!
Check out loads of footage from my sleepover in the Okavango Delta here: