After such an action packed time in Zimbabwe we were looking forward to our six days in Botswana being a little more relaxed. Reports of wildlife in Chobe National Park are limited due to the current heatwave so we flag that option. Our first night in the country we get caught with our (tent) flies down in a midnight downpour and end up soaked.
The next day at a roadside pee stop Sarah ventures into the scrub with another truck mate, turning their back on the bush in favour of watching anybody approaching from the traffic free road. Back at the truck our guide and driver are curiously pouring over a nearby puddle, which turns out to be filled with huge lion paw prints in the mud. Turns out turning your back to the bush in these parts is a bad idea!
Maun, our home for three nights, is a small town with an international airport servicing incoming tourists headed for the regions big draw, the Okavango Delta. During the March to August floods the Okavango River, which begins it’s flow 1,500km north in Angola, reaches three times it’s normal size. Yet despite this these waters never find their way to the ocean. Instead they’re stalled inland where they fan out as a vast inland Delta, covering the north western corner of Botswana and eventually running dry in the Kalahari Desert. The flood, occuring during Botwana’s dry winter, attracts plenty of wildlife including giraffe and elephant.
With the country currently suffering through a heatwave and the delta in flood, we pass on sitting in the sun for the two night mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) trip in favour of a view from above. Heading to the international airport in Maun, we found Kavango Air (located upstairs) friendly and willing to help, and booked in for an afternoon flight on a three seater plane.
With Matt already having sworn off small planes twice on this trip (once in Panama and after our Nazca Lines flight) it’s tough work getting him to squeeze into the tiny tin can. A bumpy take off sees us head into the distance with a setting sun to our left, and as we cruise at an altitude of 150 metres, the lengthening shadows help us spot wildlife. A column of elephant all in a row, herds of zebra, giraffe and impala are among those spotted, and the sunlight reflecting off the twisting and turning waterways makes us feel a bit like we’re in a David Attenborough documentary (albiet a very amateur one).
The flight lasts just under and hour and Matt eventually gets over his sweaty palms, stops shitting himself and starts enjoying himself just in time for us to head back to Maun. It’s a great way to see the delta teeming with wildlife, something you can’t see from the water level. But be warned, you’ll need your passport to board the flight, even if it does take off and land at the same airport. Our German truck buddy Frank learnt this lesson when he arrived without it, having left it in the truck safe which was in town somewhere with out driver and guide. Lucky for Frank Kavango Air were overly helpful, calling a local mechanic and the campsite until they located the truck, then escorting him in a taxi back to the camp to collect it, all the while keeping our poor impatient pilot Ian at bay over the 30 minute delay this caused him.
The rest of our time in Maun is spent with our feet firmly on solid ground. While the rest of the group opted for the mokoro trip, we spent three lazy hot days by the pool, watching the local bird life, including African hoopoe, red billed hornbill, golden oriole and white bellied sun bird, attracted by bird feeders scattered around the deck. The owner of Sedia Hotel & camp is from Norfolk and we enjoy a good chat with him over the buffet breakfast one morning (USD$6.50).
We also take some time to hang out with our old and new drivers. With South African law stating we’re unable to bring our truck Shaggy with it’s canvas roll up sides into the country, we’re forced to change trucks and drivers here in Botswana. It’s a sad day to lose Tom, who’s been with us since day one in his home country of Kenya. His stories have been entertaining and his sense of humour welcomed by everybody on the trip. Moogs, though he doesn’t know it yet, has some big boots to fill.
- We found booking directly with Kavango Air cheaper than using the tour company at Sedia, with a 3 seater costing us around USD$250. The minimum size offered at Sedia was a 5 seater and therefore the cost was much higher if there’s only 2-3 of you.
- To get from Sedia to town or the airport, head to the main road and flag down a passing shared taxi (look for the blue and white taxi sign on the car). It should cost 4 pula each (about USD$0.35).