Monday, December 22, 2008

Part 3: Hippos, crocodiles and sundowners

On our last morning game drive at Kanana, we came across a nice group of giraffe. They are particularly common in this part of the Delta.

On 07 December, our game drive from Kanana turned into an owl extravaganza, with superb views of two of the largest owls in Southern Africa, namely the rare and elusive Pel's Fishing Owl, and the massive Giant Eagle Owl, with its rather odd and very pronounced pink eyelids. We had some very good views of the Pel's Fishing Owl for just a few moments before it flew into thicker cover. However the Giant Eagle Owls put on quite a show, and we were literally standing right below a juvenile at one stage, observing the interaction between it and its parents, and listening to them calling back and forth. It was a fascinating excursion.

I can't stop talking about the food at Kanana and it is too bad that I didn't take some photographs. For lunch this day there was, in addition to several other items, some superb salads containing corn, beans, tomato and brown rice. All my favorites!

A snapshot of the Okavango Delta taken while en route between Kanana and Camp Okavango.

Inside the Cessna Caravan. The flight duration this day was about 20 minutes. It is rare for inter-camp light air transfers to be much longer than 45 to 50 minutes or so.

In the afternoon we flew to Camp Okavango in the heart of the permanent part of the Delta. This camp made a good impression right from the start, with the well-maintained and manicured airstrip. At Camp Okavango, there are no vehicles, it is just a short walk from the airstrip right into camp.
Walking into Camp Okavango.

Hema enjoying a friendly welcome from Hannah at Camp Okavango.

With welcome drink in hand, Gretchen and Kili are getting ready to listen to the camp briefing.

The camp grounds at Camp Okavango are heavily vegetated with some massive trees right in front of the large, almost sprawling dining, lounge and patio complex. The huge garden harbors tons of birds, but unfortunately I did not have enough time to do it justice with some 'serious' birding. We did see a Paradise Flycatcher flitting about; it had a nest just off the boma (fireplace) area.
Camp Okavango patio area.

The 'waterfall' tree and pond at Camp Okavango.

The fireplace area at Camp Okavango.

The boat station at Camp Okavango.

Greg and I took off with our guide B-Man on a short fishing excursion by skiff. Even if we never reached the area which we did (for fishing) the journey itself would have been worth it. What an amazing experience it was to glide through this narrow waterway, with high 'walls' of papyrus and reeds on either side, avoiding shallow sandy spots, and observing many birds, as well as a few small crocodiles, and water monitors en route. The suddenly, there was a hippo, completely out of the water, right in our way. Our boatsman was fortunately properly trained for such an event. Instead of slowing down or stopping, which could have led to a nasty confrontation, he barreled on. The hippo submerged and dove out of our way, and we pretty much went right over the spot which it had occupied just seconds earlier. Looking back we noted that the hippo had resurfaced and was giving us the hippo version of the upturned middle finger in the form of a beliggerent posture and stare. That was almost too exciting. And it happened much too quickly for photographs! As for the fishing, I'm afraid despite our best efforts we were unsuccessful. B-Man did catch a really good size 3-spotted bream though.

En route to the fishing spot. I should have kept the camera ready for the hippo incident which would happen just a few minutes later...

A young crocodile spotted during our boat journey along the Okavango Delta waterways.

In the afternoon we observed a basket-weaving demonstration by some of the local staff who do their weaving after hours and in their spare time, with the items being sold at the camp curio shop.

Showing us how it is done. A few Camp Okavango staff members demonstrating the skill of basket-weaving.

Concentration, concentration! Gretchen pitching in during the basket-weaving demo.

At around 4:00p, our group went out on a canoe outing to an area not far from the airstrip, for our afternoon activity. It was a fun and relaxing outing with sundowners being served on a small island, complete with an 'island bar' setup. During the outing we saw many differents types of birds, including the rare and highly endangered Wattled Crane, as well as some water-adapted mammals and many of the spectacular plants found in the Okavango Delta, such as the beautiful water lilies.

Getting ready to depart on the afternoon canoe activity.

The Okavango Delta 'island bar' setup. Our group were no slackers when it came to enjoying sundowners so the only thing left by sunset were a couple of cans of tonic water...

On the way back from our sundowner outing at Camp Okavango.

The view from the patio from one of the rooms at Camp Okavango.

Interior view of a tent at Camp Okavango.

Another view of the interior of the tents at Camp Okavango.

Front view of a tent at Camp Okavango. Recently, the zipper type doors were replaced with regular doors. Much more convenient and they keep all the insects out as well.

The pool at Camp Okavango.

At Camp Okavango, as at all the other camps on our itinerary, we were treated to a spirited pre-dinner song and dance performance. I thought that the camp staff's rendition of 'Beautiful Botswana' was superb and very moving.

The following morning - breakfast at Camp Okavango.

Yes I'm still running! On Saturday I did my longest long run in a while, a pretty solid 13 miles at around 9:16 average, with average heart rate 138. It was fairly warm (low to mid 70's) but nice. Towards the end my quads tightened up a bit but by now (Monday morning) I am fine, no residual pain or stiffness. Sunday was an 'off' day if one does not count the 5k rowing (slow/fast intervals of 500m) or the 30 minute flexband workout.

We've seen two movies since I got back from the trip: Slumdog Millionaire and Australia. Slumdog Millionaire is brilliant. As one of the critics said, if you have any plans for tonight cancel them and go and see this movie! Excellent in every way: stunning setting, story, characters, actors (whom you've never heard of before) and entertaining from the word go. I thoroughly enjoyed Australia as well, despite its well-publicized shortcomings. It is just so stunning visually, and the story surrounding the young boy is so involving that the other stuff becomes relatively unimportant.


johnking said...

I've heard both movies are great and am going to possibly check them out over break since I'll be off work til Jan 5th. Hey, where do I sign up for these trips...they sound awesome...and the pics are even better....that's no disposable kodak you got there huh?

Daleen said...

Klink na n close shave met die hippo ! By Kosi baai het ek ook amper iets soortgelyks ondervind.
Jou foto's is prima,voel of ek ook daar was.
Ja-nee,Afrika se natuur en wildlewe onverbeterlik.
Bert Geseende Kersfees.

Alexandra said...

Your pictures of Camp Okavango are so pretty. I like the idea of no vehicles and the short jaunt from the airstrip to the camp. I am not so sure I would be brave enough to go on the skiff adventure! I do love being in boats on the water but not when there are hippos and crocodiles hanging around. I enjoyed looking at your photos and reading your story! Thank you for sharing!

Vegan_Noodle said...

I am so enjoying catching up on your posts from your Africa trip. The scenery there looks so beautiful. And the wildlife! How cool!

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Amy said...

Thanks for the wonderful travelogue! Happy Christmas!

Burger said...

Awesome pictures as always Bert.

Heard great things about Slumdog Millionaire too. Thanks for the heads up.