Okavango

For the benefit of anyone reading this for advice on planning your own Botswana safari, let me start off by saying that we would not recommend Camp Okavango. While the experience was fine – lovely even – it’s less of a classic safari experience and more of one geared towards “relaxation.” For the amount of money it costs to “relax” here, you could do any one of hundreds of truly relaxing activities. My two cents: spend that money relaxing in Tahiti. My idea of relaxation is not waking up at 5 am for a boat ride or a game viewing walk, nor sleeping in a non-air conditioned semi permanent structure (nice as it is) in the sweltering heat. It is by no means an unpleasant experience, just not the one I envisioned for my six short nights on safari in Botswana.

So what does Camp Okavango offer? Remoteness, for starters. The landing strip here is not even a dirt patch; it’s so infrequently trodden it is still largely covered in grass. Don’t worry, there is a unionized group of red lechwe that graze/mow for maintenance. And you don’t ever set foot in a car/truck/jeep here – even from the airport…you walk to camp. That’s pretty cool. Before we had even dropped our bags, we saw some baboons!

And unlike most safari lodges, you do not sit in a jeep for game viewing activities. Most such activities are water based. And with the water based activities you are not so much focused on game viewing as you are on maybe bird watching, spotting the occasional croc, and relaxing.

Our first night we partook in a fishing trip. It was certainly relaxing to hang out in this place of sublime beauty, knocking back a number of cold ones while we tried (largely in vain) to catch some supper. Alan won the prize of first catch of the day, and what a catch it was!

Rich then stepped in to show him how it’s done, with little improvement.

Then the pro showed up. Who has two thumbs and caught the only keeper among us? This girl. Not to toot my own horn or anything. 😉

Despite the poor performance on the actual fishing part, we enjoyed the spectacular sunset while we chased our afternoon brews with a G&T.

The next day we tried out another type of boating activity: a trip in the mokoro. These are traditional canoe-like vessels commonly used in the Okavango Delta. We floated along peacefully, admiring the millions of birds ranging from slate egrets, to spare wing geese, to malachite kingfishers and practically everything in between.

We particularly enjoyed these tiny reed frogs that change colors like a chameleon.

Our guide, Stagga, enjoyed them in a different way: as a snack. Just kidding, no frogs were harmed in the making of this post.

On our walk back to camp we were lucky to spot a few giraffes. They are even more graceful and impressive when viewed on foot from a distance of a few meters.

When not enjoying the water based activities, there are safari walks to be taken. Our first one was maybe a little underwhelming, kind of more akin to a glorified nature walk, but it was interesting to learn about some of the flora that tends to get ignored when you’re in the jeep searching for big cats. While you (hopefully) do not get as close to the fauna while on foot, the animals are not all that far away. We saw lots of red lechwe, even more birds, impala, baboons, some buffalo and elephants. We also happened upon a lot of warthogs. Fun fact: warthogs’ tails stick straight up in the air when they run. It’s adorable.

We ventured out a bit farther on our second walk in search of the hippo pool. Worth the distance, for sure. We saw a handful of hippos hanging out, and a humongous croc sliding in and out of the water to hang with the fatties.

From there we boarded our last of the tiny planes to fly back to Maun en route to Namibia!

Practical Info

Camp Okavango is in the heart of the Okavango Delta. There are no game drives here, just walking safaris and water based activities like fishing, motorboat rides and mokoro rides. This means that while the camp is relaxing and the staff are friendly, this is not the place to come if you’re after optimal big-game viewing. Please see our post on Savute Safari Lodge for more general info.

Transportation: We arrived on a seven-seat single-engine Cessna from Camp Moremi. The flight took about 15 minutes and we landed on a grass strip. It is a short walk from the landing strip into Camp Okavango.

We departed on an 11-seat Cessna for the half hour flight to Maun. From there, we took a much larger Air Botswana turbo-prop for the ~2 hour flight to Johannesburg, where we nearly missed our connecting flight on South African Airways to Windhoek, Namibia. There is a direct flight from Maun to Windhoek that left much later in the day. I’m not sure why we didn’t take that flight. It could’ve been sold out by the time we finalized our itinerary, or…

Accommodation: There are spacious permanent tents with en-suite facilities. As at Camp Moremi, each tent is on a raised teak platform and has canvas sides, a comfortable bed, etc. There is electricity (from a generator) in each tent during the day, but only battery power at night to provide enough light. So don’t forget to charge those camera batteries during your siesta break!

The property has a grassy lawn with a small pool. All meals are served in a thatch-roofed, open air dining space.

Food and Drinks: Hunger was not an issue. Breakfast is served at 6 am and is mainly cold fare, such as cereal, fruit, yogurt, excellent bread, juices, coffee, etc. Perhaps pancakes or crepes would be added. Brunch is around 11 am, and this includes a lunch buffet plus eggs cooked to order. Afternoon tea is at 3:30 pm, and there are always snacks. During the afternoon water excursion, sundowners are de rigeur. These take place around 6 pm (seasonally variable, I presume), where you imbibe a gin & tonic (or perhaps wine or beer) and have more snacks. Things like biltong (local jerky), cookies, chicken wings, whatever. Back at the lodge, pre-dinner cocktails with snacks are up around 7:30 pm. Dinner is at 8 pm, and this entails a plated appetizer plus a buffet and a plated dessert. In general, the breads were excellent and the food was very good. It was here that we first tasted the genius of Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree.

Activities: You can choose among (1) walking safaris on a nearby island, which are almost always done in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat; (2) motorboat rides where you see birds and possibly crocodiles, hippos, etc.; (3) mokoro rides which are punted and very peaceful; or (4) fishing. We did two walking safaris, one mokoro ride and one fishing trip. On the fishing trip, I got nothing to keep while Jenni caught a 6-8” bream that we enjoyed at dinner.

October 15-17, 2014 (Wednesday-Friday)

One thought on “Okavango”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s