November 8, 2015 – 5:00A
Early tribal drum wake up call. Leaving Baobab Lodge for another camp in Botswana. Excited to see what this place is going to look like. I hope the beds are as comfortable as the ones here. This was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in.
Arrived at our “new home” for the next 3 days at the Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
During the 20-seater minibus ride from Chobe to Kasane Airport in Botswana, Vitalis shared with us some of the cultural behaviors of the countries we are visiting. One particular (and controversial) topic we spent some time on was polygamy, which is practiced in Africa. He also talked about that superstitions and are a part of their culture. This is why when someone dies their body is always buried. If someone was cremated then it is believed that their spirit would come back upset wanting to known why their loved ones chose to cremate them. We also learned that when a child sneezes instead of saying: “Bless you” they say “Grow up.” This also falls back on their superstitions because they believe that there is a bad spirit among that child causing them to sneeze so by saying “grow up” they are wishing away the bad spirit as bad spirits are believed to leave the body as you become an adult. Vitals also explained that there is a local philosophy called “Drink 3 times.” He said you “drink when something good happens in order to celebrate and you drink when something bad happens in order to forget about it. And you also drink when nothing is happening so to find another reason to drink again.” haha! Vitalis explains it better than I am probably doing. It has been very interesting to learn about the people here. Vitalis is extremely knowledgeable and I feel privileged that he is sharing so much information with us.
The bus took us to Kasane Airport where there were two small “puddle-jumper” planes waiting to fly us into the Okavango Delta. Fortunately, there was Wifi at the Kasane Airport so I was able to touch base with Aaron and my mom via text. Aryn, Judy, Katherine and I flew in on the 6 seater prop plane. Apparently, Judy had opted for us to fly in the smaller plane prior to the trip. Our pilot’s name was Kyle and he explained to us the safety features of the plane and that our flight time was expected to be an hour and twenty minutes. Let me just tell you that for the first 15 or so minutes of the flight I was looking out from the co-pilots window thinking: “Really? Is this tiny little contraption seriously going to stay up in the air for over an hour?” The plane that the rest of the group took was a 12 seater. At one point they passed our plane and it was really cool looking out the window and seeing them. Once my mind was able to relax, I enjoyed looking down at the beautiful terrain of mostly bare trees and dry land. Occasionally, there’d be an elephant and some giraffes. Very cool.
We touched down on a dirt landing strip. There were two jeeps there ready to pick us up with our new guides Paul, MP and Proctor. Our ride from the landing strip to the camp was a game drive where we saw over a dozen hippos. Paul pulled our jeep right up to the water’s edge, turned off the engine and we sat and admired and counted these hippos for at least ten minutes or more. I love watching these creatures rise up out of the water. That’s when you get a better perspective of just how massive they are. Our guide Paul said hippos can get up to 3.5 tons in weight. Wow! We also saw zebra and various antelopes. There was also an interesting-looking antelope known as the Waterbuck. They are easily distinguished because of the heart-shaped outline on their backside. The guides jokingly referred to this white outline as a “toilet seat.” That’s how we learned to identify these particular antelope.
We also crossed over this long bridge made out of logs that spanned a small river known as the Khwai. Our driver Paul jokingly called said: “We’re about to cross the famous bridge over the River Khwai.” haha!
Lunch at the new lodge was refreshing. Especially the shredded carrot & minced apple salad. And the surrounding view is awesome. Along the tree line in the distance we watched 2 giraffes and later a pair of impalas. We are going to need a lot of water today – it’s a hot one.
Extending from either direction of the main large are wooden boardwalks that lead to the individual tents. These “tents” are different than the ones at Baobab which had doors. These ones literally zip up in front. Very authentic safari living. The floors are hardwood and we are elevated about two feet off the ground. The staff manager Kay was very clear to explain that the raised wooden boardwalk is the only path we are allowed to take to and from the main lodge. We are not to veer of this path and we are to be on the lookout for lions and leopards. If we encounter one, we were clearly instructed NOT to run OR turn away but to walk backwards to the nearest tent. Just like at the last camp, Aryn and I are in the furthest tent from the main lodge. HAHA! The beds in our tent are facing the front entrance which has a screen that zips shut so from our beds we can look out. We have a wooden front porch with two chairs on it and the view is of the African “bush.” So cool.
Electricity is powered by a generator and our water is heated by solar panels. Lots of sun beating down on those panels today so there should we should be in store for a hot shower.
On the counter behind our bed is an aluminum pitcher with a black lid. Inside is ice cold water. Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus! We can also access purified water from the main lodge, just like at the last camp, to fill our Wilderness Safari water bottles for drinking and brushing our teeth.
We have some siesta time right now so I’m going to head back to the main lodge and work on a few more of my post cards before its time for “high tea” and our afternoon game drive at 3:30P. I also want to get a video of the public men & women’s restrooms next to the main lodge. The are so cool because when you walk in and sit down on the toilet you are facing a half wall that looks out onto the “bush.” That’d be sweet if a giraffe came right up to the window and stuck its head in while I was using the “john.” haha!
This afternoon’s game drive in the Okavango Delta was spectacular. We started off by seeing multiple “pods” of hippos in the water. One individual hippo stepped out from the water and ran across the field into some trees. The guide said he was on heading into the shade to rest. The roads in these parks are dirt and extremely bumpy. All you can really do is laugh about it. Which becomes good bonding for you and everyone in your jeep. Here in the Okavango Delta, they also refer to this as the “African massage.” haha! Our driver today was Paul and we had a young guy from the Bushman tribe named Proctor joining us. His presence is what allowed us to go “off roading” and, therefore, closer to the animals. Thank you Proctor! We also saw these two tiny yellow-eyed Spotted Eagle Owls in a tree. It took me forever to actually see them. Finally, with the help of the zoom of my camera and Proctor’s direction I was able to get a view. I don’t know how these guides are able to drive along these bumpy roads, worry about the branches impeding from either side of the road AND spot these often times well-camouflaged animals. What a talent!
Next we stopped to watch an elephant feeding on a tree. He gave us a show by flapping his ears, raising his trunk and facing us head on. It was quite an experience.
But the creme de la creme of today’s drive was a sighting of six lions (2 females with their cubs and 2 male lions known as “The Discovery Boys”). The guides off-roaded, driving over tree and bush stumps in order to park our jeeps among the cats. When the engine was turned off, the guides very quietly reminded us of the rules when being among these wild animals. #1: Do Not Stand Up in the Jeep! #2: No sudden movements or sounds and #3 If you drop your camera outside of the jeep, say goodbye to it because no one’s getting out to pick it up! The two males were laying down at first. One stood up and walked over to the other and they rubbed their faces together as a sign of affection. What an amazing sight. The one standing up walked around our jeep, brushing the side of his body against our jeep. All you could hear was the clicking sound of everyone’s cameras. I’m not going to lie, it is slightly intimidating and you just sit there, holding your breath and hoping that everyone in your group follows the rules. The females and cubs walked around a little but mostly laid in the shade. We sat there for over a half hour and I got some pretty sweet videos and photos. It was an absolutely amazing experience. Anyone who even tries to compare a safari to a trip to the zoo is either not admitting their jealousy or should have their heads examined. I can’t even begin to describe how incredible it was to be among these animals in their natural habitat.
As we drove back to the main road our guide pointed out a huge Giant Eagle Owl high up in a tree. This thing was massive – over two feet tall. As it stared down from the tree we waited for it to blink so we could see its distinctive pink eyelids. As the temperatures were cooling down and we were all relaxed in the jeep enjoying the beautiful scenery we came across a parade or “memory” of elephants walking along the beautiful sunset. Wow! At this point, my camera battery was done. Sigh – again I should have packed a back-up battery.
Dinner back at camp was delicious – particularly the creamed bean soup. I always enjoy the myriad of conversations with my fellow travelers and the camp staff. These are moments filled with smiles and laughter that you wish could last for ever.
After dinner our guide “MP” was walked us back to our tent by flashlight. He would shine the flashlight quickly in all directions looking mostly for cats. As we walked, Aryn, Judy, Katherine and I couldn’t help but gaze up at all the beautiful stars. There must have been thousands of them and they were so clear. From our from porch we can look out at all the stars. All I can say is anytime I’ve ever looked at the stars I’ve had to look straight up but tonight you can look directly out and see just as many as you see in above. The stars go all the way down to the tree line. It takes my breath away. Amazing!
Off to bed now. Aryn and I are trying to guess what that low, howling sound is outside. I think it’s a hyena. We have been advised that there is a leopard in the areas we are to keep our tent zippers sealed shut. I love listening to orchestra of sounds surrounding us. It’s actually quite soothing. Night-night. 5a wake-up call tomorrow so we can start off on an earlier game drive to try and beat the heat. Despite the roaming leopard, we’ve decided to keep our tent flaps open with just the screens sealed in the front and on all the side windows. Praying for no visits from leopards … but maybe an elephant. 🙂