OKAVANGO DELTA SAFARI

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It’s 5:30 am - More or less my usual wake-up time. Today there’s a hardly disguisable excitement inside me that makes it impossible for me to stay in bed. Thus I started my early morning routine of hot water, vitamins, blood-pressure tablets and coffee, while waiting for Andries to wake. Fortunately he was also in a hurry, with all the preparations he still planned for the morning – and did not protest too much about the wake-up call with coffee.

The whole morning was used to get the park permits, the repaired trailer, food and two hours was spent to get fuel (not available as workers in SA are on strike.) I managed to buy a pair of shorts and a few other necessities and we were off after lunch in the local Wimpy.

Our drive to South Gate was uneventful, but the excitement was rising. The vegetation is dry, but abundant with a few wild animals spotted in the wilderness area adjacent to the national park. The road is gravel/dirt, but hard and easy to drive in 2 x 4 wheel drive. We reached South Gate in no time after we made a brief stop at the veterinary check point. Checking in was also no problem and we’re on our way.

The 23km to Khwai Rest Camp in the western part of the park did not deliver any surprises; few animals , hot and dusty, sandy tracks, but still  the boiling excitement. For me personally looking out for the birdlife is what I was really after. The whole trip took about 3 hours and we arrived at our campsite well before sunset. For Andries and myself camping in Botswana is nothing new. We were neither under nor over equipped. Our companions – Jo and Tubby – our two new consultants in the company and on their first educational visit camping is also nothing new. Thus before the last red sun’s rays sank away behind the thick black bush, our camp was pitched and our fire going. I took on the bread-making task for the night and Andries did the braai (barbecue). What else would one eat here than T-bone steak and boere wors with a few slices of tomatoes needed to add the vitamins?

Suffice to say that our first encounter with our primate counterparts in the bush – the blue bottomed monkeys and cape baboons – should have been enough warning for what would come. Their efforts to welcome were definitely only funny for the first few minutes. It is strange how the whole creation is affected by man’s sinful fall. Stealing, house (tent)-breaking and even violence, clearly became the modus operandi of these ‘wild’ creatures. Why is it that we human beings have succeeded in teaching them all the wrong things?

Fortunately, as soon as the shadows elongated across the open camp they took off to the trees for the night. Just like their genetically further evolved family, human beings, they are day time animals and because they are able to house themselves high up in the trees they are safe from most predators at night. All through the night, they were communicating. I believe the children might have been asking their parents all sorts of questions and I think I heard the sentinel scolding, or perhaps warning them. Or perhaps they were just planning the next day’s mischief. It was almost as of I could hear some giggling. It was quite late before they really got quiet - about the same time that we retired to our well prepared tents – complete with thick inflated mattresses.

Khwai camp is on the banks of the Khwai River and thus a haven for all wild animals. The Moremi National Park have upgraded all their campsites with nice, new, clean ablution blocks, solar and gas heated water systems and they are well kept by local contractors – a good way of empowerment. Our campsite, nr 2, boasted with almost our own small ablution. The only problem – our newly installed gas geyser did not work. Thus one needed to get either get used to cold showers or walk a not too far a distance to the next block. Of course one also has the choice of completely adjusting and just living with the dust and sweat...

Where were the days of fetching water from the river, while checking out for hippo and crocodiles or just driving down to third bridge for a swim in the river pools? Obviously we were always somewhat on the alert and with a lookout to warn for hidden dangers emerging from the thick reeds. Those were the days when one heard all the best hair-raising stories...