AN EXPEDITON IN TO THE HEART OF THE OKANGO
A MAGICAL MOSAIC OF LAGOONS, WATERWAYS AND ISLANDS - THIS IS AN EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER.
The Kalahari Desert is not a barren land of rolling sand dunes as its name might suggest. Instead it's made up of extensive grasslands, bushveld, low-scrub and tree islands. This is ideal pasture for many large herbivores (elephant, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe etc), which in turn attracts their predators (lion, leopard, hyena and wild dog). The one commodity that is in short supply however is water, which all large mammals require regularly.
Serendipitously, the Okavango Delta provides water in spades; literally creating a mega-oasis in the middle of a desert.
The best way to understand and exoplore this unique phenomenon is to spend time in both the "wet" and "dry" parts of the delta. The "wet" is an area of thousands of permanent waterways seperated by innumerable islands and the best way to get around here is by boat and on foot.
Counterintuitively perhaps, more water does not necersarily mean more animals, you really can have too much of a good thing. So while the "wet" area is incredibly scenic and the birdlife is amazing and you will see some mammals - notably elephants, hippo, buffalo and the marsh-specialist lechwe - to witness the best of Okavango's wildlife requires time spent in the dry country on the edge of the delta where the wildlife has access to water but also substantial grazing plains.
We've designed this expeditionary safari to do exactly that - by taking you straight deep in to the wet heart of the delta, camping on islands and exploring by boat and foot; before going on to Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana's richest and most diverse National Park where you'll have a chance to ecounter an incredible array of mammals from aardwolf to zebra.
Natural High shines rays of adventurous light into some of the least explored, most exciting corners of the wider world”
ARRIVAL IN BOTSWANA
The speed that you will leave the first world and enter the wilderness is outlandish. An hour after passing through the perfectly conventional and modern Maun airport you'll be aboard an aluminum boat hurtling towards the heart of the delta. The large four-stroke engine is mercifully quiet so conversation with your pilot guide is possible and it's surprisingly manouverable an comfortable.
Exploring the Delta
Your base for the next three days will be an island campsite reserved exclusively for your use. While you may encounter a few other boats while you are out and about, see the odd mokoro (dug-out canoe - now largely fibreglass) and hear the occasional light aircraft overhead the camp has an extraordinarily private feel to it. Large walk-in tents with proper beds and en-suite bathrooms with bucket showers and chemical loos provide plenty of comfort. When not in camp eating, drinking or resting you'll be exploring the vicinty on foot or in the boat. Walking in Botswana's National Parks is forbidden (only permitted on private concessions - along with off-road driving and night drives) although, for reasons that nobody seems particulary sure of, there is a brazen disregard for this particular rule on the islands in the middle of the delta.
Pack up the boat
The Okavango Delta largely defies description and really needs to be seen to be believed. It is catergorically not a swamp, in fact the waters are ridiculousy clear, caused by a combination of fact that the water is always moving, but not fast enough to carry much sediment, and great stands of papyrus that act as a massive filtration system.
Dry off in Moremi National Park
After the watery-wildernesss that is the heart of the delta the sudden dry and relatively parched atmosphere of the Moremi can be quite a shock. Persevere however as the rewards are huge. Quite possibly the greatest showcase for Africa's large predators on the continent - and often interaction between them being witnessed - Moremi has a long and rich history of wildlife documentary making and you'll soon see why.
Off the beaten track with mobile camps
One of the real strengths of Botswana has been it's long-sighted ablity to manage its parks in such a way that people are not on top of one another - and among the many effective measures facilitating this is the collection of private camp sites that can only be booked on an exclusive basis by a reputable safari outfitter. This allows for incredibly privileged to areas deep with in the park.
While neither "wet" mobile in the delta, or the "dry" mobile in Moremi are participatory - ie all the setting and breaking of camps is done for you and your tents are serviced, it' also true to say that the focus is firmly on what's outside the tent and you won't find any of the theatrical accoutrements such as bone-china tea cups or Persian rugs that are a feature of some of the more flamboyant, and expensive, operators. The meals are wholesome and hearty rather than gourmet but the ability to get you in amongst the action is second to none.
The big game of Botswana
One of the reasons that Moremi holds such a diverse collection of large mammals is that it receives the richest deposits of sediment from the annual floods, thereby producing the most nutritious grasses, that attract the largest herds of antelope - which as sure as night follows day attract predators of every niche.
Couple this with a good range of habitat - both grassland and riparian woodland - and this creates optimum conditons for a fantastic array of antelopes, carnivores and large herbivores.
From Moremi it's the dry back in to Maun for your flight out and a chance to reflect on the remarkable diversity encountered in the space of less than a week.
A NOTE FROM ROD
INSPIRATION FOR THIS TRIP
Botswana has a well-earned reputation for being the best organised country on the continent, where little goes wrong and where incredibly luxurious lodges are magicked-up in the bang-in amongst awe-inspiring animal interaction. Lovely, but oh so smooth...
I was therefore absolutely stoked to have my preconnceptions shattered and find proper adventure alive and well in the middle of the Okavango. I'd arrived here straight from leading a multi-day expediton through the Kafue National Park in Zambia, a place very close to my heart and a journey that's incredibly hard to beat in terms of both variety and adventure - we'd walked, boated, ballooned, driven and survived a hippo attack on our canoe along the way. I knew the wildlife would be compable, arguably evenly better, but I was pretty sceptical that it would have anything like the same feeling of pioneering travel. How wrong could I be?
There is something very special about being on board a craft with all your provisions for the next few days; food, drink, tents, bedding, firewood spread around you. Speeding up the channels past multiple elephant and hippo, with my wonderfully laconic host muttering occasionally about time I had not a care in the world. Then sunset came and went, stars appeared and still we motored on, more tentatively now as unable to read the sandbank and ineviatbly beaching ourselves on a few, requiring enterring in to the not entirely croc-free water to man-handle us afloat. Some time in the early part of the night we reached our destinantion and pitched camp and over the next few days explored the watery wilderness that is the Okavango by boat and on foot, taking refreshing dips in water deemed too clean for crocs by the locals, but never did the feeling of freedom, derived by the pure joy of journeying in the unkown that first day ever leave me, it still hasn't.
Our experienced travellers include:
It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary.
All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.
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When to visit the Okavango