Part 10: Camp Okavango

Early in the morning at Camp Moremi, we departed the lodge with bags packed and loaded onto our safari vehicle, so we could fit in one final game drive before we met our Safari Air plane. Good thing we agreed to do this, because our guide found us a lioness and a cub, lying low and nearly motionless on a kopje, with eyes locked on red lechwe antelope a few hundred metres away.

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Lioness and cub, stalking dinner.

We also had morning tea at the very picturesque Dead Tree Island.

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Dead Tree Island

Then we were in the air, and at the very last stop on our three-week Botswana safari. By now, we were fairly tired of driving over potholed roads, and ready for a different nature/game experience. Relaxed Camp Okavango was the perfect way to end our trip.

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Very similar in style to Camp Moremi, except with more private rooms (and showers!), Camp Okavango had the kind of laid-back vibe that only lodges near big bodies of water have. Our guides were also less serious, and more fun – inclined to joke around. Case in point: I mentioned that the last time I was in the area, I went swimming and that I’d love to do it again. Most of the staff at Maun and in Moremi expressed horror that we had done this – I mean, hello, there are crocodiles and hippos!

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A crocodile amongst the papyrus reeds.

Our hilarious guide Stagga, his colleagues Godwin and Erny, all tried to reiterate this fact, but said that if I was still up for a dip, so were they. Game on! After a very interesting and enlightening nature walk – on which we were shown, amongst other things, an impala carcass air-drying in a sausage tree, dragged up by a leopard – Stagga and Godwin announced it was time for our ‘swimming safari’.

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Serious students.

Four other intrepid fellow Australians were keen to come along, so off we went in a tin motorboat, zipping along papyrus-lined channels until we came upon a fairly big crocodile. Stagga asked if we still wanted to swim and all of us said YES. So we put-putted along, backtracking a little bit and Godwin piped up “Stagga, I think you’ve taken this joke to far”. Up until this point, I thought they’d take us back to the lodge and escort us to the pool.

But once we rounded a bend, we came upon Erny with a bar set up half-submerged in a clear, sandy-bottomed channel. We were out of the boat at once – all of us, except Godwin (presumably he stayed to keep watch for hippos and crocs) and splashing in the beautiful, cool water. Most of us also tried “rowing” a mokoro – which involves using a long pole to push the canoe along the channels. Batswana mokoro boatmen make this look easy, but I assure you it is not!

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Our floating bar!

We returned to the lodge elated, and ready for our last activity: an evening boat cruise. Thinking that our day could not get better, I settled in, ready to relax. Malachite kingfishers, hippos and other birdlife were spotted, but what woke us all up from our reverie was a young elephant. Separated from his herd by a channel, he heard our boat motor and took fright. As a result, he ran at us – a mock charge, fortunately – and trumpeted furiously, before splashing his way to the other side to reunite with his family. We were wide awake after that.

As the sun sunk low, Stagga moored our boat near a dense thicket of ancient trees. Before he could pour us sundowner drinks, his ears pricked up. He’d heard a Pel’s fishing owl. Now, if you don’t know what that is, its like the holy grail of owls. They’re SO rare. I was desperate to follow him to track it on foot, but he wouldn’t let me. Minutes later, he called us to take a look. Hunting and hunting, we saw nothing. Then, one burst out of the tree canopy, so all I caught was a fleeting glimpse of a very large brown back with huge wings.

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All smiles after seeing the Pel’s fishing owl.

Seconds later, I saw a second bird fly out to join its partner – Pel’s fishing owls pair for life – and lost sight of it in seconds. I didn’t get to see its face, but it did leave me a prize – a feather. Like a good girl, I left this behind in Botswana so I wouldn’t get a starring role in Border Patrol.

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I have nothing to offer in terms of advice in this article. All I will say is that I will be shortly back here – in search of my fishing owls and wild dogs!

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