An Okavango Delta Safari in a Mokoro

Okavango Delta

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On our road trip through southern Africa, our main goal was to experience as many safaris as possible. We saw the most wildlife in the country of Botswana. The Okavango Delta has a unique ecosystem that doesn’t follow normal rules, and in the middle of the summer (when we teachers have a good break) is the perfect time to see all kinds of birds and mammals. We couldn’t wait to be right there with the hippos and crocodiles on our mokoro on our Okavango Delta safari.

Okavango Delta safari - Hippos relaxing on the banks of the river.

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The Okavango Delta was just recently (2014) inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its unique flooding pattern and how the flora and fauna has adapted to it. In the middle of what would normally be the dry season, the Okavango River floods, fanning out to form a marshland that is home to many endangered species.

Campground in Seronga where we stayed during our Okavango Delta safari

There are not many ways to access the delta, but most people fly into the small city of Maun. We were driving, and we did spend the night in this dusty town, then another night along the way, and finally we arrived in the village of Seronga where we were able to find our accommodations for a couple of nights. The Mbiroba Camp* was everything we’d hoped it would be. Organized by the Okavango Polers Trust, the camp solely exists to provide locals a way to make money doing mokoro safaris for tourists.

The town of Seronga, gateway to the Okavango Delta.

A Mokoro Safari

We rented one of the chalets and were quite comfortable, and the meals were very well done too. One night we ate kudu, which I may not ever repeat, but it was interesting. We booked our mokoro safari for the next day, and we were off to bed early with anticipation.

Okavango Delta mokoro - traditional dug out canoes and our safari guides.

Down by the water’s edge there were about 20 mokoros scheduled to go out. Mokoros traditionally are hollowed out from hardwood, but in the present day and in order to preserve the trees, they are now fiberglass. Each poler owns his own boat, and each person belongs to the Trust. The polers grew up in the delta, learning to maneuver their craft by navigating the waters to get somewhere or for fishing. For the majority of the day, we were out in the delta completely on our own except when a mokoro full of locals poled by us.

Okavango Delta channels, just wide enough for the mokoro to get through.

For anyone who has kayaked, getting into the mokoro was just what would be expected. It seemed at first to be a little wobbly, but once everyone was settled it was quite stable and even a bit comfortable. We wasted no time leaving the banks of the river and soon were splitting the papyrus reeds as we poled off. This part was probably the most unsettling. The poler stands and can see where he is taking us, but as the passengers, the view is from very low and you can mostly see plants.

Okavango Delta safari - hippos everywhere!

A relaxing “swish” and “splash” was all that was heard as we quietly made our way through the wetlands. At one point, we did come across a bloat of hippos and spent some time talking to them, photographing them, and keeping our distance as these are the most territorial and potentially vicious animals.

Our mokoro

Around lunchtime, we stopped on hard ground, an island, and our guide pulled out our cold lunch of spaghetti and salad, which had been kept cool and was perfect for the middle of an African day. We found shelter under a tree. We stuck very close to the poler as we were in the middle of the wilderness, but the only threatening thing we saw was a massive termite mound. We wandered close enough to take a look, but chose to have a lunch away from the millions of insects.

An termite mound in the delta

It was an amazing day boating through the delta, with reeds folding down in front of you to expose the bright blue sky, with birds fishing, and just knowing that this place is special; special for its people, its animals, and its ecosystem.

*Mbiroba Camp – Camping in Botswana can be a hit or miss deal.  When we were there, we were very happy with our accommodations, our meals, and our guides, but I’ve read that many of the places have gotten run down.  No matter what, going on the cheap and camping out in the African bus will be an adventure!

Best Time to Go to the Okavango Delta

July through September is the perfect season for this type of adventure. Some of the swamps have lessened and the water has started to go down, so it’s easier to see wildlife. There are not as many mosquitoes since it’s considered the dry season. It’s much easier to view the animals as well.

The Okavango Delta’s rainy season begins in late October and goes all the way through April. This is important to the health of the wetlands, and it provides such a fertile area for sheltering and feeding the various and abundant wildlife. It does make it harder to travel in the region, though.

The flooding season is November and December, and adventurers will want to avoid those months. The shoulder months of October, January, February, and March is a tourist low season, and lodges and tours will be discounted, but if you are traveling there by car roads can be washed out or closed. The breeding season begins in late December, so if you are in the delta around January – March, you might be able to see some babies.

Have you been on an Okavango Delta safari?

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Okavango Delta - A World Heritage Site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “An Okavango Delta Safari in a Mokoro

  1. Sand In My Suitcase says:

    So glad you enjoyed your Botswana safari! We were blown away by all the wildlife we saw in South Africa and Zambia last year on our safaris there. Not sure about the mokoros in Botswana though – we canoed in Zambia with enough crocodiles and hippos to last us a lifetime, and we hear the mokoros are less stable than canoes (more prone to croc attacks!).

  2. Nancie says:

    Hi Corrine! What a great adventure. I think I’d have been a little queasy so close to the hippos in that little boat! πŸ™‚
    Thanks for linking up last week, and sorry I am slow in getting around. School is keeping me hopping right now. #TPThursday

  3. Mike says:

    This was sooooo much fun to read and I’m glad you kept your distance from the hippos! I remember that post when you were on the boat! Those boats with those cushions look amazing comfortable, Corinne. I wish you included a picture of your chalet…I’m so curious about that! Have a great weekend! πŸ™‚

    • Corinne Vail says:

      Mike, I don’t have a photo of the chalet…darn it! It was spartan, but comfortable enough. Jim and I just can’t afford, or are just not willing, to pay for high end accommodations. We’d rather spend our money doing not sleeping.

  4. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) says:

    I did safari on honeymoon but that was in Tanzania. Okavango Delta is another destination that my husband’s visited before we met unfortunately for me! I loved seeing hippos out in the wild – it was one of the highlights of my trip to Tanzania πŸ™‚

  5. The Guy says:

    Always great to hear of World Heritage sites and new ones being added. Clearly they are being added for good reason which is why I always think they are worth a visit.

    Great pictures Corinne and I love the one of the Hippo in the water. Like you say they are very territorial, I think they are the biggest killers of humans on African safaris of any animals. Very deceptively fast.

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