Botswana can be unforgiving. The heat weighs on you midday like a thick blanket you can’t crawl out of. Your skin becomes dry and scaly with faint lines mimicking the veins of the Okavango Delta, with its sprawling channels evaporating into the Kalahari Desert. Grocery stores run out of water, which you feel you can never get enough of anyway. But in the early mornings and late afternoons, Botswana welcomes visitors with one of the most unique experiences you can have in Africa.
- Day 1: Chobe National Park
- Day 2: Maun
- Day 3: Okavango Delta
- Day 4: Maun
Dates: November 15-18, 2018
We started our time in Botswana near Chobe National Park, in the northeastern corner of the country where Botswana meets Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
We had crossed the border from Zambia into Botswana. With no visa requirements, it was the smoothest and fastest border crossing we’ve had on our African overland trip with Tucan Travel.
Chobe National Park
It only took about 5 hours to get from Livingstone, Zambia to Chobe. We stayed at a big campsite called Thebe River Safaris. As the name suggests, they organize river cruises in Chobe National Park in search of wildlife.
Our tour group, which had expanded from 8 people to 21 when we left Zambia, all joined the sunset boat trip.
We floated along the river among the occasional hippos and crocs. It was mostly uneventful, save for the amazing sight of a crocodile eating an elephant carcass.
The elephant had likely had a heart attack after crossing the river a few months ago. Now his skin sat deflated around his bones while the croc tugged at a long flap of his skin. At one point, the croc even did the death roll, his signature move when he’s taking down prey. In this situation, it gave him leverage to tug the piece of meat off the carcass.
The next day we drove a long way to the city of Maun, where many tourists stay before making trips into the Okavango Delta. One of the largest wetlands in the world, the delta is a haven for wildlife, especially elephants and birds.
The next morning we met up with a team of local guides who poled us through the delta in mokoros, or canoes. We glided through the reeds in silence, except for the grunting of hippos in a nearby pool.
I loved the mokoro ride – it was so peaceful and serene. After a little over an hour, we arrived at our campsite for the night. The rest of the day was unbearably hot. We passed the time swimming and sitting in as much shade as we could find. With little to do, the day seemed to last forever, but not in a good way.
In the late afternoon, we took a walking safari around our island. It was still dizzyingly hot at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit when we set out, and I think everyone struggled to stay cool and hydrated. We did find a herd of zebra and a large elephant munching on a tree, though. We also visited an elephant graveyard, where bones scatter the ground from an elephant that died 7 years ago.
At this point, the sun was finally setting and the air became cooler. After night fell, we ate dinner. Shortly after, we saw something really special.
Our local guides began singing words I’d never heard before in a beautiful harmony. Then they began to dance as their song became more and more energetic. Their silhouettes in the fire, they were jumping and kicking and clapping in one of the most enthusiastic dances I’ve ever seen. Soon we were all dancing and singing songs they taught us.
Sometimes “cultural performances” can feel cheesy at best and exploitative at worst. This was refreshingly different. Nothing about it felt staged or obligatory. Our guides seemed genuinely joyful as they shared a glimpse of Botswana celebrations with us.
Eventually, everyone tired out and trickled into their tents. The next morning it was another mokoro ride back through the Okavango Delta. We spent one last in Maun before leaving Botswana the following day.
Though our time was brief in Botswana, the words from our night of singing around the campfire ring true- “I shall never forget beautiful Botswana.”