Botswana Orientation

Here is an introduction to the northern area of Botswana and particularly the Okavango Delta and Chobe River areas that we travelled through during our journey. Hopefully, it will join a 'few of the dots' as to the places mentioned in the main area of the journey story which is, completely according to my own bias, very heavily focussed on the animals that we watched and photographed.

It, in no way, does full justice to the history and culture of the people of Botswana or to story of the country which is quite remarkable in itself.  In 2016, Botswana is celebrating it's 50th anniversary of being an independent country. What is special is that for those 50 years Botswana has been a well governed and peaceful democracy.

The map below shows our trip across northern Botswana and then into Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.  

Map courtesy Wilderness Travel.  

Maun and South Moremi Reserve

Pretty much everyone reaches Botswana from South Africa. We flew into Johannesburg after an 11 hour overnight flight from the UK, our home. To give ourselves a buffer we had decided to spend a day and night in Jo'burg (actually a town called Irene near Jo'burg) before heading up to Maun.

Maun is a small town at the bottom end of the delta which is the centre of the safari industry in Botswana. 'Industry' makes it sound rather unpleasant, it's not at all but in August it's pretty dry and the change in scenery from the UK (even with a day's acclimatisation in South Africa) is marked. We spent a night at a lodge about 30 minutes drive outside the town before heading up into the reserves itself.

The Moremi game reserve is a national reserve several hours drive north of Maun. It's a mixture of woodland (Mophane trees predominate), open grasslands and small channels and pools of wetland. Of course, this is the case in August when its dry. Earlier in the winter, it's much wetter and this very flatland can be inundated by the delta's floodwaters and the roads can be impassable at times. The surprising thing is how water seeps up from below; it can be bone dry dusty grassland to wet ground in a single step and the landscape changes are delineated as markedly too.  

Photo >> Southern skies, the Milkyway, in camp at night.

Bush Camping - Moremi

Moremi - Trees, grass and water.

Water seeping out of the dry ground

Moremi to the Upper Delta

We spent three days in Moremi travelling around the area between South-Gate, Bodumantau Lagoon and First Bridge (where we camped) and saw many of the large animals and birds for the first time.  

We then travelled up to the North West of the delta by boat (5-6 hours) from Xakanaxa along the Moanachira channel (the most northerly main channel in the delta. (Roughly but only approximately shown on the map at the top!).  The landscape is totally different on the water with the shallow channels fringed by tall reeds and papyrus. 

Being in the upper delta for three days afforded us the opportunity for a number of boat based trips to see hippos, crocs and many, many birds plus a three walking trips on the larger islands in between the channels.

Transport, delta style.

Channels fringed by tall reeds and papyrus

Xugana Lodge - Faces a lagoon in the delta.

Back to Moremi - North Gate and the Khwai River

To get back to Moremi, we flew by light airplane from bush strip to bush strip.  From the air, you can really see the wet & dry character of the delta. Low islands, hundreds of animal trails and the waterholes and channels.  

Khwai river is a relatively small river that takes the waters well out into the drier savannah and provides an oasis for the wildlife.  This river is the northern boarder of the Moremi reserve.  It's similar in nature to the southern side though the grasslands are more extensive and there are some large pools, the reserve of hippos.  We spent a further two days here getting out first sighting of lion here.  

Bridge over the River Khwai... 

Roughing it - Bush Camping style again

Typical Khwai woodland including trees 'bulldozed' by elephants

Into the Savuti Marsh

The drive from Khwai to Savuati Marsh is long, dry, and on this occasion pretty hot. Savuti is north of the delta and is fed by another watercourse; the Savuti channel that also comes off the Okavango river further north. 

However, this channel is fickle and small seismic tremors plus rainfall can determine whether the channel flows or not. It was dry for many years in the '80s and 90's but started flowing regularly again in the 'noughties'. It's been drying decently and by March '16 was completely dry again. That means that the 'marsh' is now a dry grass plain and water is limited to a couple of artificially pumped boreholes. For a change, whether the channel runs or not, doesn't seem to be Man's doing. Nevertheless, savannah wildlife abounds including many lions (for which the Marsh is famed).    

<< Baobab against the background of the Marsh.

Transport, custom built Landcruisers. 

The 'major' road heading to Savuti. That may look basic but travelling here is very much  "not the getting there but the travelling".  Thats not true of international air travel though!

View from our tent across the Savuti channel - yes, thats the pale sandy channel bed in the mid-ground.  

Chobe River

The Chobe River lies at the northern edge of Botswana.  The river marks the boarder with Namibia and is major tributary of the Zambezi.  This was the final area we visited.  

Again we drove from Savuti to Chobe River; the trip slowly revealed changes in the scenery.  The soil, which had resolutely been the fine dusty grey of the clay soils of the delta changed to a coarser dark red sand in some areas.  The trees changed from the water logged tolerant Mophane tree to more African Teak.  

Sunrise over the floodplain and Botswana river edge of the Chobe River >>

Pre-dawn across the floodplain pools to the Namibia bank

From the river, elephants grazing on the damp floodplain with the Botswana bank in the background.

Namibia fishermen using the traditional Moroko canoe.

Victoria Falls

We concluded our journey by heading the short distance across to Victoria Falls.  It was the dry season so the falls are much lower than their maximum but it has the advantage of being able to actually photograph them from the gorge.

Here's the sunrise. 

The falls from the air.

The Victoria Falls hotel. Edwardian elegance.

Double rainbow at the falls. Early morning. 

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