Relax by Claire Monson

My adventure in the Okavango Delta

Having just departed Johannesburg's O R Tambo Airport, I am finally heading to Maun, gateway to the Okavango Delta. This is my first visit to the Delta and  I’m so excited  and not sure what to expect, but I can't wait to begin my adventure. 

Flying over Botswana the plains have earthy brown tones with masses of shrub and bush, dissected by long straight dusty lines shaping  an endless array of roads.Claire MonsonBotswana from the air - Claire Monson

Having experienced the chill of a winter morning in Johannesburg, I anticipate the warmth of ‘Real African Sun’ as we start the decent to Maun. 

The kindness and hospitality of Botswana’s people is overwhelming and this creates a touching first impression of this beautiful country. 

I immediately feel a warm and inviting welcome from 'old' friends, who radiate a palpable sense of pride in the country’s rich wilderness treasures. Welcome -

I always love arriving in our neighbouring countries’ airports, the runways surrounded by lush bush. Another reminder that this really is Africa. Air BotswanaAir botswana - Air Botswana

I head out for Maun, once a one horse town but now a bustling and vibrant hub feeding the tourism industry with small hotels, lodges, camps and shops. The perfect stop to prepare for an adventure into the pristine wilderness of one of Southern Africa's most prestigious highlights, the Okavango Delta.

Claire MonsonIsland Safari Lodge - Claire MonsonI spend the day exploring Maun before I transfer to Sitatunga Camp, where I am warmly welcomed by the new owners, who treat me to an unexpected boat cruise on the Thamalakane River, which runs through Sitatunga’s Camp Site.

Claire MonsonJetty into the Thamalakane River - Claire MonsonNot knowing what to expect I discover a wilderness on the doorstep of Maun!

The boat cruised by a pool of hippos and an array of birdlife from the regal Fish Eagle to the small Jacana, a bird I had never seen before which lived happily amongst the reeds and lily ponds.Claire MonsonWaterlilies - Claire Monson

Overall an authentic experience with a prize sunset, my first in this warm and magical country. 

Feeling refreshed I transferred back to Maun the following day where a friendly pilot flew me over the Delta in a 4 seater Cessna.Claire MonsonThe Okavango Delta - Claire Monson

What I discovered below me while flying low over the lush plains can only be described as an emerald gem - a jigsaw puzzle of water channels, teeming with wildlife. Flying a few hundred metres above the ground I had a taste of what was to come. 

Ora TravelSnaking channels - Ora Travel

My safari guide and his trusty Land Cruiser were waiting for me on a tiny dusty airstrip in the middle of nowhere. Setting off into the bush we were treated to our first safari, spotting Elephant, Antelope, Warthog and many colourful birds. 

Unforgettable sounds of singing greeted us as we arrived at the Fallen Baobab Camp!  To be honoured with the warm words, "we welcome you, we welcome you our guests" and being given an icy cold facecloth to wipe the day's dust from our cheeks was a refreshing greeting.  

Claire MonsonComfy open-plan common area - Claire MonsonI was blown away by the beauty of my comfortable, serene bush retreat with a backdrop of trumpeting elephants. That evening, with my fellow travellers, I sang and danced under starry skies.

Claire MonsonOur tented camp in the Delta - Claire MonsonDuring the night a visitor came calling outside my tent. I was woken by the sound of a large beast rummaging and chewing through the bush, pausing to graze on the trees right outside my tent flap, before moving off to fresher pastures. Such a delight!

Claire MonsonGetting ready for our Mokoro cruise - Claire MonsonThe new day began with a meander through the winding channels of the Delta, our mokoro poled through the long reed grasses and vast lily ponds, by an African gondolier

Claire MonsonPoling along the Delta in a mokoro - Claire MonsonThis was most definitely my favourite safari of the trip,  because, whilst enjoying the early morning sun, the tiny reed frogs, the sounds of the dazzling birds and the incredibly clear water of the channels, we were privy to an unforgettable sighting... A family of elephant, oblivious to us, came marching in a row from the tallest to shortest with a baby nestled between them, intent on an early morning dip. Elephants taking a dip -

They entered the water a few metres ahead of us and rolled around splashing about, until we were noticed... seemingly in shocked embarrassment, the trio proceeded to trumpet very loudly, turn around and within seconds had disappeared into the bush in silent retreat.

Cruising the waterways isn't the only way to experience the Delta.  Claire MonsonBushland in the Delta - Claire Monson

I was taken out in a safari vehicle and spotted a variety of wonderful buck species, baboons, elephant and birds, but a really great way to experience the bush is to take a hike.

 Claire MonsonOff on a bush walk - Claire MonsonA bush walk is quite a scary experience especially when there are lions in camp, but my head guide had a rifle (just in case) so I felt quite safe. A bush walk is a great opportunity to learn about the smaller things in the wild such as animals' spoor. 

This reveals quite a bit of information such as  the direction the animals have walked, how old their spoor is and the difference between elephant, hippo and buffalo dung all of which were studied very carefully. 

I learned how to make a trap typically used by local tribes to catch small game birds or squirrels. The foraging begins when I return home. Claire MonsonMaking a trap - Claire Monson

I was loath to leave the campfire on my final evening delaying the inevitable bedtime, which would bring the morning all too soon.  I was lulled to sleep by the sound of lions roaring in the not too distant bush, terrifying and delightful at the same time!

Mario MorenoSunrise over the Delta - Mario MorenoInevitably morning dawned and it was time to leave this beautiful oasis. 

A final treat, on this incredible experience, was to literally fly through a larger wetland in a high speed boat, but sadly this was taking me on the first part of my journey home.Claire MonsonHigh speed taxi - Claire Monson

I can’t wait to share the wonderful sights, the smells of wild sage and sounds of Botswana’s lush Okavango Delta with my clients knowing they are about to embark on an inspirational journey.Claire MonsonMokoros waiting for guests - Claire Monson

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