11-May-2013 -- A wet and wild point in Okavango Delta
This hunt is the highlight of our safari trip to the Okavango Delta. Half the line-hunting party came from Melbourne and half from Beijing, and we converged at the Vumbura Plains Camp at northern reach of this amazing inland Delta.
Okavango - The unique inland Delta
Okavango is a vast wetland in the middle of one of the largest deserts in the world – Kalahari, the only major delta in the world which is not by the ocean. In essence, the delta is the dead end of a very large river originating in northern Angola. The resulting delta is a magnet for wildlife during the dry season. It is one of the top places for safari in Africa. Thanks to Sasara’s daughter who works for the Wilderness Safari, we had three amazing days at terrific camps at the edge of the Delta – Vumbura Plains and Little Vumbura. May is the start of dry season with animals starting to migrate toward the Delta from surrounding hills. It is also when the water table of the Delta is starting to raise when the rainy season water from Angola from 3-4 months back is reaching northern Botswana.
The best safari ever
After two great days of safari by Land Rover and by boat to view animals, the idea of going for this point came upon when Ray found a high resolution topo map at the entrance of the Vumbura Plains lodge which indicated this point is located near the edge of a small peninsula about 13 km west to the lodge. Without internet at the lodge, it was not possible to verify if this point is on land or in the Delta. It just so happened that the Lodge Manager, Roger, knew about the little peninsula where the point is at. There was a lodge there before and he was the one who built it and later took it down. This means there is a road can reach there.
Further consulting with our safari guide, Emang, about going to where the old lodge location was, and introducing the concept of hunting for a confluence point, he was totally gained for the adventure. We departed from the lodge early in the morning, and the track towards the confluence point was a very sandy and often submerged. We actually saw more animals than at the standard safari route, including several herds of elephants and hundreds of wild buffalos converging at one pond. When we reached within 2 km from the confluence point, we failed to find the road leading to the peninsula, so Emang blazed an one kilometer trail through the bush and eventually connected with the old road. This bush whacking effort fully demonstrated the prowess of the Land Rover and his off-road skill. Just a little over a thousand meters before the point, the dirt road was washed out by a 20 meter wide creek, and Emang skillfully drove across this water way and brought us to the end of the peninsula, but we were 240 meters short of the confluence point. Now we knew it is a wet point in the Okavango Delta.
We could see that the confluence point is located in shallow and weedy water about halfway to an island nearby. There are several clear hippo tracks so reaching it will not be difficult. Except there is one major catch, we have been warned upon arriving at the Delta not to set foot in the water because crocodiles are abundant and they are not very forgiving creatures. Because of the dense grass which is less likely to be inhabited by crocodiles, the fearless half of our group - Emang, Mark, and Ray - ventured into the water and followed a hippo track and reached the confluence in 10 minutes. The crocodile-adverse part of the group - Sasara and Kiniki - stayed on the shore and prepared to bear witness in case of crocs attack.
Needless to say, it was a very exiting moment to reach this point. The fact that there is a chance of croc encounter made the water part of the journey exhilarating. While we were wading to the point, we saw gazelles running fast in nearby water ways and an elephant in the distance. Clearly, Emang is a nature confluence hunter – adventurous and focused, not deterred by obstacles. His persistence and skill made this hunt successful and we all had the most memorable safari ever, including for those who did not venture into the water.
Rating for this hunt
Degree of Challenge:
5 – the challenge of wet and sandy roads and lack of roads was mitigated by the off-road skill of Emang. The small potential of croc encounter made this point to deserve a 5, the highest ever! (1 = very easy - drive to the point; to 5 = a death march – glad it is over)
5 – The unique ecology of the Okavango Delta and abundant wildlife also made this a very special visit. (Scale: 1 = not interesting at all; 5 = take your breath away)
4 - Even though we were at a camp dedicated for tourists, the people and culture of Botswana are wonderful. (Scale: 1 = dull; 5 = most stimulating)