Tuesday, November 29, 2005. Livingston to Maun, Botswana. I caught a taxi and minibus to Kazungula at the Botswana border, a river crossing. I was one of the few tourists crossing to Botswana. There were a number of private vehicles waiting to clear their paperwork to cross the border. After the five minute ferry ride, I walked to the immigration station and was granted a visa (free). From the immigration station, I caught another minibus to Kasane and decided, based on looking at the map in LP, to walk to the airport. The road to the airport passed along the border of Chobe National Park. As my time was running out, I decided to skip Chobe and head straight to Maun and the Okavango Delta. It was a longer walk than I anticipated. As I neared the airport, a pick up truck pulled by and the driver offered me a ride. I had read that it's easy to hitch in Botswana as transportation outside the major cities is somewhat limited. The male driver and his female passenger both worked at the Kasane airport. They mentioned that it was not advisable to walk as animals from Chobe NP often wandered outside the park and could injure or kill pedestrians, even during the day. At the airport, I bought a ticket on the biweekly scheduled Air Botswana flight to Maun (Pula 356; US$65). Earlier in Livingston, I had researched the flight schedule. If I had missed or was unable to get on the flight, my only alternative was to catch two minibuses for a seven hour drive. There were less than ten people on the flight. Upon arrival in Maun, I proceeded to the Travel Safari, a booking agency across the street from the Maun airport. There I booked an all-inclusive four night, five day safari to the Okavango Delta (Xugana Lodge - two nights) and the Moremi Wildlife Reserve (Camp Moremi - two nights) offered by Desert and Delta Safaris.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005. Xugana Lodge, Okavango Delta, Botswana. I caught a morning flight to Xugana Lodge in the Eastern Delta of the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is a large, swampy inland delta covering an area about the size of Switzerland in northwest Botswana. Most of the waters are less than a meter deep. It's Botswana's primary tourist attraction. December is the start of the rainy season, so the water levels were relatively low. This time is also considered low tourist season. At the grass airstrip, I was met by Clyde, the manager of Xugana Lodge. We took a ten minute boat ride to the lodge. The lodge sits on a private island in the middle of a lake. There are eight cottages, enough for 16 guests. My cottage was number 5. Tonight, there would be a total of five guests, including myself. In the afternoon, Jerry and Janet arrived. They are originally from the U.K., but now live in New Jersey. They joined me for a late afternoon Mokoro (dugout canoe) trip. My guide's name was Makuta. To reduce the destruction of trees, the Mokoros we used were made of fiberglass. They are powered and steered by a poler. This was one of the most relaxing, stress-free experiences of my trip and perhaps the best way to experience the silence and peacefulness of Okavango delta. As it was the start of the rainy season, it would be harder to see the animals as they tend to disperse during this season. Still, we did see numerous colorful birds (which Makuta readily identified), a couple of giraffes in the distance, and one elephant crossing in front of our Mokoro. We sipped chardonnay as the sun set over the delta creating a spectacular hue of colors.
Thursday, December 1, 2005. Walking Safari, Okavango Delta, Botswana. My schedule was a 5:30 a.m. wake up call, followed by a light breakfast and a three hour activity. This was followed by brunch, an afternoon siesta, an afternoon activity, and dinner. Today's morning activity was a game walk on Palm Island. This was my first opportunity to do a game walk. Game walks are a lot less common than game drives due to the dangers posed by the animals. In addition to Jerry and Janet, Rob and Jim from the U.K. joined us on our game walk. We were guided by Mod and Makuta. It was a nice change of pace to be able to do a game walk. Among the many animals we encountered were elephants, birds, and baboons. For our afternoon activity, Jerry, Janet and I did another game walk on Sausage Island with Mod and Makuta. The highlight was encountering about 15 giraffes. Again, our day ended with another fabulous sunset over the Okavanko delta.