Crossing Uneven Ground

Three Miracles in Botswana

Miracle #2 – So Far We Haven’t Screwed It Up.

Two Cheetahs

Cheetahs – Mother and cub

Given the human mania for fencing in, plowing up, building on and paving over much of the earth’s surface, it is miraculous that the Okavango Delta’s rich wilderness hasn’t been homogenized into the modern world. It gives me shivers because it could happen so easily. Dam the Okavango River, bulldoze in a bunch of roads, drain the swamps and Botswana would have another unremarkable city; the world however, would experience a remarkable loss. It’s odd that, for a change, we’ve left a little corner of real estate alone. Even odder, it is not a barren place that no one cares about but one of the most beautiful, rare and ecologically diverse corners of the world.

The government of Botswana closely monitors the widely-spaced safari camps for compliance to strict low- impact ecological standards. Local people are trained and employed in the area to work in a variety of positions including guides, managers, hotel staff and anti-poaching teams.

 

Guide

Onks – Our guide in Xigera Camp embodied the friendliness we felt from our hosts.

Guide

Fully geared up for a walking safari our guide at King’s Pool Camp, Moses, led us through the bush for a close up look around.

Basket weavers

At King’s Pool Camp local women weave baskets for souvenirs.

Due in part to its remoteness and in part to cooperating governments, the delta thrives.  UNESCO has designated it as a world heritage site.  The countries of Angola, Botswana and Namibia, have set up a system for managing the river under the Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) for sustainable management of the system. OKACOM supports the UNESCO designation which assures that the water will flow but there are threats. Namibia is a desperately dry country and is interested in damming the Okavango River. Diamond mining activities in Angola threaten to spoil water quality and there is the constant push of ever increasing human populations. For now these forces are in abeyance.

 

Lion tracks

Wildlife gets the right of way. Lion tracks on soft soil at Xigera Camp indicate the cat was in camp the night before.

Visiting wilderness can keep it wild. It is counterintuitive but that’s pretty much the simple idea behind ecotourism. Pulling it off is tricky. Bringing visitors in, giving them the ability to connect with the place and live there for a few days without damaging it, is one trick. Preserving and fostering the wild environment and making it profitable to the folks that live there is another. Balance has to be struck in a world where there isn’t much and it is usually the wildlife that loses. The Okavango Delta is a true success story but its success depends on those of us who value wild places. If we visit it stays; if we don’t it goes.

 

“Botswana’s plan is particularly intelligent and well thought out…few tourists generating significant revenue.” says Pierre Faber of the travel service Classic Africa. “It comes at a premium for the visitor but guests get a private experience, it is low impact to the environment and the revenue is going to the right places…the rural people.”

 

Leopard

A leopard lounges in the shade right outside of camp. Tourism in Botswana, especially in the private concessions is high end, low impact with lots of land and few tourists. These things give the visitor seclusion, privacy and space…and guess what? Animals love that stuff too.

African Wild Dog

The African Wild Dog is one the continent’s most endangered species. They are making a comeback in the Okavango Delta.

Vervet Monkey

I asked a little girl who was on one of our game drives what she liked best so far. We had just seen a parade of lion cubs and a lion with a fresh kill, so I thought I knew the answer. “There was a monkey outside our room!” she announced with delight. I humbly learned a child’s perspective. Those vervet monkeys were pretty entertaining.

 

Living in style. Great food and comfortable accommodations are features of a safari at Botswana’s private concessions.
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Recommendations:
Classic Africa – We’ve used this travel company for two safaris in Southern Africa. Their knowledge of the area and attention to detail can’t be beat. They helped us out by arranging transportation and accommodation at the camps listed below.
Xigera Camp (pronounced Kee-Jeer-Ah) – A small camp on a permanently flooded part of the Okavango Delta, it is oriented toward exploring wetlands. The staff here were some of the friendliest and talented (best singers) we met on our safaris.

King’s Pool Camp – This camp really isn’t technically in the Okavango but it was part of our Botswana experience. It boarders the Okavango in the Linyante Wildlife Reserve and is also oriented to wetland rivers and pools. Very high end, this is a place where you will enjoy top notch wildlife viewing while staying in luxury accommodations.

Chitabe Camp – Several things stand out in my mind about Chitabe. The scenery is gorgeous. We had amazing cheetah viewing and to top things off we saw a lion roaring at twilight. Check out the video below where our guide uses a red light to illuminate the lion. Red light doesn’t destroy the lion’s night vision.
https://vimeo.com/129357367

 

Links – Check out my other African Blogs:
Three Miracles in Botswana – #1 Water in the Desert
Reasons To Go On An African Safari Even Though You Can’t Afford It
Photography Gallery – Botswana and South African Safaris In Color
Photography Gallery – African Safaris in Black & White


 

6 thoughts on “Three Miracles in Botswana

  1. TQ

    More great photos. The “room” is lovely. Shared the blog with John…..I think this place has been added to our list.

  2. Kay

    Tom, you are incredibly gifted! Having read through your blog’s first two Miracles and studying each beautiful picture makes me feel like I’ve actually been to Africa. You’ve written a wonderful story, and it’s so interesting to learn about everything you experienced on your trip. I agree with the other person who commented that National Geographic should be calling you. I’ll second that! Thank you for sharing your incredible piece of work. Now then… hurry up and do Miracle 3!!

  3. Becky Leslie

    Lovely and inspiring pictures! Just watched the lion video and one of my cats walked over to my screen. She recognized something in the sound. Thanks for sharing your trip, Tom!

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