Crossing Uneven Ground

Three Miracles in Botswana

Miracle # 1 – Water In The Desert.

Lily - flower

Lilies in the Okavango Delta

 River deltas in deserts are rare on our planet. Indeed most rivers meet their end in an ocean or lake. There is no such body of water waiting for the Okavango River, just the dry sands of the Kalahari Desert. But nice things happen when you water a desert. You get an oasis. In this case an oasis about the size of Connecticut. It is the Okavango Delta, a wetland in a dry country, a green jewel that harbors teaming numbers of our most endangered large animals.

Aerial of Okavango wetlands

Flying above the delta reveals an uninterrupted expanse of wetlands and little islands with scant signs of human development.

Most of the water in the delta doesn’t come from rain; it surges down from the highlands of Angola, hundreds of miles to the north, so this otherwise arid landscape gets a good once-a-year drenching. The water empties itself into the desert, flooding a little more everyday, gradually greening it. As the water fans out, grasslands gradually disappear under the flow and the delta becomes a network of islands, rivers and pools.


Silently slipping through the water in a low and slow moroko (canoe) allows a stealthy approach to animals.

Mokoro Poler

One mokoro poler is always sent ahead to look for hippos. You do not want to meet a hippo in a mokoro. They can tip you into the water and bite you in half!

Being close to the water gives you a chance to see the little things. In this case tiny reed frogs, only one inch long, were attached to spindly fronds just clear of the water. Reed-Frog-5





We visited in March, on the shoulder as they say, to take advantage of lower prices at the camps. March is the beginning of the dry season. It hasn’t rained for days and soon it won’t rain at all, but the water from the north continues to feed the flood. The landscape is scrub brush, a few trees, grass and sandy soil. It’s festooned with small ponds, shot through by narrow water ways and punctuated with islands. This time of year the temperature can reach into the 90’s F. The skies are mostly sunny and the wind feels Arizona-dry but the clear waters in the Okavango continue to rise. Oddly, the water floods highest when the weather is driest; July to September. That’s when most people visit. It’s winter then and the weather is a little cooler, the foliage less dense and the animal viewing is easy.


Sunrise over the rich wetlands near Xigera Camp (pronounced Kee-jeer-ah) in Botswana.

Hippo in water

A hippo casts a suspicious glance from a quiet pond surrounded by lilies.


Hippo charge! We were in a motor boat when this hippo got frisky and torpedoed toward us, submerged, pushing a wave of water in front of him. He pulled away and retreated a few yards short of the boat.


A saddle billed stork (foreground) and a black heron hunt for fish in shallow water. The little black heron makes a tent with its wings and casts a shadow to spot fish more easily.

Wattled Cranes

From a mokoro we silently slipped through the water and observed this pair of wattled cranes.

For sheer numbers of animals, variety and access, a Botswana safari is the ticket. The African thesaurus of animal groupings is hilarious whether you are a biologist or grammarian. You will see herds, packs, troops, prides, journeys and dazzles…of (respectively) antelope, wild dogs, baboons, lions, giraffes and zebra. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys. And it will stick with you like a memory of elephants. Yes, those are also the names of the groups of those animals and I was as happy as a giddy of guinea fowl to be among them….and no, a giddy is not a group of guinea fowl, I just made that up.

Guinea Fowl

A group of guinea fowl may be called a “confusion” but frankly I think you can have some fun making up your own names.

Three Zebra

A small “dazzle” (herd) of zebra graze grasslands.


Lechwe buck bounding through shallow water.

Lechwe in water

Lechwe will use water as protection from predators. They’re built to splash through wetlands as these two demonstrate.

Elephant in water

Elephants enjoy a good life in Botswana and there are more here than anywhere else. They thrive here because much of their habitat is difficult to access by poachers and military anti-poaching teams patrol the Okavango to ensure their survival.


A cheetah surveys the low grassland before setting off on a hunt.

Impala buck

A wary impala buck on high alert for predators.

Night scene

At King’s Pool Camp in Botswana lightning flashes and rain falls in the distance.


Seen from above, the Okavango Delta looks like a spindly green hand, fingers fanned out, pressing into Botswana’s otherwise brown savannah.

In the next post, miracle #2.

15 thoughts on “Three Miracles in Botswana

  1. Katie Maloney

    A wonderful blog,Tom! It’s the next best thing to being there. I can’t wait to see/read Miracle #2.

    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks Katie,
      It’s great to see such numbers of animals in such a great environment. More soon…

  2. Andrea Razzano Shatek

    Amazing, Uncle Tom! You’ve inspired me to put Botswana on my bucket list 🙂

    1. Tom Post author

      We’ve had Botswana on our bucket list for a long time…funny thing is I think it’s going to stay on it. I want to go back.
      Thanks for the comment Andrea!

    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks for the comment Lori. Photographing animals in Africa is challenging, but mostly just tons of fun.

  3. Jake

    Wow! I can’t believe you were that close to see those beautiful creatures. Thanks for sharing! Would love to go and be mesmerized by my own eyes.

    1. Tom Post author

      If you love animals then going on a safari is just amazing. I hope you get the opportunity to give it a try some day. Thanks for the comment.

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