On January 16, 2011 I flew from Miami to Atlanta where I met my friend Jeff and his girlfriend Michelle. We boarded a Delta flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. Three movies, three meals, lots of bonding conversation and quite of bit of sleep and we landed 17 hours later.
We went out for dinner and had our first sampling of genuine African food. Although I had only met Michelle 20 hours earlier, we were all well aquatinted and clearly this was going to be a great trip with fun friends. Grilled Calamari tubes and an impala steak and two beers and ready for bed. One final goodbye to email and cell service.
In the morning we flew about 2 1/2 hours to Maun Airport in Botswana. From Maun we boarded a puddle jumper and finally arrived in our first camp, Duba Plains.
Duba Plains is perhaps the Okavango Delta’s most remote camp. The camp is located in a private 30,000 hectare reserve in the furthermost reaches of the Delta on an island, surrounded by expansive seasonally flooded plains and shaded by tall ebony, fig and garcinia trees. This pristine area is home to lion, lechwe, elephant and huge herds of buffalo, as well as a large variety of Okavango Delta bird life. The camp is small and intimate, with accommodation limited to 6 comfortable tented rooms. Each of the tents has an en-suite bathroom, with hot and cold running water and a verandah overlooking the floodplain. The dining room and bar area is raised on decks and there is a great pool with a view. The camp focuses on the incredible wildlife in the area through game drives, which are conducted day and night in open 4 x 4 vehicles.
We checked in and met our guides Humphrey and Spike and headed out into the bush. Personally I much prefer lions and elephants to birds and Michelle and Jeff are also in that camp so we wasted no time letting Spike know that bird watching is not exactly our cup of tea. The rainy season had begun and you haven’t seen four wheeling until you have been to Botswana. We drove through connecting waterways that were filled with crocodiles and hippos. The vehicles are outfitted with special intake vents allowing them to drive through deep water. Did I say deep? Your first off road drive is one you won’t forget because one minute after leaving camp we were in water that came over the top of the hood and into the vehicle but that is entirely normal.
We immediately saw Red Lechwe jumping across the water with ease.
We came upon Waterbuck and soon our first encounters with African Elephants. They allowed us to approach to within feet but when they had babies with them they would swing their trunks and wave their heads and wail away.
We passed a herd of almost 1000 cape buffalo and then encountered some hippos. Normally it is tough and dangerous to get close to hippos. More people are killed in Africa by hippos than by any other animal. One young male put on an incredible show for us opening his mouth and showing large canine teeth as a warning. It made for incredible pictures… Jeff talks to the hippos and besides being rather hysterical it really did get them going. He would stand up in the vehicle and say come on hippo show me what you have. Is that all you can do? I would then stand up in the vehicle and it was choreographed, hippos mouths wide open swaying their heads out of the water.
It was about 6:30 on our first night and as we started to head back we encountered a lion pride hunting buffalo. We were able to get within feet of three large females.
After an incredible day we went back to camp again enduring deep water.
Tomorrow Part 2……