In December Tracy attended BTTE – the Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo, held in Kasane. Travel agents from around the globe were invited to join, so we could broaden our knowledge and network with others in the Safari industry. It was well run, and we all learnt something new. After the expo it was time to head out on safari with some of the other agents.
Having been a safari guide in Botswana many years ago, I was very excited to be venturing back into the bush of my beloved Botswana and to discover some areas which I had not been to, but that had always been on my radar. During the safari we visited a selection of camps and lodges, far and wide and all in areas I had never been to, so it was an adventure, as well as an education.
We had some very good sightings of leopard, wild dogs, hyena, elephants, hippos (often out of the water on cloudy days) and the usual plains game of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, tsebee, and the more water based lechwe and even a couple of glimpses of the rare and shy sitatunga. And of course, always the cheeky baboons and vervet monkeys. All this, even though game viewing is not at its peak in December.
December falls into the rainy season (or Green season) and some areas had already experienced enough rain to generate the lush growth in the grass, which then triggers baby antelope to be born. While other areas were still relatively dry and the parched land was waiting patiently for that life giving rainfall. This was very apparent when we flew across the Delta in a light aircraft. Other areas had huge afternoon downpours while we were there – making for spectacular, dramatic skies, and short lived flooded riverbeds, all that can only be found in Africa.
There were two highlights for me and funnily enough neither was game viewing related, but both very much unique to Botswana. The first was going in the helicopter to Tsodilo Hills. I felt like royalty when the chopper landed at camp to fly us to the hills, where we then walked to see Bushman Paintings. The Tsodilo Hills are the only hills for miles and miles and have so much history and culture attached to them. Not many tourists venture over to see them, so we were very honoured. And to go by helicopter was a real treat.
And the second highlight was being poled along in a Mokoro on the channels of the Pan Handle, which is the location where the permanent water comes into Botswana from Angola. We saw how the local people go about their lives, fishing, reed cutting, herding and grazing donkeys and cattle on land that is usually under the seasonal flood waters. And of course the bird life was incredible. I almost became a ‘twitcher’. The channels are very obvious at this time of year and so there was something very special knowing that the water we were on, travels far into the Okavango Delta. And when the flood waters start to arrive at the Pan Handle from the Angolan highlands in about March/April, they take about 2 months to reach Maun and on a good year may stretch all the way to the Boteti River. That is a lot of water! I wish I was able to put a message in a bottle and see how far it went. The phenomenon of the annual flooding of the Okavango Delta all made much more sense.
So my time in Botswana was very productive and as always, I am happy to share my experiences.