Tuesday 27 April 2010

The Okavango Delta - the perfect place to Safari or holiday? = Yes for me! Part 1/3

That magnificent bejewelled panhandle in the middle of southern Africa formed by the Okavango waterway expanding its tentacles to become the Okavango Delta, flowing straight into a sea of sand, the Kalahari Desert, and vanishing... completely disappearing into ‘a sea’ that can be up to 100 metres thick.

Tourism is a boom industry, big game hunters in the 19th century trekked into northern Botswana in search of elephants, crocodiles and lions, while for a century or so the country’s rich animal life seemed to be forgotten – not any more ... tourists are coming from all corners of the globe to witness the wild side of Africa, that is steadily disappearing elsewhere.

Map of the Cuando-Linyanti-Chobe river system in the region of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip based on a NASA satellite photo (note orientation with north-west at top). Water shows black. 1 The Cuando River; 2 Caprivi Strip; 3 Mudumu National Park and Lianshulu Lodge, the start of the Linyanti Swamp; 4 Linyanti Swamp and Mamli National Park, where a ridge of Kalahari sand blocks flow to the south-east; 5 Okavango River and delta which sinks into the Kalahari sands; 6 Linyanti River; 7 Lake Liambezi (dry when photo was taken); 8 Chobe River; 9 Confluence of Chobe and Zambezi at Kazungula; 10 Zambezi and Caprivi Swamps were experiencing an extreme flood at the time of the photo. Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC.

Great efforts are being made to conserve this wild life heritage with a host of parks and reserves being established. Moremi Game Reserve, the reserve between Maun, the main town on the edge of the Delta and the sandy woodlands, waterways, islands, marshes and shallow lagoons that few westerners would understand or be able to survive in was once inhabited by the local Batswana, who fully understood the force of nature with its annual flood. John Khata, a local, will tell us his story in part two.

Moremi was created by the local people, who in 1961, worried by the increase in big game hunting and the devastating effects on wildlife – both the killing and the destruction of the habitat - decided that out of their tribal land s a game park should be founded and administered by them – this was the first time an African tribe had done such a thing.

The main entrance in to the reserve is from Maun especially if you are driving from South Africa via Francistown, and for my first trip we did – however there are other reserves and safari camps within the Delta able to be reached by plane, including Linyanti/Chobe National Park established on the flood plains of the Chobe River, which is now captured by the mighty Zambezi.

Map of Botswana - the Delta in the north west; the Zambezi in the north east; while the Limpopo forms the Botswana border with Zimbabwe and South Africa

Some 10,000 years ago the Chobe merged with the Okavango flowing south to join the green greasy Limpopo River on its way to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique, now due to earth’s upheavals the two systems have separated .. creating the unique wetland in the lower reaches of the Okavango, before disappearing into the sands, while the Chobe breaks into many channels and swamps (called the ‘Linyanti Swamp’) before joining the Zambezi 43 miles (70 kms) above Victoria Falls.

In times of extreme flood some of the Okavango’s waters escape east into the normally dry channels feeding the Linyanti Swamp and thus entering the Zambezi basin – otherwise today the Okavango has no outlet. The Great Rift Valley system stretching down Africa from the Middle East into Eastern Africa, where it is most active, contributes to the tectonic movement along the Zambezi and into northern Botswana – causing these relics of large inland lakes, while at the same time causing the zigzagging of the seven (so far) gorges at Victoria Falls.

A casual visitor could be excused for missing the real Botswana – he will see mile upon mile of flat, desolate scrubland stretching in every direction, little or no surface water and a climate ranging from freezing winter nights to roasting summer days. A wasteland. Or is it? Go further new visitor and experience the heartland of this country ... find the area where the summer rains of Angola reach a parched desert that springs to life five months later.

Mochudi - tribal village west of Francistown

The desert where you can find fish, where the birds find paradise, insects abound and the animals find the bounty of nature to ensure life continues. The slow trickle of water seeps down the various waterways bringing to life the surrounding areas, taking five months to touch the annual swamp areas or to refill the perennial channels.

It is a marvellous land of waterways, islands, marshes and shallow lagoons abundant with tiger fish, elephant, crocodiles, hippopotami, monkeys, snakes, giraffe, impala, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and the rare sitatunga and lechwe antelope all benefitting from the flooding waters.

Lions, cheetah and packs of wild dogs roam the open grasslands ready for the next meal. While the multitude of birds fly in and around the woodlands, papyrus reeds, savannah, winding channels, palm covered islands, thick forest and lily covered lagoons enjoying the luxury of this wildlife sanctuary and haven.

Mother and wild dog cubs - c/o Camp Okavango

In the late 1980s I’d been on a camping safari into the Okavango with twelve family friends & my mother hearing about this amazing trip via a 15 page letter with 3 maps!! decided that she too would like to visit the Okavango and so booked a posh holiday for the two of us – fantastic. John’s story (a Tswana tale .. a river Bushman) and more about our trip and the sights that we observed in parts two and three ..

Botswana now has much to offer despite being landlocked, especially since its independence in 1966, and is a regional leader in economic freedom. It has large mineral reserves and its new economy takes advantage of a fast-growing service sector, world-renowned diamond industry, tourism and manufacturing.
Aerial female Lechwe, who live in the watery reed beds

Competitiveness and flexibility are promoted by a sensible business regulatory environment, openness to foreign investment and trade, and relatively flexibly employment regulations. Botswana’s economic growth is roaring ahead with the World Bank citing Botswana as one of the world’s great development success stories. Add to this the jewel of the Okavango with its wildlife reserves, which for all its drawbacks is offering much to the world.

Dear Mr Postman – now that the warmer weather is here .. Mum is, I think, managing to throw off her bad cold ... but it’s a tough time for her. She again can’t hear .. so we’re back on the olive oil, and with time I expect them to clear. She is funny though .. she started speaking at me really slowly – as if I couldn’t hear!! Then later on told me I must listen to her when she’s speaking .. but she hadn’t been speaking out loud .. I have to laugh! She can read the odd word .. eg ‘tapestry’ when I expanded it on the iphone .. and laughed when she saw the picture, then said that Speedy Gonzales didn’t match up! But as I couldn’t explain the context as she can’t hear ... I’m somewhat stumped! Life is fun!! My father's sole surviving sibling died at the weekend and he would have been 96 yesterday!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Anonymous said...

I have got to get out more. We do have the San Diego Wild Animal Park which is pretty darn fun to go to. Kids love it too. But an African safari would be the best. One of these days I'm going to pet a giraffe. One of my goals in life.

Stephen Tremp

Paul C said...

Great to read that many efforts are being made to conserve this crucial watershed area. It sounds like there is incredible diversity here.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Stephen .. - yes it will be a wonderful trip when you make .. the Zoo isn't quite the same thing - but San Diego is wonderful too!

I think you'd better pet a giraffe in a zoo - if you can .. in the wild they're quite formidable! Even in a reserve purely for giraffe and small animals - they need a gentle skirt around. Their kick is pretty smart!

I think you'll be thinking of Botswana when you read the next two posts .. too much creativity to find out there ...

Just good to see you and thanks for the visit - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paul .. it's a great country with lots going for it .. and is a real jewel in the middle of Africa. Yes - you'll see lots more fascinating creatures and stories by the time I've finished ..

Thanks for being here and tearing yourself away from Hubble and the stars! .. Hilary

Wilma Ham said...

Life, nature, the diversity and resilience is amazing. Life comes and goes, dry spells and wet spells, but underneath always lies the power of life. Oh Hilary, it is a metaphor for our own, that Botswana story.
Yes when communication is tough, creating understanding is difficult. Much love to you and your Ma, Wilma

Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord said...

Hi, Hilary!

I never would have imagined vacationing in Africa, so reading this was both intriguing and informative. I love the stories you paint with your words, admire the research you do, and am looking forward to Parts 2 & 3.

To Botswana (and beyond!)!

Davina said...

Hi Hilary.
I would love to go on an African safari one day. There's some draw there for me, besides being a lover of heat. Your mother sounds like a real sweetheart. I'm glad she is feeling a bit better. Sorry to hear about the death in your family though, but wow... 96 years old!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. You’ve honed in on the fundamentals of life, especially so visible in Botswana – as you say “life, nature, the diversity and resilience is amazing” ... watching hippos retreat with the evaporating water .. is extremely sad – but it is life in the wild .. the survival of the fittest – while the earth recovers in some form.

Thank you – and ... absolutely communication is tough, creating understanding is difficult – thank you for your love to Mum and I .. we are coping .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Megan .. it is an amazing place .. so different .. so encapturing (fi that’s a word!) .. and I’m pleased you’re intrigued and have learnt a little. Many thanks re the painting! ..I love finding things out .. and being able to show a page or two on a different paragraph of life – for you ‘to see’ and enjoy .. so here’s to parts 2 and 3.

Absolutely .. may be we should have a blogging get together there????!!!!!! Botswana .. is wonderful – you’ll see ... thanks for coming by .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. Wouldn’t it be fun .. I mentioned to Megan a dream of meeting there??!! Bloggers together ... you can’t walk miles .. as there’s rather too much water – but hiking in the Drakensburg in South Africa, or in Lesotho .. or in the Cape .. . lots of nature to learn about – flora and fauna .. and wonderful bird watching ...

Mum is very slowly improving .. and she’s has been amazing through these 3+ years .. she’s very strong .. and I hope we can now go forward quietly and peacefully .. My uncle would have been pleased to have gone the way he did .. still active as such but with one of his children present .. he was talking happily and sharing childhood & family memories before he went off for a rest – a permanent one .. what a way to go!

Thanks for your thoughts and visit .. enjoy the day - Hilary

Mark said...

Sounds like a miraculous place. One would be blessed indeed to have the experience of a visit to this land.

Parag said...

The Okavango Swamp is a unique ecosystem of papyrus-lined waterways, knee-deep floodplains, water-lily lagoons, shady forest glades and rich savannah grasslands.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. it is a fantastic place .. and if you can ever get over, it is well worth it - nature at its best.

It's good that you know about it ... and can consider Botswana and the Okavango as a holiday destination at some stage in the future.

Have a good weekend - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Parag .. nice to meet you .. and your description is perfect! My pictures don't reflect your descriptions .. the next post will have a few more descriptive pictures.

Thanks for coming over - good to meet you - Hilary

Evelyn Lim said...

Thanks for the informative post about Africa. I haven't been there myself. I am not sure that I'm all that ready to meet a lion in the open grassland. However, I bet the view must be fantastic!

Hope all's well with your mother!! Sending her wishes of wellness, peace and love!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Evelyn .. glad you liked it. Me too - I owuldn't like to meet one face to face .. but from a truck they are magnificient to see - very lucky to have had that experience. Just seeing herds of wildebeest and zebra from on high - an escarpment (Zimbabwe), or walking with giraffe .. it is glorious - but the Okavango is magical.

Thank you re my Ma .. we're coping, and she seems to be getting a little better, but it's ups and downs. She'll be grateful for your wishes .. Hilary

BK said...

It sure sounds like a perfect place to safari or holiday. I love the fact that "Great efforts are being made to conserve this wild life heritage ..."

Glad to hear that your mother is managing to throw off her bad cold and hope that she would be able to hear once again.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi BK .. thanks so much .. it is glorious - totally away from everything! I do hope more countries start to conserve their natural heritage - it is so essential for our future.

Thanks re my Ma .. the doctor was surprised to be asked to prescribe olive oil!! (his colleague had done it before .. we have a rota of doctors from a local surgery) .. but it worked last time and she got her hearing back.

Good to see you - have a good weekend .. Hilary

Parag said...

Hi Hilary. Thanks for your generosity. looking forward to see some picture.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Parag .. it's a pleasure .. just pleased to see you. Do you work for 360 deg Africa?

All the best .. next post will be tomorrow ..
Have a good day - Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

My dad has 2 siblings left of 10 total, well 9 I mean. He was 1 of 10 children. No wait -- of 8 children. Mom was 10th of 10. There. So your dad's family are all together again, and partying I imagine.

We were watching something concerning a documentary about The Great Rift Valley system just last week. Oh, what ere they saying ? I'm sorry -- I forget, but I had never heard of it before, the Great Rift Valley. So, so much I do not know, Hilary!!

Oh, yes!! The tectonic shifting, that's it, as you mention -- quite a hot spot.

Glad to hear wildlife conservation is taking hold -- it is all very integral and "essential to our future," as you say. The whole planet is connected more than we may realize.

I might move to Botswana and find a good job in a bank!! :) You think? And I could sing wedgie and chainsaw songs to the customers.

Wishes to your mom!! And Hardwick too, of course.

And YOU!! :)


J.D. Meier said...

I like the wild side of Africa. I never imagined that it could disappear one day, but it's a good reminder that nothing is permanent and the world's changing at a faster pace.

I have heard from multiple people that Africa is developing at a rapid rate, and there are interesting times ahead.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. thank you .. it was my grandparents who both came from large families – 1 of 8 and 1 of 9 .. yes – probably certainly relaxing and exchanging ideas .. always full of thoughts and knowledge. It's good your Dad is still with you ..

Well .. another great crack in the earth’s surface .. a long crack .. it’s always interested me when hearing about the tectonic shifts in the Savuti Channel, between the Delta and the Zambezi and the Victoria Falls .. with the connections we have with the Bridge. You have such a large continent to be aware of .. and our history is so entwined with other places, bearing in mind the tininess of our island and where we’ve travelled to and can relate to .... well you’re English too???!!!!!

The wildlife is wonderful as you’ll see shortly .. the scenery and landscapes are so beautiful ... but the whole planet is connected far more than we realise .. all the butterfly ripples all mean something.

Botswana would love to have you .. I’ll be over with you .. great fun .. but my singing doesn’t match up .. chainsaws I think should be left out?! Sugar Lady .. would be good though .. & wedgies .. no wonder men get hooked?!

Thank you re my Ma .. Hardwick is always there & little bunny! Who is well loved and cuddled .. Hardwick is very protective and an essential ... We carry on – it’s not easy .. I’m fine and getting on with things .. one step at a time .. can’t do more .. just grateful it’s lighter and warmer! Have a great weekend ... xxoo

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. the earth is constantly changing sometimes due to us, sometimes due to nature itself .. examples very obvious at the moment .. the oil spill, and the volcanic eruption ...

Botswana is an interesting country .. very different from other African countries in its development because of its leadership. Under Sir Seretse Khama it has been one of the most peaceful and democratic states ... long may it continue.

I know you’ll have the opportunity to hear from your business colleagues about other areas .. and keep an eye on the pie – as Africa grows and develops its economies.

Good to see you – have a good weekend .... Hilary

Mandy Allen said...

Hi Hilary, I use warm olive oil in a syringe rather than on a cotton ball - have you tried that? It has a very uch quicker effect if your mum can stand the 'squirting in the ear' bit! My mum screams when I do it to her, but she lets me because she knows it will make her better more quickly.

Great post. I would love to visit Africa. A friend goes to take photos every couple of years but she always returns terribly sun burnt so I might give it a miss!

Enjoy the journey.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mandy .. that's the way the Nursing Centre do it .. and it cured Mum last time - so let's hope. At the moment we're sign reading .. which is tricky as the interpretation isn't always quite right - but what can I do .. we still laugh & she thanked me profusely for all I've done this week .. which is wonderful to hear.

I hope you enjoy John's story in the next one .. it's an amazing part of the world .. and a lot of safari tours are early morning and evening .. so the need to be out in the mid-day sun (& be a mad English woman) isn't really necessary - you can lie under the canopy of trees, listen to birds, watch them .. and zizz with the sound of crickets click-clacking around .. easy to sleep! & dare I say it cover up!

Thanks for visting .. good to see you .. have a good long weekend - busy for you perhaps? .. Hilary

Erin Slusher said...

What a wonderful holiday you are having there. I love that you look for the beauty and interesting things in life and share them here with us. Blessing to you and your mother. (Mine is elderly and cannot hear either.) And have fun.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Erin .. thanks .. it was 21 years ago .. but feels like yesterday .. wish my mother and I could float off on a holiday like that - sadly she is bedridden by strokes and in a Nursing Centre.

Thank you .. I love doing what I'm doing .. it gives me a chance to share with you all and I'm thrilled you enjoy the stories.

Thanks for your thoughts re my Ma .. we can still laugh - well today we did .. other times I sit quietly holding her hand and keeping her company .. she is a blessing to me ..

Really lovely to see you here .. thank you for visiting .. Hilary