Photography and report by Lyndon Duplessis
High resolution photos available on Flickr!
This trip was a refresher for what is still considered the meat and potatoes safari destination in southern Africa, Botswana. It was the destination of the first educational I ever took with my brother back in 2007 and I have been back multiple times. When it comes to Botswana, the more the merrier, in fact I had been there as recently as two years ago in most of the general areas that I will cover in this trip report. We begin at a great Desert and Delta property, Camp Moremi, in perhaps the most iconic area of Botswana, the Okavango Delta.
After the standard flight from Johannesburg up to Maun we are quickly off to the property and upon arrival it is quickly evident that the rains have been heavy this year. The roads are tough to navigate and full of water in places. The area we are staying has a few public camp sites and we hear that on more than a couple of occasions self-drivers get stuck on the roads and require assistance from the camps. The heavy rain also makes the Mopani woodland quite beautiful and green, very lush. The downside to this, of course, is that it makes game viewing quite difficult as animals can disappear only a few feet from the road.
CAMP MOREMI AND XAKANAXA, EASTERN OKAVANGO DELTA
This camp was one of the few that I would get to stay at simultaneously with Jason and Sara. Our guide, Banda, started what would be quite a terrific run of knowledgeable and friendly guides that lasted through the entire trip. The camp itself is a nice looking camp with an outer fence that keeps out only the elephants. It has 2 central meal areas with dinner usually served upstairs and breakfast and brunch downstairs. The rooms are spacious with bathroom facilities in an adjacent door as well as a good view of the lagoon in front of camp.
We arrived in the afternoon and by the time we were finished getting our things in order in our rooms we were running just a little bit late and the vehicle had left to go on the afternoon activity. Not a problem at all as we were simply dropped off by another vehicle. This is a fairly common practice as the camps go out of their way to cater to each individual guest/group. Our game drives while at the camp were relatively quiet with some general game such as zebra, wildebeest, impala and other antelope mixed in. Saw some lion tracks on the second day and had heard them the previous night and that morning but we were unable to find them. Of course our clients would spend at least three nights here – not just one. Enough time to find and observe a good variety of game at any time of the year.
The transfer to Xakanaxa was done via boat and only took about 5 minutes as the two properties are literally adjacent. My first impressions on the camp were that it was similar to Moremi in many ways but the tents were significantly closer together.
Photo courtesy of Desert & Delta
Our first game drive we were fortunate and were able to view a leopard that another vehicle had spotted. It was resting up before the evening hunt on top of a termite mound which made it easier to spot. It was tough to get a different angle due to the thick foliage but we decided to have our sundowner drinks and snacks in the vehicle while we stayed with the animal. Dinner that night was some very tasty lamb. It was a fun dinner with a group of Australians a couple from the UK and another single traveler also from the UK.
After a quick snack the next morning we were off at about 5:30. Not a long way out of camp we drove by some noisy guinea fowl which sparked the interest of our guide Ngande. He quickly put the vehicle in reverse and sure enough there was a leopard, briefly silhouetted against a small mound. It quickly took off and we were unable to get a good look at it afterwards but just another example of how a quality guide will help get the most out of your game drives. After this we spotted some red lechwe, waterbuck and a couple wattled cranes. Had a nice up-close elephant sighting and he seemed quite relaxed with us so nearby. After tea and some more snacks as we were heading back to camp we really lucked out and saw a leopard just as it was crossing the road in front of us. Because it was out in the open we had a fantastic view… for about 15 wonderful seconds. Once it headed into the bush it was invisible in moments. Had we come across the same location a minute earlier or later we might have gotten lucky and spotted the tracks but we would have had zero chance of spotting the animal itself.
On our arrival back at camp we enjoyed a fantastic brunch with some especially tasty bream. There was a small croc sunbathing not far from where we ate and he must have just eaten something because his stomach was literally the shape and size of a watermelon. I got in a short swim, did some reading and took a bit of a nap before the evening activity.
That evening we took a boat cruise straight from camp. There were some beautiful birds spotted including African Darter and Jacana, nicknamed the “Jesus” bird as it appears to walk on water. Quite an excellent area for birding. From our boat we transferred onto mokoros and went for a short ride. We saw some antelope and giraffe in the distance and the painted reed frog up close. Dinner was great again with some excellent chicken.
The following morning all guests were scheduled to leave so our game drives headed in the direction of the airstrip along with our luggage. We got to see some general game and a very nice malachite kingfisher as well as a woodland kingfisher. I said my goodbyes to the other guests and our guide and it was off on a short hop to Chitabe Camp.
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