Botswana and Zimbabwe (Part 1)
After a night at the border we headed east on the Trans Kalahari Highway and into the largest unbroken stretch of sand in the world. The Kalahari Desert isn’t a true desert like the Namib but rather a thinly populated arid savanna which today provides Botswana with a significant income from diamonds.
The Kalahari is one of the great wilderness areas of Southern Africa and much of it remains intact holding large numbers of game animals and dry country birds.
After a day crossing the desert we arrived in the tourist hub of Maun, gateway to the famous, World Heritage Okavango Delta, which is the World’s largest inland delta and a stage for epic wildlife encounters.
We opted for the two day – one night Mokoro (canoe) tour of the delta, which involved an over night camp on one of the delta’s islands and a walking safari.
We traveled by canoe for two hours and then walked until just before dusk, seeing Giraffe, Wildebeest, Elephant and Zebra.
As the sun began to set we cruised back along the myriad of channels with the highlight being four Hippos in the reeds not far from our camp.
We sat in our canoes with the Hippos nearby and watched a great sunset over the delta.
The following day we returned to shore just before lunch. As we were getting off the canoes I noticed a local guy with a aluminum dinghy and after a bit of negotiating we were off on an afternoon cruise, north deep into the delta.
We motored twenty kilometers into the delta passing herds of Reedbuck and Red Lechwe. The occasional Hippo dived underwater as we approached and African Fish Eagles worked their way along the channels searching for a feed. We past a few Crocs and a couple of local village fisherman who’d had a successful afternoon with their wooden canoe full of fish.
All along the route Elephants browsed in the shallows, standing waste deep in the water wrapping their trunks around the reeds and ripping them out by the roots. We watched as they then washed the mud off before chewing and then repeating the process, creating channels through the reeds as they moved along.
From the Okavango we drove north, spending a night at Elephant Sands Lodge and then headed to Chobe NP where the highlight was an afternoon sunset cruise along the Chobe River which forms the border with Namibia at the end of the Caprivi Strip.
Chobe is famous for its huge Elephant population and it upheld it’s reputation for us as we cruised the main channel and nearby waterways, quickly loosing count of the number we saw. The trip started with two males feeding in the reeds, then another two fighting, a lone adult swimming across the river, then three more taking a late afternoon mud bath to keep the mozzies at bay during the night.
After the Okavango we crossed the border into Zimbabwe and we’re soon at Victoria Falls, one of Africa’s greatest sights.
The Zambezi River meanders it’s way across the tropical savanna south from Zambia, then flows through an area locally known as Hippo Pools then plunges off a 1.7km wide cliff into a spectacular transverse chasm creating a permanent cloud of spray that can be seen thirty kilometers away.
Victoria Falls is the World’s largest waterfall and is most spectacular from the air. Many others are higher and Iguazu Falls has a greater volume but for one long continuous massive falling sheet of water, Vic Falls is No. 1.
From the air we had great views of the seven deep gorges further downstream and the surrounding basalt plateau.
I’ve been at Victoria Falls for four days and this afternoon am boarding the train to Bulawayo, where we’ll spend a couple of days before making our way to Harare. All up, we’ll be in Zimbabwe for nearly two weeks and have lots to see and do before departing.
My next post will probably be from Malawi in a fortnight.
Bye for now.