Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 49 (continued) – The Okavango Delta

Maun sits at the southern end of the so-called Okavango Delta, which is not a delta at all, but a very flat alluvial fan formed where the Okavango River exits a fault-controlled narrow valley and spreads into dozens of channels before the water completely infiltrates into the sandy soils of the Kalahari desert. It is a true geologic and ecological wonder, because it forms a giant wildlife oasis in the middle of the desert. Deservedly, it is Botswana’s greatest tourist attraction, and the Motswana, not being any kind of fools, have decided to make it a big profitable operation (the motto is “high cost, low volume tourism”). The cost for lodging, boat trips, or flights over the delta is astronomical, and much more than I was willing to pay. However, I had not come all this way to just sit in Maun, so I went to the airport, walked into the offices of Kavango Air, and explained that I was traveling alone and could not afford to hire a plane for myself. Would they have an empty seat in one of their small planes? The boss thought for a minute and suggested: “I have to go to Chobe to pick up a helicopter, and one of my pilots is going to fly me there. Why don’t you come along for the price of a seat? It would be a longer flight than normal, but you would get to see both the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.” Nothing could have been better!

An hour later we took off, and I enjoyed what to this moment have been the best two hours of my trip: The delta is a very scenic collage of channels, pools, and swamps, and I almost danced with joy when I saw a giant bull elephant in one of the pools. I can finally say that “I have seen the elephant”. And I saw many more elephants, giraffes, hyppos, zebras, and even a rhinocerous:) We also caused a commotion among a herd of wildebeest that were grazing around the landing strip in Chobe. It was a dream safari.

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