After a busy first day in the Okavango Delta, we woke up early the next morning, our usual time of 5:30am and got ready for another day. With only a quick cup off coffee to warm us up, we headed out on the mokoros for sunrise.
Luckily, the sunrises in Africa are just as beautiful as the sunsets, and even though each day of the trip seemed to begin by watching the sunrise, nothing quite matched the experience that morning. The peaceful sounds of the river and the calls of the birds set in time with the slowly rising African sun came close to nothing else I’ve experienced. A complete feeling of being at peace with nature washed over me.
Our next stop of the morning was a nearby island where we’d unload the boats and head out on a bush walk, or as the polers liked to call it, “a nature walk.” Here, we were split into two groups and walked on foot around the island. To me, this was a bit unnerving, as we had spent the rest of our animal viewing thus far by truck or boat. Even the lion walk and elephant safari were less frightening than this.
Here, we’d be walking around an island in the middle of Africa; an island that had no one else living on it, except for animals. This was no joke, there were no fences, and we were out in the open; something could really go wrong. But, as it is with all things in Africa, you go with the flow.
With all reservations aside and complete trust in our polers, we headed off on foot to explore the island, while looking for game. This included anything as harmless as a few birds to as dangerous as a pride lions. We started off the walk with an introduction to elephant poop and its many uses, from paper to mosquito repellent and the cure for a “runny stomach,” there seems to be no end to what the animal’s dung is capable of.
After we all took a few pictures, we headed on our way, stopping when we came across a few animal foot prints. What we found included elephant tracks, and even a few lion tracks, which confirmed the fact that lions actually did live here. I didn’t know if I should be excited, or run back to the boat.
We spotted a few owls and other birds, and eventually, came across some elephants. They were much harder to see by foot, especially when you are my height, so we took a few unsuccessful shots, until Jade and I decided it would be more fun to pretend to be lions in the bush.
We continued to learn more about the plants on the island, including all about the African marula tree, which quickly became our favorite. The tree produces a fruit that the elephants get drunk off of, and someone somewhere decided to mix the fruit with cream and sugar to create Amarula. Side note: It’s delicious! We bought ourselves a bottle of the liqueur a few days later and enjoyed it nightly in our hot chocolate. Highly suggested.
After a few more lessons about plants and animals, we decided to pose for a few more photos with our polers, who by this time had become close friends. Then, we trekked through the brush back to the mokoros and back to camp for breakfast.
When breakfast was done, we began to clean up the area we spent the night, and before long it was time to head out. As much as I once dreaded being without electricity and water, it was actually much easier to deal with than I thought; I was actually going to miss being one with nature. Who was this person I was becoming?
We loaded up the tents and our belongings on the mokoros, and headed out for one last ride in the most peaceful place I have ever been. This time, instead of photographing it, I sat and tried to soak it all in, not knowing when I’d encounter a place with such beauty again.
When we got to land, it was time to say good-bye to our polers. We posed for several more pictures, gave them hugs, and together we sang songs from the night before. In that moment, I was completely happy and in awe of my time spent in the Delta; it still is one of my most vivid memories.
We then hopped back in the truck, sadly waving good-bye, and headed to the village for a tour. Here, we met Paulina, the villager who would be escorting us around for the next hour. Here, we saw schools, the clinic, and even met Paulina’s adorable son. While we didn’t get as much time to talk to the local people as I would have liked, it was nice to be able to connect with Paulina and hear about her life living in the village.
After exploring the village, we headed back on the jet boat to our next accommodations in the Delta – a houseboat. The houseboat may not have been the most luxurious place I’ve ever stayed, but after being in the bush for a night, it was as good as a five star hotel. We had rooms with doors, beds, hot showers, private bathrooms, and a kitchen with a sink to wash dishes in. We couldn’t have been more excited.
That night, we feasted on kudu and spent the night crowded around large tables, drinking beer and cider while playing card games and talking. It was peaceful to still be out in the middle of nowhere, looking up at all the stars in the African sky, but to also have the comforts of home. We slept peacefully that night to the sounds of water lapping up against the boat, knowing in the morning it would be time to leave the quiet delta. But, we were also filled with excitement and curiosity to see what else our time in Africa had in store for us.