I am reposting a blog I wrote a few years ago, in celebration of the acceptance of my favourite place on the planet - the Okavango Delta in Botswana - as the 1000th World Heritage site.
Steve Boyes of the Wild Bird Trust had this to say when interviewed by National Geographic:
"The abundance of life is mind boggling: more than 530 bird species, thousands of plant species,160 different mammals,155 reptiles, scores of frogs, countless insects. Everywhere you look you find life. We surveyed bats and we found 17 species in three days. We started looking for praying mantises and found 90 different species. This is the ark of the Kalahari and this part of Africa."
For an outstanding article he wrote - with great photos - read: "Africa's Okavango Delta for Future Generations."
Stan - Thursday
The Okavango Delta lies in the northwest of Botswana bordering Namibia. It is formed by the Kavango River, which rises in the heart of Angola to the north and west, then flows over 1200 kilometres south, then east away from the Atlantic Ocean through Namibia into Botswana. There it fans out into a huge delta approximately 15000 sq. kms in size and appears to disappear abruptly into the Kalahari Desert. It is indeed a remarkable sight to see the waters of the Delta on one side of a road and the desert on the other.
The 15000 sq. kms of the Delta comprise very low islands, few more than a two or three metres high, channels of water, and areas that are covered with water in the flood season (June to August) and are water-free much of the rest of the time. Consequently, the Delta is a maze of islands and beautiful, crystal-clear water. Access to the islands is by boat (powered on the main channels), mokoros on the smaller channels, and small plane. There are a few roads on the larger islands, but access from outside is usually impossible.
Of course you have to be careful, because the larger channels are home to many a hippo (‘kubu’ in Setswana), which, when disturbed, can turn in a flash from a sleepy, tranquil lump of lard into Africa’s most dangerous mammal. It gets one attention when nearly 3 tonnes of hippo surfaces next to you, jaws open. Of course, having a hippo surface next to the mokoro is infinitely better than under the mokoro. If that happens the impact can be so great that the boat may break. Even if it doesn’t, the poor occupants will be flung into the water. This too is not a good place to be because although vegetarian, hippos are not reluctant to bite. A glance at the accompanying photo of a hippo mouth shows how dangerous a bite can be.
In addition, the Delta is inhabited by thousands of Nile crocodiles. I believe a cooperative agreement exists between hippos and crocs with respect to knocking people into the water, but I haven’t figured out what’s in it for the hippo.
Actually, such incidents are few and far between because the polers are experienced and know what to do. In general, when on a boat in hippo territory, the strategy is to bang the side of the boat periodically. The noise piques the hippos’ curiosity, and they pop their heads above water to see what the kerfuffle is all about. All you have to do then is NOT to get between them and deep water, which is their haven.
The Okavango is, of course, a magnet to wildlife, particularly when the water is high. Not only are there well over a hundred species of mammals and a big variety of reptiles (over 120,000 elephant are thought to be in Botswana alone), but the birdlife is spectacular, with the Delta boasting around 500 species, from the rare (the huge Pels Fishing Owl, for example) to the abundant –the Red-Billed Quelea can form flocks so large (millions and millions) that they black out the sun and destroy crops like locusts.
|Pell's Fishing owl (50 - 60 cms in length)|
|African Fish Eagle|
|African Jacana (the lily trotter)|
But it is so difficult to conceive of a murder in the Delta’s tranquility!
But I’m sure Michael will find a way.
Stan - Thursday