Happy New Year! January 1, 2018
No game drive this morning as we had a long journey to our next camp, Xakanaxa, in the Moremi Game Reserve.
Rains arrived at Mashatu during the night, accompanied by lots of thunder and lightning. It was as though Mother Nature decided to have a New Year’s Eve party with fireworks. We walked up to the main lounge carrying our umbrellas, only then wondering if we were actually carrying lighting rods. Vivi, the expedition coordinator, said that our flight would be delayed an hour. However, things cleared up and we managed to leave almost on time. We made a stop at Francistown to refuel, then a second stop in Maun to transfer to smaller airplanes. Ours was a six passenger plane made in Australia. Everyone had a window, allowing us to see the ground below.
Flying over the Okavango Delta, we could see salt flats that had developed after the waters subsided from their high levels. Much of the delta was under water about ten years ago, and many parts were inaccessible by land vehicle. Now, the vehicles and the animals can access more of the delta.
We landed in Xakanaxa (the x is pronounced like hk), then had a short ride to our camp, arriving there around 3:30. There was enough time to see our tented lodging, grab a snack and head out. Okavango is not the traditional delta that flows into a river, rather the water flows into the delta, then fans out. Some ocean water can flow in as well, which kills the trees that become surrounded by the water. The delta has several islands which were created from termite mounds.
The environment has changed significantly from one camp to the next. MalaMala was quite arid, with trees but very little vegetation on the ground. The wildlife was more elusive, with the exception of the impala. Mashatu had more flowers and trees, and there was more wildlife, including lots of impala. Xakanaxa is lush, much of it swampy with tall grasses, and the wildlife is abundant, with more birds and larger flocks of animals. Each of the camps has some of the same animals, especially impala, but some species are found at only one or two.
We have seen so many birds tonight – hornbills, storks, herons, geese, hoopoes, kites, eagles, ibis, vultures, and others that I can’t remember. We stopped at a lake that was surrounded by several different types of waterfowl. There were also two crocodiles in residence.
Driving through the park, we, of course, saw lots of impala, including what I called a day care center. There were a couple of adult females keeping watch over a couple dozen very young impala.
We saw waterbucks, larger than those at MalaMala. Moremi is home to the red lechwe, an antelope that has a splayed hoof which allowing it to wade easily through the water, where it spends most of its time eating the tall grasses. The red lechwe is not a fast runner, but is a powerful swimmer, which helps protect it from predators.
There are also zebras here, but their coloring is different from the ones we saw in Mashatu. They seem to be smaller as well. We were fortunate to see some young zebras among the herds. We were also fortunate to witness several of the zebras straddle a termite mound to scratch their bellies.
There are many, many hippos here. In fact, there is a young hippo (dubbed Oscar by the staff) that regularly walks through the camp around 6pm. We stopped for “sundowners,” a break with drinks and snacks, along side a lake that had at least 15 hippos trying to beat the heat. I could sympathize – the temperatures can reach 100 degrees here. The hippos put on quite a show for us, grumbling, splashing water, yawning, and watching us watch them.
We were treated to another beautiful sunset, followed by a magnificent storm tonight. I wish I could capture the lightning on film. This is the beginning of the rainy season here in Moremi.