From glowing, silent waterways, papyrus swamps and lagoons carpeted with waterlilies, to the mythology and thriller of historic rock work, Botswana’s Okavango Panhandle is a magical place to go to.
Having spent a while in Chobe Nationwide Park, going for boat cruises and sport drives, with lions, elephants and extra, it was time for a change of tempo and a chance to expertise a spot that’s actually off the crushed observe. Leaving the stunning Chobe Sport Lodge behind, we flew from Kasane Airport to Nxamaseri.
A patchwork of greens and browns and yellow and beige unfold out beneath us, reduce via by animal ‘highways’ and sport trails. Scrub and bushes, sand and grass, water holes glistening silver within the daylight. The airplane’s shadow gave the impression to be racing us, and tiny dots under revealed themselves to be giraffes, kudus, elephants and buffalos. A Bateleur Eagle soared over the huge expanses of area. As we bought nearer to camp the land beneath us turned to a vibrant inexperienced, reduce via by the indigo and blue channels of water. We touched down on a tiny airstrip a stone’s throw from the water, and leaving our tiny 6-seater Cessna behind, travelled by boat, weaving our manner via the channels, to Nxamaseri Island Lodge.
Situated on a tiny non-public island, between two UNESCO World Heritage Websites of the Tsodilo Hills and the Okavango Delta, Nxamaseri Island Lodge, nestled below enormous Jackalberry bushes and wild date palms, is perched on an fringe of an historic fossil river that when flowed from the Kavango River to the Tsodilo Hills. The right place for exploring this superb a part of the world. The rooms are quiet havens, elevated above the water and interconnected with raised picket walkways. The lodge showcases the great thing about the everlasting swamps, however with out eliminating any creature comforts. My room had a secluded verandah suspended over the water, good for some quiet time alone. I had a spacious toilet with seemingly limitless scorching water, and a sublimely comfy mattress. I felt immersed in my environment as I lay in mattress at night time listening to the sound of hippos splashing and grunting within the darkness close by.
Life revolves across the water on this a part of the world. If you happen to’re not out on the water, then you definitely’re by the water, absorbing the great thing about this calm and peaceable setting. We headed out on the river to take pleasure in sundown, with a sundowner in hand. There was a delicate breeze blowing and the solar was heat on our pores and skin. Papyrus and reeds towered above us and brilliantly colored birds flitted amongst the greenery. The Okavango Delta is fed by the Okavango River, which flows southeast from Angola, via Namibia’s Zambezi Area, earlier than coming into Botswana on the small village of Mohembo. Right here it spreads out right into a strip roughly 11km large, filled with floating islands of vegetation, calm lagoons and a myriad of twisting channels whose programs are always altering. Seen from above, the Okavango Delta appears considerably like a frying pan, with the primary river flowing down the roughly 70km ‘deal with’, earlier than fanning out into the Delta, the ‘pan’; therefore the identify ‘Panhandle’. It was on this ‘deal with’ the place we had been boating now, below the watchful eye of a Fish Eagle, perched excessive in a tree.
For an much more immersive expertise you may take a journey in a conventional mokoro (dug-out canoe), and glide silently via the clear water, at eye degree with water lilies, dragon flies, reed frogs and brilliantly colored malachite kingfishers.
The world is famend for its wonderful fowl watching. The river financial institution vegetation is thick, however a bit persistence is quickly rewarded. The tall, shady, riverine forests are house to quite a few resident and migratory birds, and the channels are house to an array of waterbirds. My private favourites are the Painted Snipes, Rufus Bellied Herons, Purple Winged Pratincoles and Swamp BouBous. The uncommon Pel’s Fishing Owl is frequently seen right here, and actually a pair dwell on a tiny island simply downstream of Nxamaseri Island Lodge. One thing else spectacular on the fowl watching calendar, are the migrant Carmine Bee-Eaters that collect to nest within the dry banks of the Okavango River within the low water season.
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The Okavango Panhandle isn’t a part of a reserve or protected space, this isn’t the place to come back for a conventional sport viewing safari, however there are nonetheless enormous areas of unspoilt wetlands right here, ready to be explored. There are many crocodiles and hippos, in addition to elephants and, my private favourites, the otters. If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of the shy and secretive swamp dwelling Sitatunga antelope hiding within the dense reeds.
This can be a prime vacation spot for eager fishermen. The water is deep and quick flowing, supreme for catching each bream and the extremely prized Tigerfish. Throughout September and October smaller bait fish are compelled into the Panhandle system, attracting 1000’s of Barbel (Catfish), some over 4ft lengthy, these in flip appeal to ‘the Tigers’; and an unimaginable feeding frenzy ensues. A sight to behold and positively one that may rank excessive in any fisherman’s reminiscences. For individuals who take pleasure in a quieter fishing expertise, the world gives unbelievable fly-fishing for the well-known (and scrumptious) Okavango bream. In all 17 species of fish could be caught right here.
Simply 40km from Nxamaseri Island Lodge lies the Tsodilo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Website and residential to considered one of Africa’s most spectacular collections of historic rock artwork, with over 4,500 work situated round 500 completely different websites. Waking early one morning, we watched because the solar rose over the tall reeds and papyrus, in a crimson ball of fireside, lighting up the sky in shades of orange and scarlet. Espresso by the fireplace, adopted by a lightweight breakfast, after which it was time to set off within the boat. Winding our manner via the misty, chilly channels, we headed again to the airstrip, the place a helicopter awaited. Taking off, whisps of white mist rose off the water. As we rose into the sky, the mushy morning mild grew brighter, and the early colors melted away. The nearer we bought to our vacation spot, the drier the earth beneath us grew. Botswana is likely one of the flattest nations on the earth, however there forward of us, rising dramatically, 400m out of the arid panorama, had been 4 lonely chunks of quartzite; the Tsodilo Hills. We flew round them, seeing the sensible streaks of mauve, turquoise and lavender within the rocks, earlier than touchdown close by.
The most important rock is called the Male, the subsequent dimension down is the Feminine, then the Youngster, a fourth rock is referred to in several myths, as both an earlier spouse, one other little one or sometimes as a grandchild. Unfold over roughly 8km, these hills are the non secular house of the Basarwa (typically known as San or Bushmen) and Bantu folks. The hills are woven with non secular that means and symbolism, and present indicators of adolescence from way back to 100,000 years. One of the best rock artwork websites are on the north finish of the Feminine, and we spent some hours right here, with an area information, observing, studying and experiencing this fascinating place.
With unimaginable pure magnificence, unbelievable birdlife, superb fishing, and engaging tradition and historical past, the Okavango Panhandle is an off the crushed observe vacation spot, however an actual gem, a particular place and one which positively deserves a go to.
A Tip To Improve Your Journey: With 482 species of fowl, 130 species of mammal and 64 reptiles all calling the Okavango house, it’s typically tough to determine exactly what you’re looking at. Assistance is at hand, within the type of the fabulous Botswana Wildlife App. Obtain it to your telephone and take it on safari with you, not simply within the Okavango, however in every single place in your Botswana travels. Grant Reed non-public safari information, information coach, photographer, passionate naturalist and cofounder of Letaka Safaris has put his years of data and ability into creating this easy-to-use app, that may make it easier to shortly determine all of the animals, birds, fish, reptiles, flowers and bushes that you just encounter in your safari. It’s accessible for Android and Apple, and you’ll watch a fast introduction to the app on YouTube.