African bush safari across the Okavango Delta by Student Flight's Sam Towne

Published July 8th, 2011

Student Flight’s Sam Towne travels to Botswana’s Okavango Delta to experience the wonder of an African bush safari but with a difference. Sam travels in a mokoro across the flooded delta and camps out among Africa’s wildlife. Let’s hear how Sam enjoyed her Okavango experience.

Leaving Maun, Botswana, we drove for 1 ½ hours in the freezing cold on an open truck with two bench seats down each side. We were all out in the open and rugged up in every item of clothing we owned plus our sleeping bags. It must have easily been zero degrees, not what I was expecting in Africa.

Sam Towne Okavango Makoro Poler

Okavango Makoro Poler

We arrived at a small inlet at the mokoro polers’station. From there, we each got into a mokoro which is a very small, low to the water, dugout canoe. Some of us were lucky enough to get fibre glass canoes rather than the wooden ones carved from tree trunks. The reason I say lucky is that the wooden ones were quite old and leaked water and the people who rode in them got pretty wet and cold.

The water levels in the delta are at their highest they have been in 60 years. We had a long three hours of unsteadiness in the sun, winding through the waterways, reeds, lilies and insects until we reached an island. We set up our tents in this very remote place with not a sound, not another soul around. There was such peace, tranquility and serenity.

After setting up camp (I made sure I was the furthest away from camp and closest to the wild animals), we went on an afternoon game walk at 4pm. We followed lots of trails of paw prints and poop. We trailed along behind some of the most dangerous animals! It was nice to be out walking in the long grass and taking in the vastness of the place.

Sam's camp sent on the Okavango Delta

Sam's camp site on the Okavango Delta

During the night I heard the laugh of a hyena and the roar of a lion somewhere in the distance. It is really amazing to rest your head knowing that wild animals are all around you.

In the morning, after a quick cup of tea and a snack we set off at 6am for our big game walk through the Okavango Delta wilderness. We came across fresh tracks from leopards, lions and elephants but still struggled to find anything. One thing that was plentiful were birds of all sorts!

After about 2 ½ hours of walking we came to a sudden halt and the guide told us to be very quiet and make no sudden movements. Up in front, only about 40 metres away, were three colossal elephants!  Definitely the biggest ones I have ever seen anywhere!  Luckily, we were downwind from them so they could not smell us or else we would have been in trouble, big trouble!  We got so close, maybe a little too close, but I guess the guides know what the limits are. The elephants became a little agitated and started showing signs of angst and we had to back away slowly and leave them alone. The guide tried making us feel better by telling us to run in zigzags if they started to chase us. Everyone was still nervously looking over their shoulders. Living dangerously!  We saw hundreds of zebras, wildebeest, a couple cheetahs and a few other animals.

Okavango Elephant Foot Print

Okavango Elephant Foot Print

Okavango Elephant and calf

Okavango Elephant and calf


Getting back to camp we had a huge feed of scrambled eggs and toast. A few of us played cards down by the water (avoiding hippo areas) and simply relaxed after our big trek. At 5pm we went out for a sunset mokoro ride and enjoyed a glass of wine or should I say cup of wine. What a great way to end a perfect day. After another magic dinner, the guides put on a show of singing, dancing, games and jokes. We had to return the favour and entertain them as well! I sang Waltzing Matilda as they all wanted to hear it and then a group of us had to sing the Aussie national anthem.

The following morning only a few of us got up at 6am to go for another game walk. We walked for about 1 ½ hours. The sky was stunning! Watching the sun come up was something else, every colour of the rainbow streaked through the sky.  At 8:30am we got back into the mokoros for the long paddle back to the station and then the drive back to the camp site where we had left the truck and our backpacks.

I really didn't want to leave because I felt very at peace there.  For anyone thinking of going to Africa, don’t hold back!  It will be the most amazing experience you will ever have.

Looking for more information about the Okavango Delta or African Safaris? Contact [email]text=Sam Towne[/email], an Assistant Team Leader with Student Flights based in Alexandra Headland, Queensland who can be reached at 1300 051 365 or by [email]text=email[/email].

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