Wednesday, December 12, 2018

BOTSWANA: OKAVANGO DELTA MOTOR BOAT RIDE

Our makoro canoe ride in Botswana's Okavango Delta was an "authentic" experience, but our motorboat ride in the Delta was mind-blowing. In fact, it turned out to be one of our favorite experiences of the entire trip. Nothing I write here can truly capture the awe we felt as we puttered along this stunningly beautiful waterway.

Once again, we were the only passengers on a boat that could seat eight or more people, and during our time on the water, we didn't see any other boats, nor did we see airplanes, power lines, vehicles on roads, or any other man-made anything. The isolation is part of what made the experience so memorable. It was as if we had gone through the Looking Glass and were in a completely separate world, and it was a Shangri-La.  I know I'm mixing stories, but I can't help myself. Throw in some Jurassic Park (minus the dinosaurs) too. Maybe the best analogy is that it was like the end of the fifth day of creation, just before the creation of man, "and God saw that it was good."

We saw lots of God's creations on this motorboat ride, including prehistoric-looking crocs both in the water and on the banks, some quite ginormous:







Our favorite was the one who slept with his mouth wide open. We never saw him move even the slightest bit, even though we motored around him to get a view from several angles:



"Open wide!" He was a dentist's dream patient (or his worst nightmare):

I am not particularly into birds, but this boat trip changed me. I have never seen (and loved seeing) so many birds of so many varieties.
African darters

Kingfishers


Egret

Everywhere we looked, we saw birds:

African darters


Sacred ibis (birds with black bills on left)

Sacred ibis and egret


Egret

Grey heron (third from right)


Two painted storks and a glossy ibis

Painted storks with a grey heron between them

There were often dozens of birds of varying species hanging around together, like some big inter-cultural gathering:


Sometimes huge flocks flew alongside our motorboat or caught the draft behind us. We felt like actors in a movie. How could something like this be real?


I told Bob it was almost like there was background music playing. It reminded me of the scene in the movie Out of Africa when Robert Redford takes Meryl Streep flying, and it's just the two of them soaring over the savannah, animals running below. Meryl Streep reaches back and grasps Robert Redford's hand, weeping at the inconceivable, inexpressible beauty of it all. It was that kind of a moment for me.


We were like kids at the airport watching the planes take off and land:








Painted storks


Grey heron


Sacred ibis  

Blacksmith plover

African jacana

Sometimes we got crocodiles and birds together:

Cranky Mr. Crocodile wasn't the least bit interested in all the activity going on around him.


One of the highlights of the ride was the hippos. We had been warned many times to stay far away from these dangerous beasts, but our boat driver hadn't gotten that memo. We occasionally came across a lonely hippo:



. . . or a small group:

But all of the sudden we rounded a corner and there was a group of about 30 hippos of all sizes wading in the water. (Note the elephants in the background.) I rushed to get a few pictures before we scared them off:



As we approached, they went CRAZY, leaping like ballerinas and arching like dressage horses to get underwater fast, causing a great churning and creating huge waves.




Within seconds they were all underwater, not a twitching ear, a snorting snout, or a sizable flank to be seen. It was a National Geographic moment.

Of course, there were lots of elephants. There seems to be no shortage of them in Botswana, at least where we were--far away from civilization and hopefully far from poachers, too.



There were also plenty of termite mounds on the shoreline:


Even without the wild animals, the scenery was so pure, so vibrant, that it made my heart ache. 



The colors in the Delta are so rich--almost like a photo that has been photoshopped just a little too much.



All too soon we had to make our way back to the Land Cruiser.

We bumped along the road back to the lodge . . . 

. . . sometimes plowing through shallow lakes (and not so shallow lakes):

It was a morning we will never forget.



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