Photo Locale of the Month – June 2016

If, like me, you occasionally grow disheartened over the vitriol and hate-mongering that seems so common in the divisive world of today, take comfort in the fact that while our planet can sometimes be a violent place, it is a beautiful place as well. Few corners of the world are these contrasts so apparent as in Africa.

My first trip to sub-Saharan Africa found me enjoying shoulder season safaris in South Africa and Botswana. It is about the latter destination that I will focus this month’s photo gallery on. May, 2009 found me spending three perfect days on a makoro (motorless boat) safari in the Okavango Delta of Botswana.

Delta Day 1-38

No fewer than three planes flew us from Cape Town to Kahana, a dirt airstrip roughly 45 minutes by air from Maun. It was at Maun airport, a dusty backwater where no one should have to spend more time than is absolutely necessary, that the government of Botswana let us know that bribery and graft would not be tolerated.

Maun Airport 7

We flew by Cessna to our docking point, and our jaws dropped en route when we gazed at the Delta below. Hippos and crocodiles owned these waters, while elephants owned the land.

Kanana flight 6

We landed, a bit queasy but otherwise no worse for wear, and hadn’t even left the staging area when we heard a noise from the nearby tall grass. I climbed a termite mound that was taller than me to get a view. Pachyderm!

Delta Day 1-12

Do not. I repeat – do not – make elephants mad.

Delta Day 1-24

We survived our elephant encounter and met up with our guide, Dougie.  He bore a British accent but had lived in the area for 50 years and knew these waters like the back of his hand.

Delta Day 3-27

The water couldn’t be clearer and the weather couldn’t have been any nicer.

Delta Day 2-8

Navigation through the Delta was often via “hippo highway,” open canals formed by hippos blazing a trail through the reeds and lilypads.

Delta Day 1-130

Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal. So if you see one in the wild from this proximity, you are TOO CLOSE.

Delta Day 1-122

Uh-oh, he’s mad.

Delta Day 1-60 - ZOOM

Keep your eyes peeled during your Delta visit and you’ll surely see frogs. They are no bigger than my thumbnail…

Delta Day 1-40 - ZOOM

…but their croak sounds like a xylophone and is loud enough to wake the dead.

Delta Day 3-8

The Okavango Delta forms each spring from Kalahari Desert floodwaters. The “high” land that doesn’t become submerged becomes a refuge for land-based mammals and brave (foolhardy?) tourists. Our accommodation for the next two nights: our own private island! The hostess, above, greeted us and showed off her handicrafts.

Delta Day 3-43

In addition to our guide, our hostess, and our gondoliers, we also had our own maid, a private cook, and the well-stocked “minibar” above.

Delta Day 1-50

Each night, we fell asleep to a xylophone concert – er, frog serenade, rather – while hippos grunted somewhere not-so-far away. I no doubt dreamt of snakes and crocs invading the island. Our guide told us an amusing story about newlyweds who honeymooned here and requested the tent’s canvas roof to be rolled back so they could sleep beneath the stars. They heard a noise and woke up to see an elephant peeking its head over the side of their tent!

Delta Day 2-37

Speaking of elephants, we alit at several islands the following day, and were told that this tree was likely felled by an elephant, possibly during a mating ritual.

Delta Day 2-107

The Delta’s islands were a veritable paradise for birders. The avian high point of the trip was probably spotting this baby Pel’s fishing owl. Guide Dougie claimed that this was his first time seeing a baby owl.

Delta Day 2-153

We saw several small herds of gazelle and impala. I also spotted in the reeds – for the briefest of moments – the elusive sitatunga, a horned antelope, even smaller than an impala. I rose from my seat in the makoro for a better view, lost my balance and almost fell into the water. The splashy commotion sent the flighty mammal on his way.

Delta Day 2-62

Speaking of splashes: Henry and Hermione Hippo!

Delta Day 2-27

And spiders. Lots and lots of spiders.

Delta Day 2-148

Islands such as this one, scarred by fire so many years ago, have an eerie sort of beauty to them.

Delta Day 2-182

Can you spot the giraffe in the picture above?

Delta Day 2-187

As sunsets go, there is no place on Earth like Africa.

Delta Day 3-7

Sunrises aren’t bad, either.

Delta Day 1-103

Our final morning on the Delta featured more bird watching. The image above seems more at home on, say, a Yellowstone calendar, but it was actually taken two hemispheres away!

Delta Day 3-34

One last elephant encounter. Note to ivory merchants everywhere: leave these amazing creatures alone.

Delta Day 3-42

Stowaway on my shoe, telling me in his best “Jiminy Cricket” voice not to leave.

Delta Day 2-192

My driver, both humble and wise, made me a floral lei for the journey home.

Maun 11

Back in Maun, we walked around the town and happened upon this donkey, waiting at the bus stop. I hope she had exact change!

Delta Day 1-160

I will never forget my time in Botswana and in the Okavango Delta – a miracle of nature and an oasis of life.

All pictures were taken with a Canon Powershot camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless indicated otherwise, and should be used with permission only.


Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food and culture all while weathering the challenges of life in a city with over 20 million people. Life's unpredictable journey has since brought him to Tennessee, where he is close to family and to the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, top ten lists, and travel in general.

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