Places I'd really like to revisit - Okavango Swamps, Botswana

May 2, 2014

I don’t know whether it was all the talk about the Rapture or a Skype chat with an old work colleague from 30 years ago but I started thinking of the one place I would like to revisit if the opportunity arose!

For me that one place is the Okavango Swamps in Botswana. For my money it should be one of the Seven Wonders of the World but being selfish I am glad it isn’t as that likely ensures it is not spoiled by too much tourism.

The fact that it is an inland delta is not the only unique feature of Okavango. There is a species of buck, the Sitatunga that is unique to the area that has developed a webbed hoof for easy passing through the swamps.

I spent 2 weekends in the Okavango at a fishing camp! Access to the camp was by plane or by boat and travel around the delta was by boat. Our day started at about 6 am when we would head out to one of the nearby lagoons to fish for our breakfast. The lagoons contained a fresh water bream – I have never tasted a sweeter fish. The fish was cooked back at the camp on a wood fire – there was neither gas nor electricity! 

After breakfast there was time for a quick shower. Matete, one of the camp staff had the job of filling the buckets attached to each shower with warm water and then hoisting the buckets into place above the shower head! It is possible to shower with only one bucket of water! Privacy in the shower was ensured by the bamboo screen around it!

After freshening up it was back to the boats for a spot of game viewing. If anything dispelled the thoughts that we were in a “tame” reserve, safari park or zoo it was the loaded rifle that our guide kept constantly to hand! As we landed at Pampiri Island near a huge baobab, or upside down, tree, we came within 100 yards of a herd of elephant complete with calves. Our guide made sure he kept himself between the elephants and us although quite what one rifle would have achieved gave me a few anxious thoughts.

On the way back to camp we came across a beautiful clear pool in the passage out of one the lagoons. It was a hot African summer afternoon so we anchored a boat at each end of the pool and went swimming. After that fabulous cooling off we headed back along the passage and had only travelled twenty yards or so when we came across a huge basking crocodile! I believe crocs only attack when they feed I uttered up thanks that it hadn’t been feeding time a few moments earlier!

The late afternoon was again spent fishing, this time for tiger fish, on the river. This was no catch and release because the tiger fish has a very hard mouth and the secret to catching one is to wait until it swallows the hook before striking! It is a great sport fish and gives more fight than its size would suggest. It isn’t terrible edible being very bony however Charlie the fish eagle fed royally on the days catch and entertained us further as it flew down to grab the floating body out of the water before soaring up to the treetops to feast. It is said once you hear the eerie cry of the fish eagle you will always go back to hear it again!

After dinner cocktails in the African bush provide an ideal closing to the day. With the sky so clear that satellites can be seen tracking across it; with the sound of a hippo blowing in the river just below the camp ; and with the distant sound of a lion roar what better way to end the day!

Okavango Swamps and Camp Etsatsa is one of the places I really want to revisit!

Martin Capper
May 22, 2011

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