A safari in the water
The Okavango Delta, Botswana
There really is nothing quite like a morning on safari. Fresh footprints of cats who have hunted in the night lay firmly in the Earth’s ground. On the horizon, warm shades of yellow, orange and reds light up the sky. With sunrise, comes another day in the wilderness. Impala let out a sigh of relief. They made another night in the bush, escaping the predators that spend the night tactically hunting. All of this happens before 6am, with the confident dawn chorus as an ongoing soundtrack.
Days on safari follow a similar format no matter which national park you’re in. Heading out on safari jeeps as early as possible in the morning, and later in the afternoon, ensures you some of the most reliable game viewing, with the most comfortable of temperatures.
Safaris on the water look a little different. The landscape is dramatically different, allowing a wealth of endemic tree and plant species to flourish. The lush vegetation then attracts different wildlife species, making the game-viewing unique. But aside from how the flora and fauna look – the most beautiful in my opinion – there is something a lot more complex going on.
Some species have had no choice but to adapt over time, to survive amongst climate changes and ever-changing wetland environments. Not only have some animals adapted, but most have thrived. In Botswana’s Okavango Delta, animals have evolved to thrive when the floods arrive from Angola.
The lions of the Delta are famously strong and resilient, as they’ve taken on the water in pursuit of their prey. Many prides have become confident swimmers, while others work together to hunt large prey, like giraffe or elephant. The lions in the Duba Plains region are particularly famous for being expert in hunting buffalo. The safari guides here have a common saying “where there’s buffalo, there’s lions”.
The game viewing around Chitabe Camp has also become famed for its big cat sightings. Not only its lion prides – which are aplenty – but it’s leopard and cheetah numbers, which are seen on a regular basis. Competing for
both food and territory, these species of big cats are not often found together.
During my time at Chitabe in April 2023, I saw a mother hunting for her six cheetah cubs. Not only did her litter all survive (which is incredibly rare), but the cubs were all healthy and thriving. I watched her hunt several times and, although some were unsuccessful, she always seemed composed and calm. She regained her strength and tried again. Resilience is key, and her determination then led her to a successful kill the following morning.
These unique behaviors across Botswana’s wild plains have captivated some safari enthusiasts. The Okavango Delta is today regarded as one of the best safari destinations on the continent, as well as one of the most exclusive. Most safari camps are accessible only by air. Whether you’re flying in with a chartered Cessna Caravan, or a private helicopter, the team will be eagerly waiting for your arrival with a glass of bubbly and smiles bright enough to light the Delta.
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