Lessons from the Okavango Delta
Post by Sophie Brickman from Brandeis University
The Okavango Delta, a natural wonder of Africa, is an 18,000 square kilometer region in Botswana fed by the Angolan River. The Thamalakane River and Boro River also feed into the Delta. I traveled with my friend Emily to the Delta for three days, and I completely understand why Okavango is one of the seven wonders of Africa.
7 Lessons from the Okavango Delta:
1. International airports can be incredibly rural.
The airport in Maun was one of the tiniest we had ever seen! No one was able to direct us to a cab to take us to our lodge, but luckily, we had unexpectedly gotten the number for a Maun cab from a friend a few days prior to our trip. When traveling, the most random pieces of information often come in handy.
2. How to pitch a tent.
By the time we arrived at Old Bridge Backpackers, it was already dark. Setting up our tent was an adventure -- we were successful with the help of one of the workers at the lodge (after a few failed attempts). Afterwards, we explored the lodge, which was complete with a kitchen, bar, comfortable hammocks and a campfire.
3. The African sky is equally amazing at night.
Sunrise, sunset and the Botswana sky in general are amazing. The view start-gazing at the Delta was indescribable. It was my first time seeing the milky way!
4. It is truly best to experience the delta in a Mokoro.
Our Thursday morning began perfectly with hot, outdoor showers under the moon. We then hopped onto a motor boat to take us about an hour into the delta to a Mokoro station. The three others on our boat were all retired teachers, and it was great to hear about their African experience. Around 9am we climbed into a tiny two person Mokoro and met our guide, Bubs. It felt amazing to be floating down the delta, weaving with the ‘ditlhapi’ (fish) through the reeds. At noon, we followed Bubs through the land on a game hike. We didn’t see much, but we did see a few monkeys and zebras. Afterwards, Bubs taught us how to pole the Mokoro. We also walked through Bubs’ village and met some of the locals who live on the Boro River of the Delta, drink, wash, cook, clean, and live off of the Delta. Their tribe is often referred to as the "River People."
5. Sharing stories and making connections are valuable elements of travel.
Echoing our first motorboat ride, we met a bunch of really interesting people on our way back to Old Bridge who shared their life experiences and reason for travel with us. That evening, we watched a world cup game with a group of missionaries, sparking thought provoking conversation about service and religion, met a man from South Africa who taught us how to cook vegetables on a fire and shared stories about his life surfing and working in the pharmaceutical industry in Durban and also met a woman who started her own company that develops greenhouses and makes countries more environmentally friendly and self-sustainable. Life is one big journey, and I truly believe that we are meant to learn from the people we meet along the way. Traveling halfway across the world as a young college student and being able to hear about life experiences of fellow travelers from all parts of the world is very special.
6. Riding a horse through a river is wonderful.
On Friday, we went for a morning horseback ride. It was just the two of us riding with our guide, which was cool because it didn’t feel touristy. We hadn’t ridden recently, but we hopped on our horses and immediately took off on a beautiful ride. We met bulls and cows pretty frequently, but our horses stayed calm. After riding for two and a half hours, we headed to Old Bridge to pack up.
7. A city becoming a home is a special feeling.
Although we were only gone for three days, returning to Gabs felt really nice. I was excited to see my host family, and it felt really special to be driving through a city that was once so foreign and to feel at home.