Genesis

Between those wonderful teen years when ones children are proud, unsure, striving for independence, and have a hardly containable idealism and reach for the future, and those years two decades later when, no longer unsure, their pride tempered by experience, and that future in part achieved, there is nonetheless a loss as parent and child navigate their separate paths in the world. It is a loss in which, no matter how close the family or frequent the visits, they realize they no longer really know one another in the way they once did. The reason is simple: they no longer live together.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria, I had been to Africa, and after my service, travelling through eastern Africa with my wife to be, we had seen the incredible wild life, even then in decline, on the plains of the Serengeti.

My son Hobbes, daughter Laura, and her two children Alex and Julia, ages nine and eleven had never been to Africa. I had long wanted to go to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, today one of the few places remaining in the world to see wild animals in relative abundance and in their natural environment.

Margaret Betchart and Taunya Deyoung of Betchart Expeditions worked with my daughter and myself to put together a family friendly itinerary that in the event could not have been better. Altogether getting from home, San Francisco, to the three camps in the Okavango, and back involved 22 take-offs and landings, eight of them in “on-call” six passenger bush planes, the latter the only way to get to the camps and land safely on their short partially improved runways. Without Taunya and Margaret navigating this airline hell for us, the trip might never have gotten off the ground.

The blog that follows describes our adventures on this trip.

The default posting for WordPress blogs is most recent post at top. I wanted the posting order to be in the order we visited the camps. To achieve this, posting dates are inverted.. Our first and last days were November 22, 2011 and December 1. The posts for these days are dated, respectively, December 1 and November 22.

The photographs were taken with a Canon Elph 300 HS digital camera and are copyrighted.

Richard Holmquist

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Oddballs Camp

Oddballs, on the edge of Chief’s Island and the Boro River was the first of three camps we visited, the other two being Sango Camp and Elephant Valley Lodge.  Oddballs was by far my favorite  –no motorized vehicles other than the light plane that brought us there from the Kasane airport some 300 km distant.  Power –all two lumens of it– was from a single small solar panel, though there was generator backup.  Running water, from the river, was hot, but showers –bucket, hoisted by hand.  Home, a dome tent.  We were the only family in the camp.  It was great.

The first order of  business  was to sign an  indemnity release form.  The second was an orientation by our guide Kotsi on how to behave if encountering close up a leopard or a lion.  With one you look them in the eyes, simply a sizing of each other up, like being in Greece.   With the other you avoid looking in their eyes because it is taken as a sign of aggression, like a 49ers football fan looking at a New York Giants fan.  None of us could remember which mode applied to which animal so in the event we were all probably goners.

Getting around was by the poled  log canoes called mokoros that had been dug out by hand, their bottoms covered by straw to keep one’s bum out of the water that had splashed or leaked in.  This was an ultimate mode of transportation relaxing to both body and spirit.  The relaxation did not however extend to trailing one’s hands in the water –crocodiles!

Arising early in the morning, a simple breakfast of tea or coffee and a muffin was followed by poling across the Boro River to the Moremi reserve where we climbed up the bank and hiked for the next four hours in  35 °C temperatures and 80% humidity from the delta marshes even though it was mid November and there had been no rain since May.  The food at lunch back at the camp, and dinner, was not fancy, but it was healthy, tasty, and filling.   We then had a couple of hours to rest up for a shorter excursion between four and seven in the afternoon/evening.  It could be an extended mokoro trip through the delta to spot hippos or crocs, or an exploration of a different section of the reserve to spot animals.  The evenings were pleasant with cool sunsets.

The first rain of the season occurred the second day we were there and it gave the delta a very different mood on our morning hike the third day.

For me, the best part of the experience was being simply another species sharing that unique environment so diverse in beauty and life forms, walking, or close to the water, in a mokoro, in their space, and without fear.

The Awesome Okavango Landscape

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Oddballs Camp

The Lodge

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Oddballs Camp

Bush

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Oddballs Camp

The Village

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Sango Safari Camp

Some of the pilots employed by the bush airlines are “earning their hours”, as was the one from Boston who had flown us safely from Kasane to Oddballs Camp. The runway at Oddballs camp was short, perhaps just adequate for a successful takeoff by an experienced pilot. A month before two planes had crashed on takeoff, one with fatalities. As we taxied towards the tree line it was a relief as the plane rose just above them .

Wildlife viewing at Oddballs had been on foot. At Sango the safaris were by jeep, mokoro, and as needed bush walk. The camp, by the river Khwai, borders the eastern edge of the Moremi reserve, and the terrain was somewhat drier than that at Oddballs.

Mokoro

In the cooler late afternoon to evening, we would use the Mokoros to navigate the Khwai River –purest relaxation, and an opportunity to see crocodiles and hippos in the river or coming down to shore from the grasslands.

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