Magical family safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta

Leopard1

Our year of travel and adventure hit a high note when we arrived at the Nxebaga Safari camp in Botswana. My two children aged 12 and 13 and our tutor had been traveling for the last seven months, learning about much more than just Math and English. We had asked many friends and family who knew Africa well where they would go if they could only do one safari and the answer was unanimously Botswana. I mistakenly thought the Okavango Delta would be a place of water birds, crocodiles and hippos, but it was so much more. We had a wish list that included elephants, zebra, giraffe, hyena, lions, leopard, antelopes and fish eagles to name a few. Each day we would say to our trusty guide, “Moffat, find us a _____”, and over the course of 4 days he had found every animal on our list and then some. The weather had been so glorious with crystal clear blue skies each day that we finally said “Moffat, find us a cloud!” …. and he did! Here is an excerpt from a journal I kept from our memorable days at Nxebega. We were completely spoiled and enchanted and hope to someday return to this magical place.


“Today we were up at 5:30 for another game drive, the stars were still large in the sky with only the faint glow of orange dawn on the eastern horizon. They gave us a light meal before setting off, fresh fruit and yogurt, coffee tea and fresh baked still warm muffins! We’d heard that a female leopard had been spotted the day before near the air strip where we had landed yesterday so we set off in that direction with high hopes, even though we were told that these spotty creatures were notoriously hard to find. It would turn out to be our lucky day because we spotted her (no pun intended!) just less than an hour from camp. It is hard to describe the excitement of seeing this spectacular animal in the wild. She seemed unfazed by our presence and continued to survey the horizon looking for a meal before the heat of the day made hunting impossible. We were told that this particular female had 2 cubs who were almost 2 years old, and almost able to go out on their own. The mother hunts alone and when she makes a kill she leaves it and goes to fetch the cubs for their meal. Many leopards will drag their kills into the trees to keep the lions and hyena off them. I must have taken over 100 photos, her every move was so purposeful and graceful, we were captivated. Eventually we decided she deserved her privacy so moved on in search of the lions.

In the evening we went to the river for a mokoro canoe trip. These boats were originally made from hollowed out trees long and narrow propelled from the stern by a push pole. When we arrived at the canoes it quickly became apparent that we weren’t going anywhere for there in the bay where we were planning to launch were 4 hippos, 3 adults and a baby! When they saw us they made a marvelous roaring noise, very low frequency, a warning to stay away. It is said that of all the animals in Africa, hippos are responsible for the most human fatalities. For such large and cumbersome looking animals they move amazingly quickly, and they take no prisoners! They were waiting for us to leave and night to fall, so they could venture onto land and graze in the cool evening. As the sun set we found a quite place for a picnic and headed back toward the lodge. Along the way, Moffat our guide said he knew of a dead giraffe that might attract hyenas, so we planned to pass by on our way home. How he found it in the middle of the dense bush I will never know, but when we got close there was no mistaking the smell of decaying flesh! Ugh. We were in luck, there, chewing furiously on a long front giraffe leg was a spotted hyena. Soon more came and it was a carion feast of sorts. The giraffe was down to a skeleton at this stage and in the darkness we could see its ribcage sticking up like a shipwreck on the rocks, its long neck and head still attached. We used the red spot light to observe the scavengers chewing away at the bones, and when we could take the smell no longer, we turned for home. En-route to the camp we could see some lanterns up in the trees and a bright bonfire. Moffat told us we would stop at a fisherman’s camp to pick up some fresh fish before dinner, but as we got close we realized that dinner had come to us. The staff had prepared a feast under the stars! The night air was cool and still as the lanterns flickered high in the tree branches, tables for the 18 guests were set with white linen tables clothes and silver cutlery and a barbeque was sizzling wonderful aromas nearby. We feasted like kings and laughed about the day’s adventures, until we were all too tired to eat or drink anything more. Back to camp and sleep came quickly, another magical day in Africa.”

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