Botswana’s most famous crafts are baskets woven from fan palm fibers. They are dyed with natural pigments: blue from fever-berry leaves, dark brown from magic guarri shrubs, and yellow from the roots of red star apple trees. Some baskets take a month to make. Nearly all lodges sell baskets, but you can also purchase them online.
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Tour Okavango on a Mokoro
Tour Okavango on a mokoro, the dugout canoes of the Bayei people, traditionally carved from jackalberry and sausage trees but now often made from fiberglass. Lodge guides paddle the boats (or pole them like Venetian gondoliers) past lechwe antelope, painted reed frogs, and flocks of purple herons. Most lodges offer mokoro trips between June and October.
I've never seen more beautiful sunsets than on a recent trip to the Okavango Delta area of Botswana. Due to the sand and dirt that is in the air naturally, the sunset glow an amazing red color. The sun setting against the horizon, which also includes some interesting tree formations make for beautiful setting sun each early evening.
Uncharted Africa Safari Co. provides guests with the opportunity to do a mobile safari expedition on the Okavango Delta. This 5 day mobile safari allows you to stay in mobile tented camps in different locations within the Moremi Game Reserve, as well as boating out on the delta. For a few nights, we stayed on an island in the delta in just mosquito net tents. During the day the boat takes you to view game along waters including an incredible bird sanctuary and up close encounters will crocs!
An experience of a lifetime and one not to be missed when traveling in Botswana's famous Okavango Delta, hiring a poler and cruising its still waters in a traditional wooden mokoro was a definite highlight of the year we spent living in-country. Raw beauty, appearing to be barely touched by human hands, and the sky reflecting in the clear waters makes this sanctuary surrounded by the dry, dusty heat that is Maun feel like an oasis. Stay at Maun Lodge outside of the Delta to save some money and ask the staff to guide you to a local poler--you'll be forever glad you did.
Before I was enveloped in the cocoon-like, eco-conscious luxury at Abu Camp in the Okavango Delta, I was loathe to ride up high on an elephant's back (the camp's USP). An elephant-back safari seemed like a throw back to colonialism, a flashback to a less aware, less conscious time. What an eye-opening, heartwarming experience it turned out to be, on so many levels. Imagine feeling, rather than hearing, the vibrating rumblings that elephants make to communicate. As we moved effortlessly through the waterways of the Delta the babies walked alongside their mothers, stopping from time to time to suckle. What a privilege to get so close to a herd of elephant for a few days - educational and inspirational.
Game drive safaris are only a small part of the dream-come-true travel experience at Abu Camp in Botswana. The real highlight is the daily interaction with the Abu herd, a group of elephants who have been rescued from bad circumstances and/or born into the herd by their rescued mothers (who mate with wild elephants; the elephants here are not caged, and are free to leave any time). The most famous elephant here is Paseka, who I was luckily enough to get to know (and hug).
One day, the camp's rangers were out on a game drive, when they witnessed an orphaned baby elephant being attacked by hyenas. Covered in injuries, the baby ran alongside their vehicle, hoping to find protection. As both lovers of elephants and advocates of letting nature do what it must, they were torn. They wanted to help but were hesitant to intervene, and made the difficult decision to leave the scene, and hope that the young elephant would survive.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, they went to their generator room, only to find her, scared and shaken but alive, waiting to be found. Apparently she had followed the truck back to camp and sought shelter inside the small room, somehow aware that Abu Camp offered a safe haven for elephants just like her. They named her Paseka, meaning Easter, and the elephant herders, and the elephants themselves, adopted her.
I learned so much about nature and beauty from my trip to Botswana, but I think the biggest lesson learned was from an elephant.
This 'Henrietta' was not too keen on our open air safari vehicle being so close but I got a few good shots before we moved on in the early morn...
Don't be fooled, I wasn't THAT close! When on safari you want to appreciate all that is around you but also if you're serious about getting good shots, bring a good camera!
I was able to get this hippo rising out of the water with a long lens and a very steady hand.
Flying Over and Bush Camping In the Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is a massive inland delta in northern Botswana, over which I took a 30 minute scenic flight from Maun airport before bush camping. The pilot had said before we took off that no matter how excited we might get over a great animal sighting, we would not be able to redirect the flight. But sure enough, half way through, he yelled "Lions!!!" and then proceeded to bang a hard right and circle above 3 lions for a minute or so. I felt as green as my shirt afterwards but it was worth it. The pilot said he had never seen lions from the air in 2 years of flying multiple flights a day.
Towards the end of the flight we saw a group of people swimming in the delta, not all that far from where we saw crocodiles and hippos. I remember thinking, are those people completely out of their minds? Yet the very next day, I was swimming in the delta myself. Sometimes you just have to trust the locals. They would give you safety assurances, like there is a 95% chance that a certain pool was safe to swim in. It was precisely that 5% chance of danger that kept my two-week trek through southern Africa exciting at all turns.
Here are the mokoro canoes that serve as your transport around the delta, at twilight.