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Posted on April 26, 2019
In October 2018 I was lucky enough to ride with David Foot again, but this time on his Okavango Mobile Safari ride in Botswana.
This safari was unlike any other I have done within the Okavango Delta before and became a weeks adventure going right back to basics and feeling at one within the bush.
Upon arrival into Maun we were taken to for a quick pit-stop at a local cafe where we enjoyed a refreshing drink and had our debrief from David about what was going to happen during our week ahead.
After a quick change into our riding kit, we were off in a 4×4 for a road journey out of Maun and to the Buffalo Fence. This only took about half an hour and before I knew it, I was away from the heat of town and the dust and transported into a green oasis of the Okavango Delta. Waiting for us there were the horses, all tacked up and ready for the off, plus a platoon of mokoros to take our luggage into camp.
Unlike the majority of other safaris in Africa, this one leaves absolutely no footprint. There is no back-up vehicle or logistics truck whatsoever. It is literally just you, the horses and the mokoros (dug out canoes), and when the flood water is low a team of pack donkeys take over instead.
Within 15 minutes of riding we encountered our first elephant sighting. It was glorious sight to see and I couldn’t stop myself feeling amazed at how quick it had been to find them.
After about an hour on horseback we arrived into camp just as the sun was beginning to set.
This is bush camping at its most simplistic level. There isn’t any fancy decking, plunge pools or artwork decorating your tents. Instead each camp is sited at a beautiful spot on an island, with surrounded trees for shade and usually close to a smallish pool that you can cool off in should the heat get too much.
Tents can be made up as doubles or twins, and there are a couple of smaller single tents available too for solo travellers.
I was surprised just how roomy inside these tents actually were, with plenty of space to stand up and move around.
Each evening we ate like kings and queens, with food being served and kept warm upon the open fire. Table was set underneath the star filled skies and the night time chorus struck up. Africa comes alive at night with her noises and often in the middle of the night in camp we would stir to the bark of a leopard wandering past or the hyena calling in the distance. Plus of course the excitement of hearing a lions roar, trying to find where their buddies are!
The week continued to surprise me with lots of wonderful game sightings including all those you would expect to see within the Delta. However I was amazed at the size of some of the buffalo herds we encountered, and was able to sit quietly on my horse and watch them run straight past us.
It was utterly fascinating watching how David would consider which direction the wind was blowing, so that we could approach the elephant downwind, so as not to spook them away. As a result we got some wonderful moments being able to watch them going about their day to day life of eating and bathing.
There were a lot of firsts for me this week too…. these included seeing my first honey badger, my first leopard from horseback, my first attempt at paddling a mokoro (under the careful instruction of a local poler). In fact this lesson caused a great deal of hilarity in camp as it is not as easy as it looks!
We would move camp every few days, so on the camp moving days we would ride for a long morning. Stop for a saddlebag picnic lunch followed by a siesta in the heat of the day. Then mount up and ride onto our new camp.
On non-camp moving days we would have a mornings ride, return to camp for lunch, and then either enjoy another wander out on horseback in the early evening, or alternatively go for a bush walk or take the mokoros out to a large hippo filled pool to watch the sun go down.
The riding out was just superb. We were all matched perfectly to our horses, and we all lived for each and every ride. Whether it was the quieter evening rides whereby one could just enjoy the peace of the bush watching the game meander past, or be it the sporty canters we enjoyed along the beautiful lakes and upon the open plains. Plus surprisingly, despite it being October, there was still plenty of water to wade occasionally through too.
However one of the highlights for me was simply being at one with the nature and being so totally removed from all that our demanding lives usually dictate to us. For example it became the norm in the middle of the day to dive into a small delta pool after riding to cool off – I didn’t care how dirty my toenails became or that I was wearing clothes, and even the odd piece of hippo poo floating past didn’t phase me. It was simply a wonderful memory I will forever have. Together with a smiling face.
There’s just so many things I could go on and on about, and I honestly was sad when we reached our final day. However as usual David’s guiding didn’t disappoint and we happened across more elephant, a leopard tortoise, endless birds that David knew each and every name of…… the list goes on and on…
I promise I won’t post every picture I took, but I wanted to show a few as these were all taken by me, with a very simple ‘point and snap camera’. It just proves how great the game sightings were.
We eventually reach the end of our journey, where the mokoros met us with our luggage and we had to bid a very sad farewell to our horses.
I would simply say that this safari is so different to any I have encountered before it is certainly one to experience. It was a real childish indulgence to allow oneself to get so absorbed in the nature and go home without having looked into a mirror for 7 days or in fact brushed my hair. Reminiscent of summer holidays and dirty knees from my childhood in fact.
Thank you David, I adored every single second and moment!