Bill Burns visit with Desert & Delta Safaris
Our FAM Posse was now poised to move on and say goodbye to the staff. From the landing strip at Leroo La Tau, we’d make our way in the afternoon sun and fly on to our next destination at Camp Okavango, nestled in the middle of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. Camp Okavango was the first camp to be established here. As our pilot makes the turn to line up for our landing, I see a grassy well-manicured
landing strip, not a hard calcrete runway, rather a fairway to land on and a few divots where the landing gear strikes the runway. As we deplane, Camp Okavango’s sign at the landing strip said it all. in its rustic nature, it drips authenticity. We are escorted onto the freshly oiled raised walkway with long radiused paths that lead to the mothership. These paths were built in a way as to go around trees, thus keeping in line with the sustainability ethos each camp adheres to. We approached the center and were met by more warm faces. We could see there’s a large tree in the center of the camp with an inclusive take-what-you-want bar on the other side of the tree trunk. Each elevated pathway to our suites extended from the center tree out like branches. It was as if Camp “O” was an eco-system within another grande eco-system of the Okavango. Well done Desert and Delta! The raised structures allow wildlife to pass through unhindered —— we are in a wildlife zone! I enjoyed my hippo visit the following morning. Andrew had two bushbuck resting underneath his suite. Each guest will be escorted to their rooms each night and morning before sunrise. For me, the Okavango meant coming home.
My first treks into the Okavango came in the early 1990’s. I worked at the edge of the Okavango where Manico and I would drive straight into the Okavango from Etsha 6 and camp across the buffalo fence. This for me was an unforgettable time for firsts. These moments did something to me that was hard and difficult to explain to others. My moment of reality came when I was standing on terra firma into a world of which I had only dreamt of — from watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and Marlin Perkins – Wild Kingdom, Patterns in the Grass, Jewel of the Kalahari by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, and reading Cry of the Kalahari, by Mark and Delia Owens. —
I was now into a place that could have been the same 100,000 years ago as it is now. This moment was really no dream. There were no roads, just the trails of flattened grassland and the molapo we used to find our way back out to the village of Gumare. We shared the same space with dazzling herds of zebra and sentient elephants, iconic lions, towers of giraffe and stunning birds. I remember the spine-tingling moment when I heard lions from inside my tent. Who can sleep after that?
From these first enduring experiences and discoveries I developed a passion for Botswana, as well as a deep drive to share this experience with others. Apparently, there are others with this affliction! People have been touched by the experience I share in discovering this magnificent place and one can feel it sink into your bones. I think it is my responsibility to share Botswana magic with others and to help ensure that this small country remains one of Africa’s great destinations and progressive African nations in the fight against poaching. Were in the business of making dreams come true…..but much more than that. I vicariously live through those firsts again and again through my clients.
“To ensure a peaceful and genuine safari experience, Camp Okavango accommodates just twenty-four guests. There are eleven intimate Safari suites and one Family suite consisting of two bedrooms and each with an en-suite bathroom. Each of the guest suites has been built on individual raised wooden platforms and set beneath the thick Okavango Delta vegetation. The en-suite bathrooms have double vanities, double shower and a separate water closet (with a view). The stack away sliding doors open onto a private open-air viewing deck offering beautiful views over the Okavango Delta.”
As we tour this camp, we just wish to increase our stay. Our Legendary FAM group is bonding through shared experiences all wonderful and slightly indulgent EPIC adventures. Eat, sleep, EPIC stuff, eat, drink, eat repeat. The following early afternoon we walk out on foot back to the landing strip — (someone should leave some golf clubs and a palm nut to practice chip shots here) We were going on a canoe excursion or mokoro ride. Each mokoro can take two guests with one guide who is the poler. We have such a lovely relaxing time out there, even learned how to may a Botswana lei out of water lilies — “tswee.” We were able to get close to a crock and snap a few pictures for posterity and scoot around through wide and narrow channels and enjoy the present. Ohmmm! It’s a most excellent way to see the Okavango. Andrew, our fearless cub was sitting behind me when suddenly he broke out into song, and he sang a traditional Botswana song as our guide took the high notes, and I took the low notes. We were very
impressed with ourselves and were somewhat disappointed when the others were unable to hear the magic that came from our legendary harmonies. We floated on. Then like Swiss timing another jaw-dropping vista. Who are these people standing knee deep in the river? Why, of course, it’s the Camp Okavango staff complete with a white table cloth-cloaked full bar with food resting on a real sandbar in the river. We take off our shoes and cool our feet and enjoy the Sundowners (drinks) before the sun falls below the horizon. EPIC!
“Take Him To The Helicopter!” OK, so we thought this was another nice end to the day. Sorry, premature assertation made. No there’s a helicopter landing near us, and it is going to be taking us to our new location — Xugana Island. Stay tuned…….