Weekend Jaunt to Jao Camp

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We
finally made our first big trip here! We decided to take advantage of low
season discounts to go up to the Okavango Delta for a weekend (which is one of the most
expensive excursions in Botswana and maybe one of the more expensive in Africa
as a whole!) The reason for the high prices is the extreme isolation of the
delta. The Okavango is an incredibly unique environment – it is the only inland
delta in the world! The words themselves sound ridiculous – how could you have
a delta in a land locked country?? Well it is possible and it is a true miracle
of nature. What is even more amazing and perplexing is that the Okavango Delta
floods every year during the dry season! When the whole of the country of
Botswana is as dry as a bone, the banks of the delta start to overflow and
flood the northwest corner of the country. The source of the water is the
highlands of Angola. Rainy season in Botswana and Angola is Dec – Feb. During
this time rainwater collects in the higher elevations of Angola then slowly
over the following months starts the long journey of trickling down into rivers
and streams until it reaches Botswana in early May. The land completely
transforms from a vast dry savanna to a huge shallow flood plain connected by
rivers and streams.  All the animals that
inhabit the delta are adapted to water but some animals (like lions, leopards,
cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, zebra, and giraffe) prefer to spend their time on
dry land. They can sense when the waters are about to overflow and make their move
to the few patches of land that become dry islands in the flood season. As you
can imagine these islands become amazing places to view wildlife during the
floods. 

 

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 On
our last trip to Botswana we visited the delta during the flood and did a 5 day
boat camping trip. This gave us a great sense of animal life during the wet
season. On this trip we found out what the delta is like during the “green” but
dry season. To reach the delta we flew to Maun then had to get a charter flight
out to our camp (flight is the only way to reach the camps of the Okavango
because there are no roads through the protected area).  We stayed at Jao Camp that is run by
Wilderness Safaris. The only way we were able to get even close to affording this
5 start camp is that we booked the trip 3 days prior to take advantage of last
minute price cuts. We also get discount rates with our Botswana residence
permits. The camp was nothing short of amazing! Everything was thatched and
made to look like it belonged in nature.

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The buildings and walkways were all
elevated because in the wet season water (along with hippos) comes up to just
below the rooms.  Our room was incredible
and looked like something out of a classic movie. There were only 3 other
people staying at the camp so it felt like we had the place to ourselves most
of the time. We had our own private guide who did his best to help us find the
animals we wanted to see. Our biggest excitement was discovering a leopard
lounging in a tree right above us. 

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We watched him for over and hour until a
troupe of baboons chased him out of the tree (who knew leopards where afraid of baboons!). 

The
other highlight was seeing a lioness devour a freshly killed Red Lechwe (an
antelope type creature native to the Okavango area). 

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At first she sat and
licked the carcass for about 15 minutes before even taking a bite. It almost
looked like an act of kindness toward the lifeless animal, but our guide said
it was because she is a finicky eater and wanted all of the fur to be smoothed
down before she started eating!

 

I loved seeing the land all green
and lush. Instead of being surrounded by a sea of blue, we were surrounded by a
sea of lush green grass. The best part of the delta is the feeling of being
completely enmeshed in nature. You definitely feel like an outsider that has
been given the precious gift of being able to peer into a secret world.

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By most
standards this was a very quick trip – but for some reason when you are so
isolated time tends to standstill and give you a sense of being away from the
world for much longer than you really are. I felt like we were gone for a week!
A great start to our explorations of Botswana!

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