There is not much that can beat waking up in one of the most beautiful places in Africa, if not the world. Lying in a bed covered only by thin canvass with the dawn chorus of birds, hippos and if you are lucky the last whooping calls of a spotted hyena or the ending Oomph Oomph of a lion call. The Okavango Delta!
The best time to get out and see wildlife is in the cool early hours of the morning just as the sun is rising before it gets too hot and the animals take shelter from the heat. For photographers this is the first of the two golden times of the day. I like to get out onto a vehicle in the morning primarily because the predators have been out during the night and if they have walked along the animal pathways or jeep tracks their paw prints will be easier to see and it can be easier to track and find them.
The early mornings can also offer some fantastic opportunities for landscape photography as there is often low lying mist that hangs over the water with beautifully fanned wild date palms breaking through the mist. Having an animal like an elephant or giraffe in the frame is the cherry on top.
Once the temperature starts rising it’s time to head back to the camp for a late breakfast and early siesta. However, with so much water around you there is never a dull moment. Hippos, being the most vocal of Africa’s animals, will keep you stuck to your binoculars to see what’s happening. Many bird species also find refuge in amongst the camps tall trees and being an avid birder my head and neck are constantly looking up into the foliage.
In the late afternoon, about two hours before the sun sets, it is time to head back out. This is the time I prefer to hit the water. It always makes you feel cooler on those warmer days. Whether you take an aluminum hulled boat with an out-board motor or the traditional method of mokoro’ing (dugout canoe), the stillness and absolute calm of being on the water is breathtaking. The bigger boats can head further into the channels to search for the animals that are starting to make their way to the water for a drink before the sun sets. Catch and release fishing is also possible and highly advisable from this means.
For the most memorable Delta experience climb into a mokoro. There is no motor and you sit low down, almost at eye level to the water – this is what the Okavango Delta is all about. You are now really part of it! Gliding through the reed beds looking for the near invisible painted reed frogs and if you are lucky to watch a herd of elephants or buffalo drinking on the edge of the banks. Words do not do it justice.
It is now just before sunset which is the second golden hour of the day. Being on the water, the reflections, the light, the silhouettes of the palm trees, it just blows your mind!!
Once the sun has set it is time to head back towards the camp. If you are in a private concession a short night drive could be a possibility. This is an especially good idea if lion or leopard have been seen before the sunset and are on the move and you are able to follow them, otherwise it is best to head back to a cold G&T.
Once back at the camp a sumptuous dinner is often waiting. After such an action packed day, we all often head to bed relatively early. I love to lie in bed listening to all the nocturnal sounds, from owls to the big predators. My favorite night song being the call of a leopard.