Flying over the Okavango Delta
Take to the air! Gain an appreciation of the sheer scale of the remarkable Okavango Delta, Viewed from scenic helicopter flights the Delta is a watery paradise of islands and myriad waterways. Remote areas can only be reached via air and the open door helis offer a unique opportunity to hover within zoom lens distance of Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacles.
As we took off from the makeshift bush helipad I felt excitement building as I readied my camera and GoPro. Circling over the waterways we witnessed large pools of water with resident families of hippos, who couldn’t be bothered by the clamor of the heli blades. Elephants were startled though, not sure what to make of the noise, and scrambled their young ones into cover under the acacias. Giraffe stared at us with disdain, quickly going back to foraging.
After taking several shots and some live video, I abandoned my cameras to marvel over the landscape unimpeded by equipment. For a few minutes I absorbed the soul stirring emotions as we bobbed and weaved over the mopane woodlands. It was overwhelming, a familiar feeling to when I had scaled Kilimanjaro for the 1st time several years ago. I hoped the flight would never end!
Safari Game Drives
Climbing into an open-sided 4WD and trundling across grassy plains in pursuit of iconic African wildlife is a safari dream for many. At ground level, the silhouettes of dead trees dotting the palm covered islands lend themselves to a surreal landscape. And drives in the Okavango do not disappoint. During the wet season in Nov-Feb the grasslands buzz with activity – migratory birds fly all the way from Siberia and pink flamingoes, cranes and stork gorge on fish in the fast filling pools. Predator and herbivores alike give birth and needless to say the hunting is productive and plentiful.
Okavango Delta supports 164 mammalian species, 157 species of reptiles and 540 species of birds. Key predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and endangered African wild dogs find sanctuary here alongside huge herds of wildebeests, buffaloes, zebras and various antelope species. We left our camp, Vumbura Plains, and quickly encountered several herds of zebra and antelope. Our guide correctly judged that a hunt was imminent as we came across a young lion basking in the shade. The guide was not fooled though and before we knew it a hunt was on. The lion had been watching an adult male warthog as it browsed through the brush. The lion suddenly sprung to life and began stalking Pumba in earnest and we followed as quickly as possible and but a large pool of water blocked us. Rather than circumvent it our guide decided to brave the murky waters and follow the lion closely. That decision was clutch as the lion sprinted across the grassy plain in front of ours. I could have sworn that the wheels were fully submerged as we skidded through the slush; I clutched my camera trying to keep an eye on the lion at the same time. Pumba caught the lion’s scent and scampered into the thick brush heading for its burrow – too little too late. The lion was determined and a skilled hunter and in a flash it crossed the clearing and leapt through the air (reminding me of Randy Moss catches for touchdowns) and swept the warthog off its feet with a resounding swipe. Stunned, Pumba tried to scramble to safety but it was all over.