I’d lie if I told you I slept like a baby the night before. Crazy thoughts continuously popped up and kept me awake, strangely enough malaria was not one of them even though we were in the zone. Everyone goes on a malaria trip before traveling to malaria zones, me being one of them including overheard conversations at dinners, tours and airports. In hindsight, I think we give it more thought than it actually deserves. We were on the pills and excessive bug spray anyway, of course sold at ridiculous prices, which prompted me to believe that we may be victims of a pharma scam.
The reason I bring this up is because whatever stirred my overall anxiety, most of the time trivial matters, I neglected as soon as I recognized the encompassing calmness represented by innocence, humbleness, and gratitude.
Our first activity after breakfast included a mokoro ride down the Okavango Delta. We cruised down to Poppa Falls with the big boat and then got onto the mokoro, a canoe dug out of a tree trunk. However, the ones used on tours are made out of fiber glass, which makes us less prone to attacks and strong wakes.
All three of us balanced ourselves in, while our guide commanded the mokoro from the stern and reassured us that ‘he got this’. I totally freaked out because the narrow canoe was sensitive to the slightest movement, we could have easily tipped over. I wanted to get off, but then relaxed into it after I felt like an idiot yelling in fear. So, I trusted our guide who said he’s been at it since he was born. My gut told me to believe him. We glided through the delta unperturbed by hordes of tourists and camera lenses – BIG advantage of being on the Namibian side of the Delta – tranquility. The river was ours.
Through our guide’s innate knowledge of the natural reserve, we learned a ton about fauna and flora and their native species. We rode closely to a crocodile jaw, a group of hippos looking daggers, and delicate round birds’ nests that hung on the canopy of trees. According to our guide, we were the first tourists of the year mokoro-ing the semi flooded river. Fortunately the hippos were neither suspicious nor hungry. Besides, hippos are herbivores, until you’re up in their grill. Finally, he poled us to shore and crash landed through the tall leaves (which could have easily poked our eyes out) and onto the bank. We escaped blindness and relaxed on the balcony facing the Delta, once again….
After lunch, we headed to Mahango Game Park for a late afternoon game drive, half an hour away from our lodge. We entered the reserve, turned right and began our safari, welcomed by a group of impalas (not again!). Our guide weaved us through narrow tracks as he drove towards the waterhole. It amazed us how observant the guides were regardless of how fast they drove. We saw a dead bull (on the track), embellished with buzzing flies attacked a week ago, fresh lion tracks that led us to nothing, and scattered piles of elephant dung.
Our eyes lit up when we saw three elephants. As we approached them, for what looked like the patriarch of the herd , flapped his ears and ushered the other two to walk away. We knew something wasn’t right. The elephant snuck his way towards us, hiding behind the bushes (they can hide) assuming we were ivory poachers. Elephants don’t forget, particularly the ones in Namibia that are vulnerable to tusk poachers. We left immediately. A large group of tourists in 4 vehicles were approaching. Our guide warned them about the angry elephant. They drove on nonetheless.
As we drove out of this part of the park, we saw a lone buffalo from a far running around, while I feared an ambush. We saw the same group of impalas, but this time with their ears on full alert. We spent 10 minutes beating a dead horse. Joyless, we drove away and entered the other side of the park to see the iconic baobab tree.
On our way, we saw a group of antelopes, in particular a large number of lechwes taking in the sun, by the banks of the massive wetland. Impalas were chasing each other, in attentive to the velvet monkeys knocking each other off a tree. We drove along the wetland and stopped by the baobab, colossal in size, for drinks and walked around the 800 year old tree as out of sight hippos snorted in the background.
On our way back, we saw a herd of elephants from afar and kudus shying away into the bushes. Since warthogs and a lizard were the highlights of our day, we kissed our hopes of seeing the big whiskers good bye. Instead, we were appreciative of the rawness of nature and acquainting ourselves with a day in the life of these animals.