Okavango Journal Day 11

A gentian flower in bloom along the flooded bed of the Mapiri floodplain

The clear wide channels we’d been enjoying for the last few days became small clear channels, then became small channels overgrown with reeds and sedge, and eventually became no channel at all, just a smear of water over mud and grass.

The polers of the boats would always rather float than pull, so they try to find a route — whatever route- that will leave some water under the boat. The mokoro is a remarkable piece of technology, able to navigate areas with very little water. Even our overloaded boats with more than 500kg each can float reliably in about 8" of water. But there comes a time when we need to face reality, and after a few last futile pushes, Snapps nodded his head towards me at around 10:30am and said: “We pull.”

And so we did, making slow progress towards the Boro channel. From any spot of high ground (the remnants of a termite mound, perhaps) we could catch a glimpse of this wide waterway, banked by tall green reeds. We inched closer and closer, but by 3am we were exhausted and an island was nearby, so we made camp just a few hundred metres away from our goal.

At this part of the expedition (day 11 of 17), we’re resigned to the fact that wildlife density is decreasing. With each passing day we’re counting fewer antelope and elephant, and while bird densities remain high, our total counts are on the decline. So it was a surprise for us that a pride of lions was near us tonight at camp; indeed they were closer than we’ve heard them so far in 2016. There’s nothing that does a better job of reminding you that you’re still in the wilderness than a lion roaring less than a mile from your tent.

Tomorrow we’ll push for the Boro, then use its swiftly flowing waters to bring us closer to Maun. This is one of my favourite part of the expedition. The channel’s waters are surreally clear, and it feels like you are drifting on top of a densely planted aquarium. It’s also a stretch that has proven very dangerous in the past; there are a lot of hippo and crocodile. Indeed, today’s path should take us to the lat spot that we saw the ‘crocopottamus’ — an enourmous 7 metre Nile Crocodile that we have seen two years in a row.

#Okavango16 is a National Geographic expedition to survey the rich biodiversity of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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