Okavango Journal Day 15

We’re well within motorboat range of Maun, and as such we’ve been seeing a lot more… well, motorboats. And a lot more tourists on motorboats, headed out for day trips to photograph elephants or to watch hippos or to camp on a remote-ish island.

Our long-term plans for protecting the Delta and its catchment depend heavily on tourism, but it’s not hard to see the burden that it can put on an ecosystem. On my way over here from my tent, I picked up a beer can, two condom wrappers and a plastic bag. This tension between the benefits that humans can bring and the trash that they leave is very clear here, where the untouched wilderness bleeds into the more populated southern Delta.

And it is still wild out here. Today we saw more than 40 hippo, 4 buffalo, several dozen Red Lechwe and had a few sightings of the beautiful African Skimmer. Last night a hyena haunted the outskirts of our camp, and we awoke to fresh leopard prints a hundred metres away. Our camp tonight is right at a popular channel crossing for elephant, and we’ve seen four big males cross so far; it’s almost a certainty that they’ll be through camp throughout the night.

Tomorrow we drop two team members off at Delta Camp, then we’ll continue down Mombo and towards the end of the expedition. We’re installing another sensor unit tomorrow, this one giving us a peek into how water conditions change when boat traffic and human presence increases. These sensors, which beam back data via satellite, give us hard data to use as we move forward with our conservation plans in the Angolan Highlands. We’ll need to try to balance the need to keep the ecosystem healthy and thriving with the much-needed monetary support that tourism can bring.

We have just two more nights left on #Okavang016. The last 14 days have gone by very quickly and very slowly at the same time. We hope you’ve enjoyed following along, and we’ll cross our fingers that the next few days will bring us (and you) a few last true wilderness experiences.