#Okavango16 Journal Day 4

When we pull up our mekoro in Maun on September 4th, we’ll have travelled 340km as the saddle-billed stork flies. Because of wandering channels and detours-slash-shortcuts, we’ll likely have made more than 400km on the water, which works out to just over 20km per day.

But not all days are created equal. Some days are filled with sensor deploys and SASS surveys and camera trap retrievals. Others, like today, are straight-up distance days, when we try to put as many kilometres behind us as we can. This means fast poling, short lunch breaks, and long hours in the hot sun without so much of a suggestion of shade.

We made camp tonight on a dying island dusted heavily with alkaline soda, the result of decades of salinification. When we camp on an island we haven’t been to before, we give it a name, often a Yei word or an animal name. This island is now (semi-officially) Welcome Island, as an old elephant greeted us with no consternation whatsoever when our mekoro pulled ashore.

Today we push for Madinari, which translates to ‘Mother of the Buffalo’. From there we’ll be scant kilometres away from Mombo (Chiefs’ Island) and the central Delta. In every previous transect this stretch has been mostly dry, meaning we’ve had to pull our boats through the swamp using portage harnesses. But Comet tells us that in the last year new populations of hippo have made their homes there, and he’s hopeful that they have bashed out a few clear paths through the reeds for us to follow.

We’re hopeful, too.

#Okavango16 is a National Geographic expedition. This year is our 7th complete transect of the Okavango Delta. You can follow along on Twitter and Instagram, and see the whole expedition route and all data collected on IntoTheOkavango.org.

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