By far the best, hardest, most emotional day so far. We spent the whole morning until 2pm slowly poling, pushing and portaging ourselves through thick reed beds and papyrus before popping out on the other side in paradise. Quite literally.
Emerald green paradise filled with life, buzzing, flying, feeding, swimming around us. Crocs, hippos, elephants everywhere. As we broke through the reeds we were met by three huge pods of hippo within the first hour. Up close and personal.
It is particularly alarming when your mokoro is stuck on a sand bank and you are struggling to move it when hippos start gathering around you to display and have a look. Best policy is to remain calm and collected appearing to simply carry on with what you are doing. Stunning interactions in a stunning place 5km from Mombo.
The island we have decided to camp on tonight has two pods of hippo in front of it and is covered in elephant. This is truly bush that speaks to your soul from the dawn of time with a chorus of hippo, distressed elephant, lion, and hyena.
All night in the almost full moon light. The whole night a battle raged across the floodplain between the lions and hyenas. Screaming and roaring for hours. Ahhhh… wilderness with teeth.
The vibe in camp was one of excitement and exhilaration. Chatter around the campfire was spirited and would only stop to listen for new sounds, after which discussion flared up again. Our little group of 9 was in paradise. This is what a feels like to be alive, truly stimulated by the environment around you. This is and will always be the big show, real life, my spiritual home, our spiritual home.
If the world was to lose a place like this to development and mismanagement, a part of all of our souls would be gone forever. World Heritage Status is essential.
As we change and control the natural world close to us, we assume dominion over these ecological functions and manage our world for our own safety and security. With this security comes great responsibility, which ends up being stressful, messy and eventually unsustainable.
Look at our urban centres. Out here in the wilderness we do not control anything at all, which, to me, is a liberating feeling. No longer do we have to worry about who is supplying the products I like, the food I prefer, the services I need. Questions like “How much does it cost?”, “Can I afford it?”, and “Did I lock the gate?” become distant uneasy memories. We were all born to find ourselves in the wilderness of our destiny… Go now and find it, love it, and then protect it with your life!
The wetland bird survey chugged on slowly through the morning with a few warblers and coucals in the papyrus and reedbeds we were slowly poling and pushing our way through. As soon has got through and in between the hippos we recorded some extraordinary sightings, including African Skimmers, Wattled Cranes and a Slaty Egret heronry in a small palm island.
We recorded over 250 sightings in an hour, including over 600 wetland birds. This place is just amazing.
Tomorrow we push on down Chief’s Island to see what we can see…
Find the Safari interactive magazine feature story on last year’s Okavango expedition here