Boat to Moremi Game Reserve

On our Botswana safari, we departed the Okavango Delta by boat to the Moremi Game Reserve.

In the morning we watched a team of swallows build a nest under the thatched roof of our cabin.

mud nest with lesser striped swallow
mud nest with lesser striped swallow

A swallow with mud in its mouth would land on the railing.

lesser striped swallow with mud for nest
lesser striped swallow with mud for nest

When the nest was free, the waiting bird would fly into the nest, turn around, stick its head out, deposit the mud onto the edge of the nest, and fly out to make room for the next swallow.

swallow putting mud on nest
swallow putting mud on nest

On the boat ride we saw these hadeda ibises.

hadeda ibis
hadeda ibis

Our guide explained how elephants eat tree bark, using their tusks to scrape bark off trees. Elephant tusks are powerful and sharp.

tree with bark stripped by elephants
tree with bark stripped by elephants

After landing at Moremi, we did a game drive to camp. These two elephants wrapped their trunks around each other.

elephants wrapping tusks
elephants wrapping trunks

In this swampy area, a yellow-billed stork is hunting for frogs and other small animals.

yellow-billed stork and egret
yellow-billed stork and egret

The stork spreads its wing to cast a shadow and make it easier to spot animals in the water.

stork hunting
stork hunting

We stopped for a herd of impalas, a kind of antelope, on the road. Two hundred meters later we arrived in camp.

impalas on the road
impalas on the road

In the camp our tents fronted on a lake, and in the distance ears were sticking out of the water. Our camp was next to a lake with hippos! The photo below was taken from near our tent — we had to stay within the camp. A hippo is exhaling, sending a puff of water vapor into the air like a whale. I’ve since read that explosive exhaling is a threat display, but we didn’t know this at the time. So we enjoyed the lake and hippos.

hippos at the Moremi camp
hippos at the Moremi camp

We did look around camp for grass. At night hippos graze on grass lawns at our lodge in the Okavango Delta. We were told to stay in our cabins until after sunrise. We heard hippos grunting from the grass area behind our cabin, and people saw hippo footprints on the sandy path by our cabin. On that day’s boat ride, we stopped at a remote island with a grassy interior that was mown down. Our guide confirmed that hippos keep the grass short.

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Okavango, Day One – Hippo Pool

After our game walk, we took a boat ride to the hippo pool. A crocodile we saw in the morning had moved to a higher spot on the bank. This photo with people from the other boat shows the size of the crocodile. The boat is much closer to me than the crocodile, so compared to the crocodile, the people appear larger than they actually are.

Nile crocodile on the bank
Nile crocodile on the bank

An African fish eagle in flight over the papyrus. The African fish eagle reminds us of the American bald eagle. Both eagles have dark brown bodies and white heads.

African fish eagle in flight
African fish eagle in flight

We saw dozens of hippos. Some hippos eyed us suspiciously.

hippos eying us
hippos looking back at us

Hippos are aggressive animals. These hippos exhibited a threat behavior. The prominent lower teeth can be up to 50 cm (1.6 feet) long, and they are quite sharp.

hippo threat behavior
hippo threat behavior
hippo threat behavior
hippo threat behavior

Okavango, Day One – Game Walk

On our first morning in the Okavango Delta on our Botswana safari, we took a boat ride for a game walk on an island. Papyrus lines the banks of the channel.

papyrus at dawn
papyrus at dawn

We walked through tall grass on our game walk. Our guides were unarmed — Botswana don’t allow guns on game walks. In Tanzania, two of our guides carried big rifles on game walks, and both had shot and killed a charging hippo on safari.

game walk
game walk

Elephant dung, which is quite large, contains partially digested grass and marula berries beloved by elephants. Our guide is picking up some dung to show us the partially digested grass and marula berries.

elephant dung
elephant dung

We crossed this hippo trail — two tracks with a space between the tracks. Hippos clearly visit this island, but we and our unarmed guides encountered no charging hippos that day.

hippo trail
hippo trail

In contrast, elephants trample a wider trail with only one track. Note that we walked on an elephant trail. Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal. Our guide told us that animals use their only their own trail and not trails made by other animals.

elephant trail
elephant trail
day-blooming lily
day-blooming lily

When we returned to the lodge, our toothy friend greeted us at the boat landing, in case a guest misses a step climbing out of the boat.

crococile at Xugana Lodge
crocodile at Xugana Lodge

Flight to the Okavango Delta

On our last morning in the Kalahari we would fly to the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sunrise painted clouds stretching out to the horizon.

last Kalahari sunrise
last Kalahari sunrise

On the drive to the airstrip, we saw this lion pride and their kill. More on the lions in a separate post.

lion pride and their kill
lion pride and their kill

From our plane, the Okavango Delta stretches into the distance, a flat area with islands, channels, and pools, stretching to the horizon.

Okavango Delta
Okavango Delta from the air

Having seen the BBC video with animals running through the waters of the Okavango Delta, I had hoped to see more animals from the air. This elephant below was the only animal I saw from the air. The lines are the various trails made by animals.

Okavango elephant from the air
Okavango elephant from the air

After the plane landed, we took a boat to our lodge, where this crocodile was sunning himself next to the boat dock. We had read about hippos and crocodiles in the Okavango Delta.

basking crocodile at the lodge boat dock
basking crocodile at the lodge boat dock

In the afternoon we took a ride in a mokoro, traditionally dug out from a log, but now fiberglass. Too many trees were being chopped down to make mekoro (the plural form). The water is shallow; the person standing in back is poling our mokoro, like a Venetian gondolier.

mokoro ride
mokoro ride

The mokoro ride is quiet, calm, and relaxing — movement without sound, like skiing or sailing, When researching our lodge on TripAdvisor, reviewers wrote about their mokoro ride, saying they were told there are no hippos or crocodiles here. But all the waterways are connected, and we saw a crocodile earlier. But on our relaxing mokoro ride, we forgot to ask about crocodiles and hippos, and we didn’t see any.

The setting sun colored the grass golden.

mokoro rides low
mokoro rides low in the water