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Maun, the entrance to the Okavango (by plane)

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How many times have I dreamed of reaching that river that never reaches the sea that appeared in the Botswana documentaries? It is possible that when I opened my eyes in Johannesburg this morning I was still not aware of where on the planet I was going to enter. Fly over the Okavango Delta by plane It has been one of the best entries I have made in all trips, a natural spectacle whose scenario is a true African garden, a geographical oasis accident whose waters spread over the sands of a desert congregating one of the most incredible ecosystems of Wild life of the planet. We are in Maún, the entrance to the Okavango


But before, 2 hours separated our entrance to North Botswana from the capital of South Africa where we spent the night and where we didn't get up early for breakfast.

From Johannesburg to Maun, North Botswana

The distance separating the expendable Johannesburg from the entrance to the North of Botswana, Maun, is just 2 hours of flight although we have been warned that it is usually always 30 minutes late.


A transfer in the hotel suttle, a quick check-in at the Domestic Terminal, a short walk and an "Out of Africa" ​​(gifts 16.15 EUR) entertain us before presenting us in a large boarding hall around 10.30.



And Gaborone? The capital of Botswana is the economic center of the country but a city completely dispensable for the traveler. Unless the idea is to enter South Africa, it is in the North of Botswana where we find part of Kalahari, Chobe and Okavango Delta, some of the most important natural reserves not only of Botswana but of Africa and the world, without neglecting the Nxai or Makgadikgadi basins.

All ready? Are the 11'30 in the morning when our little Air Botswana propeller plane takes off towards the true adventure




Crossing Botswana from the air has resulted in a different experience than I could initially imagine. Desert and arid lands only interrupted by some paved roads and some small lost oasis. What attraction could anyone bring to this country in the middle of Africa? The answer was already a few kilometers from landing where water begins to flow through the window

"Maun, gate of the Okavango Delta" is the sign that prays as we disembark by the finguer staircase of the outdated city airfield and that we would see for a long time by the tortuous and slow entry procedures (not because they ask you many requirements, but because there are hardly 2 windows and they take it to the "African")



We pass customs and collect the backpacks. Anabel awaits us. She is the visible head of a project, that of Mopane Game Safaris, born of pure passion and that combines the knowledge of a country unknown to the Spanish traveler with that personal touch that has made it a great discovery from the moment we saw it. We assume that you will have many ideas to evolve, but already those small details such as having water as soon as you arrive (at 30ºC), having a quick transfer and accommodation and a first detailed explanation, speak very well of the "journey that begins". 10 travelers divided into two amphibious 4x4s will be the first group in September but I will talk about it later



Those who come from camping tend to use Maun as a key site for provisioning even if the experience is completely different from what we have waiting for. And can something be done in Maun apart from inevitable scale? Absolutely yes. Not only can it be done, but after enjoying it, I think it should be ... Fly over the Okavango Delta by plane!

FLIGHT OVER THE DELTA OF OKAVANGO:Although the best known is the option of the plane, there are two options to fly over the Okavango Delta from Maun as an excursion:

- Flight in light plane over the Okavango Delta. There are several companies that operate a photographic and scenic flight based in Maún whose duration varies between 45 'and 1 hour with price 120-150 $ USD
- Flight in helicopter over the Okavango Delta. There is also the option of doing the same helicopter excursion, whose main advantage is that it flies lower and removes the doors so as not to have a reflection in the crystals. The duration is the same and the price is $ 650 per flight to be distributed among all (be it 2 or 5)

There are scenic overflights by plane, plane or helicopter (leaving the globe aside) in certain parts of the world that must be done yes or yes. That about the "Nazca lines in Peru", "the seaplane over Maldives", the wonder of"Vava'u archipelago in Tonga"or any of the South Seasand even the recent incursion between the "Greenland Fjords"and its infinite white desert. We were not going to miss the opportunity (120 EUR) to fulfill another dream.

Fly over the Okavango Delta by plane

He only river that doesn't want to flow into the sea. Whimsical desire that gives rise to possibly the Africa's most privileged ecosystem whose diversity of fauna attracted for decades of the most passionate scientists, biologists and documentary filmmakers, while others were satisfied to see astonished those impressive documentaries of pure nature.

THE SERIES "JOURNEY TO BOTSWANA" NOW IN YOUTUBE: After the experience in Greenland Many had asked us for the best AUDIOVISUAL EXPERIENCE for this trip and we have listened to you! In our Youtube channel you can see the COMPLETE SERIES and then the chapter of this day without leaving the article you are reading (flying over the Okavango Delta)…

It is no accident that the UNESCO will consider the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site last year and we were going to check it from the moment that our little two-seater plane for Sele and me (our companions went in others, and even Isi and Patri dared with the Helicopter) took off from the same track where they had landed hours before



Those large desert areas that we saw in the morning were transformed at times in large pastures of intense green filled with water channels and vegetation of all kinds from our windows.



The "Jewel of the Kalahari" reaches 22,000 km2 in its time of greatest flood and is capable of converting the most arid land on the planet into a beautiful landscape of life thanks to the more than 11,000 million cubic meters of waters from the highland rains of Angola located more than 1000 km and whose show can be seen even from space (photo: NASA)


It seems incredible how that stream of streams in the Angolan mountains can accumulate such flow in the 80km of the so-calledOkavango Delta panhandle, but even more so is its mouth from the moment they are distributed in two large channels



The meandering Okavango River, with extraordinary geological characteristics and leaving permanent flooded waters in the north, becomes a delta (or rather a river fan) that it flows very far from the sea, at the height of the scorching sands of the Kalahari desert.


It is at that moment when life makes its way and we can even observe it at this distance from the plane. Groups of elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, hippos or buffalo herds they are some of the inhabitants that from the air encompass one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever observed



It is especially exciting to see how whole families of elephants, always very disciplined, they approach the wettest areas at this time of the afternoon. !!Wonderful!


They tell me and I don't believe it. We are in one of the driest years of recent times. Surely that will be evident in the coming days but from the height I would never have imagined it. How will the landscape be in the time of greatest flood?



Islands that appear and disappear according to the level of water, wild animals that move in herds depending on the ecosystem and even! Swimming lions! who have learned to survive these grown individuals (they are said to be the strongest and largest in Africa)


And even going beyond, true canvases of the most abstract art painter.



We are facing one of the great wonders of nature, the one that the Okavango river extends in its more than 721,000 km2 and that leaves different areas constituted in riverside forests further north to dozens of habitats within the delta itself, where lagoons, labyrinthine canals and small ponds convert the North of Botswana into The true heart of the continent.


What can we expect in the next few days? Moremi, a reserve of approximately 3,900 km2 (one third of the Okavango Delta) is the National Park in which the Botswana Department of Wildlife (whose protection of its wildlife is maximum despite some news of our "friend the King" ) allows the encounter between people and wildlife. Lions, buffalo, elephants, hippos, giraffes, antelopes of all kinds will be common in our exploration.




And what else? The "big five" ghost, the leopard, is difficult to observe but is scattered throughout the delta, as well as cheetahs and that great unknown, the lycaons (wild dogs or wild dogs), which find in this area one of their last bastions on the planet (it is believed that there are barely 5,000 copies left).



Bird lovers also have a treasure in the Okavango Delta. More than 400 species of birds with special specimens such as large bustards, African jabiru, fishing owls or vultures, eagles or egrets




Of the plane we barely found out. The feeling of emotion of flying over an overwhelming landscape is such that we are not even aware of any small "boat" that leaves its path. Elephant on the right, beautiful image on the left. The beauty is such that now I feel the special place we face, which I had not been aware of until now.




There is no documentary, at least after a television, that I can explain in words such immensity. In fact, according to our pilot, he begins to turn on himself, I keep wondering how it is possible that where only privileged people used to arrive, we will now be able to do so.




Those of you who know me know that I adore (I think there would be no better way to define it) the unaltered, almost intact places and experiences, where the presence of mass tourism has not distorted the reality of a place, a culture, a landscape, an ecosystem ...


Landing now back at the Maun airfield, after almost 1 hour of experience, I firmly believe that what awaits us ahead these days will be one of those adventures that are not forgotten ... and has not yet begun



For those who doubt the plane, tell them that it has been a very different flight from the "Nazca lines in Peru", with a lot of space behind to leave the backpacks or what you need and also ahead to move and ventilated enough not to pass heat, although perhaps all of this I have only been able to think about it once I left




It's time to wait for our teammates and take a short walk around Maun, while Anabel finishes with the last preparations

Maun Lodge, planning our itinerary

I have to tell you little about Maun. It is a population that has grown wide, scattered houses and where all life revolves around the gas stations where the shopping centers congregate (in fact Sele and I changed at a gas station about 50 EUR to 10 BWP for EUR -Calls Pulas-)



David, who also invites us to first beers of the trip (and it looks like many will fall at sunset), and Noe have been here for a day and tell us that in addition to a main street and some goats there is little to see. Possibly the voice of an improvised "guitarist" is the highlight (by the way, it is forbidden to drink beer on the street, but we find out later - so do not do it)



Already at the Maun Lodge where we stayed, with a closed night, We met the whole group for the first time. 10 people with a traveling spirit and very good atmosphere. What will bring us?



It is disturbing but at the same time exciting to hear Anabel's words regarding what awaits us in the coming days. Perhaps these are the last moments that we will be in contact with civilization because during the next 8 days the disconnection will be absolute, something that I think will allow us to enjoy the experience even more.

ABSOLUTE DISCONNECTION:

It means that we will not have mobile or telephone access (much less internet) in any of the next 8 days until we reach Kasane. But can you send a whatsapp? !NO! And call home to say I'm fine? !NO! Well, send an SMS? !NO! Absolute disconnection means that the closest to the communication will be the smoke signals. We go to the heart of the parks in camp where except for a satellite phone (for emergencies) and the radio between the two cars, there is nothing

Of course I could not miss the first "porra" of the safari. What will be the first non-antelope animal we will see? Elephant, baboon, hawk, giraffe, buffalo, lion or hippo. They all come out! Who will win? So far dinner ... How hungry!



It is time to sleep at least a few hours and leave Anabel and Willie (one of the local guides who will come with us) with the latest preparations and in search of gasoline (there is no gasoline in all Maun! Curious town east ...). I don't fool anyone if I admit that I am very very nervous and excited. It had been a while since I had that mixed sense of uncertainty and adrenaline that the flight over the Okavango Delta from Maun has awakened in me. Tomorrow we start a very special mobile safari!


Isaac (with Sele) from Maun (Botswana)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 20 EUR and GIFTS: 16.15 EUR)

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