Be sure to have your camera at the ready in this exclusive reserve that borders the Moremi Wildlife Reserve; you'll want to take pictures of everything. Spacious, comfortable tents on stilts are connected by raised wooden walkways that put you safely above the ground and give you a Tarzan's-eye view of the surrounding bush. You'll sleep in a luxurious, East African–style tent with wooden floors, two comfortable single beds, woven palm furniture, wrought-iron washstands,
and a private bath. A separate thatch dining room, bar, and lounge area, also linked by wooden walkways, looks out over a floodplain. Unfortunately, there are no vistas of water. The camp lies within the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project's research area, which has up to 160 dogs in packs of 10 to 12, so you're almost certain to see these fascinating "painted wolves." The area has a variety of habitats, from marshlands and riverine areas to open grasslands and seasonally flooded plains. Although it's on one of the most beautiful islands in the delta, it's not really a water camp because it doesn't
offer water activities.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
27–11-807–1800-in South Africa
May 14, 2013
After spending just short of a week in Capetown, I was excited to fly first to Johannesburg, and then on to Maun, Botswana. After landing in Maun I was met by a representative of Wilderness Safaris, from there I boarded a Cessna Grand Caravan and embarked on my true journey. While flying over Botswana, and in particular the Okavango Delta, I was dumb founded by its beauty. After the 30 minute flight from Maun to the Dirt airstrip for Chitabe, we neared
the runway and I noticed a large herd of Elephants through my window, immediately my love for Botswana was born. I got off the plane and was met first by the hot African sun, burning away all the worries and uncertainty I carried with me since planning this trip. I was then met by the man that was to be my personal guide at Chitabe, Moe. Moe was not exactly how I imagined a guide in Botswana. He had only a slight accent and when he introduced himself to me as Moe, needless to say, I was a little taken a back. I asked him if Moe was short for something, he chuckled and replied with his real name, Muelemi. He asked me my name, I replied Tim, and he answered back, short for Timothy… Correct? I was shocked and amazed at the fact he knew what my name was, this was something I simply did not expect. As you fly in to your first camp, you will inevitably build an impression as to what you think your guide and the people would be like at that camp. My perceived impression was way off. Moe loaded my bags into the open aired Land Rover, and we embarked on my 7 day journey through the heart of the Botswana wilderness. Within 3 minutes the wildlife permeated the bush everywhere, it was as though they had been waiting to welcome me. As we came around the first bend in the road, on the right side of the Land Rover came several Kudu, a rather large species of the Antelope family distinguishable by white stripes coming down there midsection and the males have a horns that curl and twist. On the ride from the Airstrip to the camp, there seemed to be something different around every bend of the road, it was as though my journey was scripted and every animal knew his part and played it to perfection. Around one bend we spot several Giraffe, walking in the prehistoric way they do, similar to how camels walk, both left legs then both right legs. Driving next to Giraffes gave me a feeling similar to watching the movie Jurassic Park, except only the scenes where gentle herbivores are involved. Around the next bend, a dozen or so impalas with their young take a break from eating the lush grass to give a puzzling look straight at you and your camera. As we continued or drive to camp, I asked Moe how long he had been a guide a Chitabe, he replied about two years, but before that he had worked at Disney’s animal kingdom, basically as an ambassador for Botswana, and before that he was a guide at another camp for 6 years. I said, that’s how you knew what Tim was short for. He laughed emphatically and replied, I am well versed on the ways and customs of the American people. It was as though Chitabe knew it was my first trip to Botswana and they were trying desperately hard to make sure that I avoided the uncomfortable feeling of culture shock. As we headed around the next bend Muelemi got on his radio and spoke in his native tongue, soon I realized he had radioed the camp and old them to be ready to greet me. We pulled up to a round about, where there were 6-8 of the camp staff that waiting to greet me with a heart warming song. The camp manager Joel came up and introduced himself and gave me a cold towel to wipe the remnants of the hot African sun away. I felt refreshed, needless to say. All the staff introduced themselves to me and I followed Joel down the boardwalk to the main part of the lodge. I had seen pictures of the camp on the Internet, but they simply do not do the place any justice. Pictures hit on your sense of sight, but the experience of being there is a sensory orgasm. The combination of the clean African air, the immense beauty of the scenery, the amazingly serene silence until a slight breeze through the tall grass evokes the song of an unidentifiable bird. Couple these feelings with the outstandingly comfortable amenities that will relax every ache and pain you have acquired through traveling an exorbitant amount to get to this magnificent camp, and you will truly understand how I feel about this camp. I walked into the main part of the lodge I note, several large comfortable couches to my right, a well stocked and beautifully made bar ahead and to the right of me, small set of stairs immediately in front of me that leads down to a camp fire set up on a deck overlooking the wide sweeping grass plains immediately beyond the deck and stretching as far as the eye can see. I follow Joel to the left and take a seat on a couch and go over the formal procedure of hearing the camps rules, and signing an indemnity waiver. Joel then asks me if I’m hungry, I sheepishly reply, yeah I suppose a little bit. He looks at one of the camps staff, and they immediately bring me a plate full of a multitude of different tasty snacks, which recharged my energy after a long day of travel. I then followed Joel through the dining area, we walk by a large wooden table that could comfortably seat 20-25 guests at one time, and then down a board walk towards my room. We pass several of the camps staff along the way. I couldn’t help but to notice that everyone of them was smiling and seemed so happy in the what they were doing, I also couldn’t help but to notice that everyone of them greeted me by my name as we passed. Chitabe, and as I would soon find out all of the wilderness properties pride themselves on knowing their guests names from the moment they arrive. This doesn’t seem all that important, but after flying half way around the world and coming to place that you are not certain about, this makes you feel as though you are at an extension of your home. We continued on towards my room and as I saw it for the first time I was truly amazed, as I entered my room I uttered….I could live here. Before you walk through the door, you look to the left and see a private outdoor shower that face out towards the grassy plains, on the deck as well are a couple of chairs perfect spending an afternoon reading a book and relaxing amongst the Botswana wilderness. As you take your first step into to the room, immediately in front of you is a large sprawling bed surrounded by mosquito netting, not that the netting is all that necessary if you keep your door closed, but it definitely makes you feel safe. To the right of the bed is a large desk with a power strip for charging your camera, laptop and all the necessary, and unnecessary, technology you have brought with you. Continue to the back of the room and there is a large shower in the back right corner, perfect for washing the sweat, mosquito spray and excitement from the days activities off. Along the back wall is an area to unpack and put away your clothes, along with a safe, bug spray and an air horn. You soon find out that employee theft is not a problem, but the safe is there instead because baboons are clever and crafty creatures that can open doors, and to commandeer your possessions. In the back left corner is a separate area with a toilet and in the middle of the room on the other side of the bed’s headboard, is a counter with his and hers sinks and a variety of soaps and lotions to pamper yourself with. Joel left me to my room where I layed in my comfortable bed looking through the open doors out at the grassy plains loaded with impalas, I felt as though I was the lucky guy in a safari lodges brochure, relaxing in bed while observing the serene scenery. After relaxing and recharging my batteries, literally and figuratively, I walked out to the outdoor shower and cleansed myself of the days travels. I then proceeded back to the main lodge, where I was met by Muelemi and a selection of the staff members who had set a spread of various food throughout the tables in the lodge. I have worked in many restaurants throughout my high school and college days, and I am rarely impressed by food anywhere. I came to Africa to get outside the norms of the American lifestyle, and to see some of the most beautiful and majestic creatures on earth, but before I had the chance to do that, I was enthralled by the food itself and the presentation of their spread. It’s not often you think of a place where you’re in the middle of the wilderness, not a soul around for countless miles, but in that camp resides a 5 star chef. Several things can ruin an experience, usually its lack of sleep and hunger. I was well rested and well fed, and now ready to experience what I came for. I looked at Muelemi and said, I’m ready when you are. He replied, follow me my friend. We walked to the rover and hoped in, he reached into a cooler and pulled out an aluminum water bottle and handed it to me. He looked at me and said, Tim my friend, it’s important you drink lots of water while you’re here, because dehydration will quickly ruin a safari experience. I took the water bottle from him and replied, that makes perfect sense, Moe you’re a smart man. He quickly rebutted, no smarter than the next guy. We then took off into the bush in search of all the animals people so eagerly travel halfway around the world to see. Within 10 minutes we spot a large herd of Elephants and take off through the bush towards them. No words can explain the feeling you have when your 20 yards from an animals that could crush you without even batting an eye. We were so close to them, but they didn’t even seem to acknowledge our existence, we pose no threat to these animals and they openly accept you observing their behaviors. We spent 30 minutes watching these animals, and took numerous pictures of them. It’s funny because I had purchased a new Nikon camera before this trip and had practiced for a long time so I would be ready to document everything I experienced, needless to say I thought I knew what I was doing. As I was taking taking pictures Muelemi whispers, turn the ISO up. I looked at him and said do you take a lot photos? He grinned, and replied I take a lot… a lot of photos. Once again I was blown away by Muelemi, throughout our game drive he gave me countless tips on how to use my camera to capture the moment more effectively, even being back home in Seattle taking pictures I still think of his advice…. turn the ISO up… turn the white balance or exposure down… get more sky in that shot. I came to Africa to take pictures, instead I schooled on how to take them effectively. We continued on in the game drive, spotting ostrich, Impala, Kudu, Zebra, Giraffe and various other birds and smaller animals. And then the call came on the CB, Muelemi was got so excited, but I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. He got off the CB and grinned at me, he said, you have to see this. He stepped on the gas and the engine roared, with the wind whipping across my face I thought…what are we going to see? After 10 minutes of racing through the bush I spotted another a Land Rover from our camp full of people with camera drawn. I looked to the area where the cameras were pointed, and to my delight I saw a pack of wild dogs. I knew based off of research before hand that a pack of wild dogs was a rare sighting in Botswana. Not only were we watching a pack of wild dogs, but they were mid kill on an impala. This gruesome depiction of life in the African wild is not for the faint of heart, but it was incredibly exciting to me. A lot of people never get to see a kill be made while on safari, but I saw it on my first night. I looked at the other rover and noticed several people looking away, but I couldn’t look away, I was so enthralled and excited at what we had found. We continued to watch until the sun was going down, Muelemi drove me to a watering hole where he put the vehicle in park and we hoped out. He pulled out a cooler and asked me what I wanted to drink. I replied, what do you have? He showed me the contents of the cooler where I noticed he had just about any drink a man could ever want, including, juice, soda, beer, wine, liquor of all sorts. He also had snacks packed with him and we enjoyed refreshments and food as we chatted about the day’s activities and sightings, the perfect end to an incredible game drive. We hoped into the rover and headed back to camp. Upon arrival Muelemi walked me back to my room, it’s important to always have someone with a flashlight walking you to and from your room while it’s dark, as there are frequently animals below the boardwalk in camp. He dropped me off and said I’ll be back in 40 minutes to walk you to the main lodge for dinner. After Showering and loading photos onto my laptop I heard footsteps coming up the boardwalk towards me, then a knock at the door followed by Muelemi’s voice…Tim are you ready for dinner? I replied emphatically, Yes I am. I followed Muelemi to the dining area where I was met by the 12 or so guests staying at them camp. I was surprised at the makeup of the guests in camp; there was a wilderness pilot with his mother, 6-8 other Americans from all over the country, a Swiss couple, and a woman from the Netherlands. As I took a seat at the table and enjoyed a refreshing glass of water, all of the safari guests who had been in camp for a couple of days approached me as though they were lions who smelled fresh blood. They asked me where I was from, what I did for work, what I did for fun and most importantly what brought me to Africa. I dreaded the idea of sitting at a table with a bunch of tourists and making small talk throughout a whole meal, but I was soon comfortable sitting at a table where everyone had a shared interest, this being Africa and it’s wildlife, and I carried on as with old friends enjoying a meal at home. The food again was remarkable, how they came up with the elegant dining options being so away from anything still baffles me. I ate until I couldn’t fit anything else in my stomach and Muelemi walked me back to my room where he asked me if I’d like coffee or tea in the morning I replied, I love coffee, he fired back…. don’t we all. I fell asleep almost instantly after laying on the most comfortable bed I could imagine. Roooooaaaaaaaarrrrr!! I woke up immediately and looked at the clock….4Am. I thought…what on earth is that? I then heard the noise again and realized it was the roar lions in camp. I was scared, excited, and puzzled all at the same time. I thought, what if I wasn’t in a room elevated off the ground, I could be eaten by a lion, then I thought about the people that go on camping safaris in tents out in the bush…what a bunch of crazies. Needless to say, I was so excited I couldn’t fall back asleep. 30 minutes later I heard Muelemi’s footsteps coming up the boardwalk, then his voice…wake up my friend I have coffee. I chuckled and opened the door and gladly excepted his coffee. He said I’m surprised you’re awake already, I replied…were those lions I heard? He laughed enthusiastically and replied, yes and that’s quite a common occurrence. He then said get ready I’ll be back in 20 minutes to walk you to the dining area for a light breakfast before heading out on safari. He was a man of his word, 20 minutes later exactly he was there to escort me. When they tell you they are going to take you to light breakfast, it’s important to note that Africans must have a different definition of what light is. We walked into the dining area and my eyes must have been as large as ostrich eggs, there again was a huge spread of food that could feed a king and his army. I indulged into I felt full, then grabbed a coffee to go as we headed back into the bush. We drove for a about a 1/10 of a mile, before spotting Lion tracks heading out of camp. We followed them into some very thick bush before we lost all signs of the animals, they had out smarted us. Muelemi looked at me and said, Tim what would you like to see today, I thought for a second and I said, a cat of some sort would be cool. He replied, well hopefully I can make that happen, followed by a grin from ear to ear. We traversed through the bush spotting thousands of impalas, Zebra, Elephant, Kudu, Baboons, and various other animals before coming across a large herd of Elephants bathing in a watering hole where we parked and got out to have coffee at sunrise. I felt revitalized, as though there was something in the air the made me feel truly at home in the wilderness. We continued on for several miles before Muelemi spotted tracks off the road. He stopped and examined them, he then turned to me and asked…How do you feel about Leopards? I sat up, looked directly at him, and proclaimed…..I love them, they are so cool and probably my favorite of all animals. He grinned and replied, you and most people my friend. We took off into the thick grass where the tracks led us. We followed the tracks for about a half hour before I noticed movement in my peripheral. I shouted, right there under that tree. Muelemi pulled out binoculars, gazed for a moment, and then replied…good eye Tim. We drove closer and the Leopard stood up and began walking away, we pursued him to a watering hole where he leaned over for a drink and then carried on back into the protection of thick grass. The hole time my heart was beating so fast and so loud, I remember thinking what an amazing creature, they look so regal yet he could end my existence if he felt threatened by me. I looked at Muelemi and graciously thanked him for tracking it down for me, he replied humbly, if you hadn’t seen him we would have driven right by him. After the Leopard sighting we headed back to camp, where Muelemi assured me a proper breakfast would be waiting. I scoffed and replied, Moe, I’m still full from the “light breakfast”. True to his word, Muelemi walked me back to the dining area, after our arrival back at camp, where there was a marvelous breakfast awaiting. One of the camps staff members was making omlettes from scratch and next to her was a table full of meats, cheeses, breads, salads, pastries, cereal, yogurt, and of course a selection of coffee and teas. I ate a huge plate of food even though I was still full, the food is simply to good to pass up. After breakfast and conversation with the other safari guests about our morning’s sightings, I had to go back to my room to pack up and get ready for my next camp. I remember packing my clothes up and thinking, I’m extremely sad that I have to leave this camp…I feel so at home. Muelemi arrived to pick my bags up and we headed back to the rover to go to the airstrip to hop on another plane to Mombo camp. My impressions of the camp are more than favorable, the game was great, the people…amazing, the service was stellar and I was so sad to leave. I know it sounds cliche but people go to Africa for the Animals but it’s the people that bring them back, people like my guide and friend….Muelemi (Moe).