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I bless the rains down in Africa

Changing plans is an inevitability of travel. Most people have experienced it at some point. Cancellations, bad weather, people you meet; there are many reasons plans change. Not everything goes the way you plan and adapting to change is one of the most important skills to have. When I travelled to Africa I’d hoped to visit the Okavango Delta in Botswana, but then the usual problems arose. Fortunately, the trip wasn’t a complete loss.

The Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is a huge grassy plain dissected by the Okavango River with swamps, rich green vegetation and an abundance of wildlife.

Looking out over the waters of the Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta really is a spectacular area

Your two best options for visiting the Delta are either a one-day trek or a two-day overnight trip. Both excursions involve a trip in a Mokoro (a type of traditional canoe) and the two-day trip has the advantage of spending a night camping in the Delta. The one-day excursion is cheaper, while the itinerary for the two-day trip looks to involve more sitting around. However, the experience of camping out surrounded by the Okavango wilderness could be worth the extra expense.

The road to Maun

The plan was to visit the Okavango Delta and spend a day (or ideally a night) exploring the vast wilderness. However, the weather soon put paid to those plans. The journey to Maun didn’t start smoothly. I was travelling with two friends I’d met in Namibia, Céline and Louise, and after the incredible Elephant Sands our next stop was Maun (the closest city to the Okavango Delta) some 350km west. We were making good time, at least until we came across the worst road in Botswana! Despite being designated as an ‘A’ road, there was a 200km section absolutely littered with potholes. It was impossible to go faster than a few kilometres per hour and took several hours longer than we imagined.

At one point there was a pothole covering one half of the road and another hole on the other side. I had nowhere to go! Céline, who had rented the car, was starting to get stressed. Our little two-wheel drive Polo was not designed for this kind of terrain. I ended up slaloming down the road like a drunk while the driver coming the other way did likewise, resulting in us both passing each other driving on the wrong side.

We eventually made it to Maun just as the heavens opened. My first taste of African rain after five weeks of sunshine. The weather, combined with a stressful journey and a rough night’s sleep at Elephant Sands, had put a big dampener on our plans. And as much as we all wanted to see the Okavango Delta, trudging through the wilderness soaked through wouldn’t have been as enjoyable an experience as we’d have liked.

Sun reflecting on the water over the Okavango Delta
Just to be able to see the Okavango Delta (even if it wasn’t how we originally planned) was incredible

We still hoped it would stop the following day, but as we awoke early the next morning we could hear the patter of raindrops falling on the tin roof of our room. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!

We cancelled the trip and took advantage of an unexpected free day to plan the rest of our route through Botswana. However, we still desperately wanted to see the Delta. That was why we were there after all. Fortunately, there was an alternative option.

Taking to the skies above the Okavango Delta

As we sat around wondering what to do we began chatting with a group of French girls who’d had similar fun dealing with the enormous potholes the day before. Left in the same situation thanks to the weather, they’d booked a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. It would certainly be a different way to see the area and meant that we wouldn’t miss out entirely. Almost immediately we decided to join them.

The plane used for scenic flight Okavango Delta
The best way to see everything in the Okavango Delta is to take to the skies in a small place such as this one

Late afternoon we drove to the tiny Maun International Airport for our scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. There were eight of us sat in the little Cessna. Each with our own window to enjoy the scenery. The pilot explained the route we would be taking and what we could hope to see. After the bumpy take-off we were quickly away from the town and flying barely 100m above the Delta. It was incredible!

While we still would have preferred to trek through it, this at least gave us another perspective of the wonderful scenery. It’s hard to believe that such a stunning, untouched area could exist less than 10km from a large town. From our position in the tiny plane, we could see not only the vast green areas, intersected by the rivers of the delta, but also many of the animals that were by now so familiar. Huge herds of wildebeest, elephants, rhino, a charging hippo. It was all there, and we were so happy to have been able to see it.

Looking happy on the small plane as we flew over the Okavango Delta
I was so excited about being in a tiny plane (and for once wouldn’t be jumping out of it)

It might not have been exactly what we were hoping for in the Okavango Delta, but we made the best of a bad situation.

Where to stay in Maun

View of The Old Bridge Backpackers in Maun
The Old Bridge Backpackers is the best place to stay in Maun and has great views
(even in the rain)

The best place to stay in Maun is The Old Bridge Backpackers. Located on the edge of town, the hostel has a range of accommodation plus games area, bar, restaurant and a tour booking desk. Finding it can be a little tricky and the road leading to the site isn’t paved. However, we managed to get there in our little Polo (despite the rain) so you shouldn’t have too many problems.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Snehal

    This destination looks perfect for a ‘road-less-travelled’ kind of experience. It looks interesting for an off-beaten African journey.

  2. Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.

  3. Pranitaa

    I have heard and read a lot about the Okavango Delta. There are many interesting details about it on the internet. One of the best things that attracted me is, it being the largest inland deltas. This wetland has a huge concentration of flora and fauna making it ideal for wildlife lovers like me. But sadly, I haven’t got the opportunity to visit it. Let’s see if I could visit it this year.

  4. averylimousinegloballoyalriders

    I’ve always wanted to go to All over the country and now I really want to go!! Very good guide, thanks for sharing!

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