Today’s Wheel of Adventures has stopped at 2014, so here we go. . .

This is part three of a four part series about an African safari.

Part one introduced Camp Banoka and described what a typical game drive day was like, and showed a variety of some of the larger wildlife. Part two showed more of what camp life was like along with photos of the camp rangers and staff, and a look at some of the birdlife along with more about how game drives are done. Part three is all about a wetland camp where guests travel by boat and canoe for the game “drives”.

The Botswana Okavango Delta wetlands as seen from the air
The Botswana Okavango Delta wetlands as seen from the air
Hippos are everywhere in the ponds and rivers in the Xigera wetlands
Hippos are everywhere in the ponds and rivers in the Xigera wetlands
When one is in a canoe, it's a bit spooky to get this close to any hippo
When one is in a canoe, it’s a bit spooky to get this close to any hippo
Petunia, a camp friendly (?) hippo walked right up to my tent porch
Petunia, a camp friendly (?) hippo walked right up to my tent porch
Elephant herds are very impressive, as long as they're not headed your way
Elephant herds are very impressive, as long as they’re not headed your way
This fast moving group illustrates well the term "thundering herd"
This fast moving group illustrates well the term “thundering herd”

 

Camp Banoka was mostly dry forest with scattered swamp areas, Camp Xigera is almost all wetlands intermixed with open dry areas, many of which have tall palm trees. The camp lodge and tent facilities are even more luxurious than the previous camp. It’s located on a peninsula between a large swamp and a fast moving clear water river that flows right past the lodge’s viewing deck. Tents are placed on raised wood decks and walkways about 10′ above ground. Vervet monkeys scurry about, a few large animals appear at night and sleep on the ground under the tent decks. It certainly is unique to hear a snoring elephant just below your bed! Antelope families also sleep in camp since the lions don’t come near. But hyenas are on the walkways at night. A dirt section at the walkway entry records all the wildlife comings and goings as they leave tracks.

Elephants raise their trunks to better pick up scents of approaching threats
Elephants raise their trunks to better pick up scents of approaching threats

 

Large bull elephants are very impressive passing this close to our canoe

One must never approach a mother if she has babies - you will be attacked
One must never approach a mother if she has babies – you will be attacked
Tiny reed frogs are the size of a fingernail - you must have a good eye
Tiny reed frogs are the size of a fingernail – you must have a good eye
Vervet monkeys scamper all over the camp stealing food
Vervet monkeys scamper all over the camp stealing food
Giant brown throated anhinga cooling it's wings in a treetop
Giant brown throated anhinga cooling it’s wings in a treetop
The jacana is a very common bird seen everywhere in the wetlands
The jacana is a very common bird seen everywhere in the wetlands

 

The day starts with a 5:30 am wake up call, rangers escort the guests at 6:00 am to a delicious breakfast around the lodge morning campfire, then off to the boats around 6:45 am. The early morning fresh dampness feels brisk on the cheeks as we speed thru a number of reed lined channels to our first stop – a large herd of elephants standing hip deep in the water enjoying mouthfuls of tender grass. Since the herd has a number of babies, one must speak in whispers while boat outboard motors are now silent so to not alarm the dominant matriarch. “Kerchoo” – someone sneezed and in an instant the herd started to flee. The sound of several dozen elephants trying to run thru deep water is terrifying – almost like the roar from Victoria Falls! Running away from us, they soon slowed and stared back at us with some loud trumpeting.

The malachite kingfisher is very tiny but so colorful - everyone's favorite
The malachite kingfisher is very tiny but so colorful – everyone’s favorite
The little bee eater is just too cute
The little bee eater is just too cute

 

A pair of cute little bee eaters
A pair of cute little bee eaters
Another malachite kingfisher perched on a reed
Another malachite kingfisher perched on a reed

 

Adventure Bob enjoyed river and sunrise views from a beautiful porch
Adventure Bob enjoyed river and sunrise views from a beautiful porch
Camp Xigera lodge has a luxury charm
Camp Xigera lodge has a luxury charm

 

We dared not move any of the boats now, just wait and see. After a few minutes, a smaller group headed back towards us on the way to a nearby earth mound. Suddenly one bull began to run after some females, ears flapping, trunk up, making the most frightening shrieks. Big and very fast, not all like the calm zoo elephants one normally sees. Well, this got our attention, so we certainly listened to the ranger’s elephant warnings from then on. (learn more about this behavior in part four) After all that excitement it was time to beach the boats for our morning tea and biscuit break before the next search, this time to find hippos.

 

Morning coffee is enjoyed just before setting off in the boats
Morning coffee is enjoyed just before setting off in the boats
The lodge dining room provides a sumptuous early breakfast
The lodge dining room provides a sumptuous early breakfast
In between game boat trips, relaxation time in a warm tub is wonderful
In between game boat trips, relaxation time in a warm tub is wonderful
Every morning and evening we head out across the water in fast boats
Every morning and evening we head out across the water in fast boats
At certain stops the silence allows us to appreciate to the isolated beauty
At certain stops the silence allows us to appreciate to the isolated beauty
Racing at high speed thru rush lined narrow channels is an E-Ticket ride
Racing at high speed thru rush lined narrow channels is an E-Ticket ride
Sunset cocktail hour on the water was always very special
Sunset cocktail hour on the water was always very special

Soon the boats arrived at a very large pond, almost a lake really. Hippo groups were everywhere, not just a few like the Disneyland Jungle Cruise, but dozens at a time, snorting and wiggling their ears. Since hippos kill more humans world wide, one needs to understand the limits to how close to approach them. They keep an eye on us at all times, sometimes submerging only to surface much closer. This became sort of a game for those with cameras to be ready for where the hippo submarine fleet would surface next so as to get a dramatic photo. The best shots were when they suddenly yawned wide – shots quite hard to get. Hippos feel safe in water, but become wary on land when away from the safety of water. If a human appears between them and the water, the hippo will run as fast as 30 mph and crush the person to death with one bite.

Mokoro canoe expeditions just before sunset were Bob's favorite times
Mokoro canoe expeditions just before sunset were Bob’s favorite times
Rangers pole each two-man mokoro silently to better enjoy the wildlife
Rangers pole each two-man mokoro silently to better enjoy the wildlife
Everyone stays very quiet to pick up the subtle wetland sounds
Everyone stays very quiet to pick up the subtle wetland sounds
Rangers and pole men are highly knowledgeable about the wetlands
Rangers and pole men are highly knowledgeable about the wetlands
Botswana folks are all smiles - they love their country and want to share it
Botswana folks are all smiles – they love their country and want to share it
Happy, happy faces everywhere
Happy, happy faces everywhere

 

What a great lady to greet you for breakfast every morning
What a great lady to greet you for breakfast every morning
New moon sunrise before breakfast as seen from Bob's porch
New moon sunrise before breakfast as seen from Bob’s porch
The mixture of wetland and forest makes every scene a garden picture
The mixture of wetland and forest makes every scene a garden picture
Water is so blue and reflective
Water is so blue and reflective
Gliding along thru every kind of beautiful lily pond
Gliding along thru every kind of beautiful lily pond
Papyrus and reeds surround most of the boat channels like green canyons
Papyrus and reeds surround most of the boat channels like green canyons

Returning to camp for a fine lunch and siesta time, we then went out once again for the quiet sunset cruise, looking forward to the on-water cocktail hour. While temperatures are moderately cool at dawn, mid-day is very pleasant in the high 70s due to being in a swamp – interestingly, virtually no mosquitoes were ever experienced. Possibly the combination of so many insect-eating birds and the camp repellant tiki lamps did the trick. So evenings were very pleasant shirt sleeve with campfire picnics, song and dance. No city lights for hundreds of miles – more stars than you’d ever seen before.

The finest experience is the sunset mokoro canoe slow drift among the lilies, silently propelled by rangers with poles. Some areas had a gentle current so we could just sit, observe and listen to the soft sounds in the most divine serenity imaginable. These are the times most vividly recorded in my memories of Botswana.

Next up: More stories and photos in part four. This time to Camp Duma Tau for viewing leopards, giraffes, and lots of elephants.

– Bob Gurr

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Bob Gurr is a true Disney legend who was hired on to design the Autopia for Disneyland. Over nearly four decades, Bob would become famous for developing the Monorails, Submarines, Flying Saucers, antique cars and double-decker buses of Main Street, Ford Motor Company's Magic Skyway (at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair), Omnimover ride system, Matterhorn and lots more. It has been said that if it moves, Bob probably played a part. Upon leaving Imagineering in 1981, Bob worked on a number of "leisure-time spectaculars" and "fantastical beasts" for parks and developments all over the world. Most notably, he created King Kong and Conan's Serpent for Universal Studios Hollywood, A UFO for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, and the memorable T-Rex figure featured in Steven Spielberg's motion picture "Jurassic Park." You can find Bob's column, Design: Those Were The Times, right here on MiceChat. Though don't pin Bob down to a schedule, he's busy being "retired."
  • Absolutely amazing. No way I could do a trip like this, but I sure am glad to see your wonderful photos. Elephants, hippos and beautiful kingfishers.

  • 4Apples4Disney

    I needed to see this today, and feel the zest for life! Thank you very much for sharing!

  • wmatzner

    Bob:
    Did you see more wildlife on the canoes or on the speed boats?
    Was it the hippos or the elephants that would get closer to the boats?

    • Bob Gurr

      It’s the other way round – they stay where they are, the humans choose how close to get.