Botswana and the Okavango Delta

Impressions of a Country

Botswana is a dry country even though the Zambezi River, pours over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

and drains  into the Okavango Delta  in Botswana. It becomes a vast swamp (like the Everglades in the USA) and surprisingly, does not drain into an ocean. The Delta stretches for miles and miles in the cool rainy season, farther than the horizon. Summer is so hot and dry that the water evaporates and the swamp shrinks to only one-tenth of its size. As the wet lands dry up, the former lakes become large puddles, resulting in a population of thirsty animals in a smaller area.

The water was about waist deep, shallower in some places, and deep enough for hippos to submerged themselves in others.

P1070918

We were told that there were crocodiles in the water. They didn’t usually bother people, there are plenty of fish for them to eat, but they are opportunistic feeders– so don’t drag your hand in the water while in the canoe.

Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta

Each canoe held 2 passengers and one “poler”. Our guide told us the reason we only had 2 passengers was because, of course we could squeeze in more, but but by having only 2 passengers in the canoe, we provided more jobs for the villagers. The village was divided into 3 groups, A,B,C. Whoever wanted to work was able to.   Each time a tourist group arrived, the groups would rotate as to which group would “pole” us to an island and stay with us for 2 days.   It was interesting to meet the workers and to understand their lives a bit. Most of the women were shy- English is not their primary language and they were embarrassed that they were not fluent.

15 Botswana (98)

Lady who “poles”, pushing our Mokoro (hand dug canoe) through the Okovango Delta

I was surprised at how many people apologized for their limited grasp of English. After all, I was visiting their countries and certainly did not expect people to know my language.

Okovango Delta

Okavenga Delta

 

Okovango Delta

Okavenga Delta

Once we arrived at the island, we set up camp.

Our toilet for 2 days

Our toilet for 2 days. The seat and frame were used for “guidance” so no one fell in the hole. It was not something I wanted to sit on. After all, about 20 people were using this hole.

 

Africa 213

My spacious accommodations for the next 9 days.

The women were in charge of cooking, and believed that men should not help . Men who wanted to cook were considered greedy, because they wanted to do their own work as well as the woman’s work. We Westerners were shocked, and our perspective was one of let whoever wants to help, help.

I was told that the men like women who are fat. It means they are prosperous. Most men were very thin, but I don’t know the signs to know if they were malnourished.

Each day we took several guided walks, and canoe rides. We even got to try poling ourselves.

None of the polers need to worry about us taking their jobs. It was not hard to push forward, but it was difficult to steer. The front of my canoe was stuck in a thorny bush and I spent a  about 15 minutes trying to maneuver out of it.

Mozambique

Impressions of a Country, Interesting People

Mozambique

I am told that Mozambique is a gorgeous country and the sea is like the Carribean. I have not been there (yet), but I met a family from this country who had an interesting and terrifying real life tale to tell.

Africa political map

I will start by saying that the father, a very large, muscular guy, is a big game hunter guide. He is licensed to lead people to hunt the “Big 5” which include Lions, Elephants, Water Buffalo. His clients come from all over the world. It is expensive to shoot these animals. For instance, to shoot a water buffalo is $40,000, an elephant is $40,000, and lions are $35,000- $45,000 The recession hit his industry hard and his work dried up. His clients were either middle class people who used to come to shoot a particular animal, or they were the super-rich tourists who never asked how much the prices were. The middle class tourists disappeared when their bank accounts disappeared and when the recession started in the USA, people like this guide in Mozambique lost work and jobs too. The super rich who never asked how much an animal cost to shoot, now ask“if I shoot that tiger, how much will it cost”? They use to never question costs.

Amazing how in this world economy we are all effected by the actions of each other.

The family consisted of a mother and father and their 2 teenage girls. The girls had been sent to live with the grandparents in South Africa because there was better education available. So, when this incident happened, only the mother and father were home.

About 2 weeks prior, the mom and dad were at home when 5 armed intruders hit a guard 3 times and broke into their home. The mother and father heard the window glass being smashed and ran into the bedroom, and when the intruders used an axe to break through the bedroom door, the mom jumped out of the 2 story window, breaking her cheekbone, and the father grabbed some kind of bow and arrow. The father shot one of the intruders and the rest ran away.

The mother and father both said they were sure that the robbers were going to kill them. Interestingly, they thought that none of the robbers were from Mozambique. They thought they were from a different country. Many people came to their area for jobs in the mines, but there were not enough jobs so desperate people had become thieves.

I was talking to the dad about big game hunting (he was a pretty tough guy, I would definitely not want to get on his bad side). One of the reasons Big Game Hunting is so expensive is because of the poachers. Even 2 pounds of ivory can bring $100,000 – enough to last a family for years.

So, when the guides caught poachers in Mozambique they were not allowed to kill them. (I didn’t ask if they ever had, some things I don’t really want to know). There are some places that shoot on sight. When they caught poachers, they would beat them. Then they would make the poachers beat each other- the poachers would end up getting mad at each other then really fight with each other.

After the beating, the hunters would hire them. After all, if the poachers knew how to track and find the animals and if they had enough money to feed their families, they don’t need to poach. Also, think about this, once the poachers are hired on, they are interested in keeping the animals alive so they keep their jobs and they don’t want poachers ruining their livelihood. This hunting preserve had a few Big Game guides and about 50 former poachers. Expensive overhead.