article

Botswana's Desert and Delta

An entry to our 2019 Writing Competition, Carol White travelled on our 'Botswana's Desert and Delta' tour.

"Knock, knock, water's ready!"

"Thank you and good morning!"

Five fifteen, hazy light is breaking the horizon but the sun has not yet risen.

Our good hosts have laid out a simple breakfast under a canopy, beside the lake.

There follow sleepy but anticipatory greetings from our fellow explorers and we are all eager to unfold today's unique experiences.

As we set out, a Spotted Hyena slopes across the cold, straw coloured ground beside us and an excited Warthog hurtles across our path, tail held aloft like a challenging pennant. Two Black-backed Jackals yawn, stretch and greet each other, impatient for the warmth of the African sun.

From cold, silver-washed skies, spears of golden light shoot. They pierce soft fur and create an aura of electric energy. Baboon scatter, shedding spangles of gold dust into the spreading dawn.

Our guide checks the sandy ground for 'The Daily News' – complex sets of tracks that reveal the movements of today's participants so far. Lion tracks are there, both large and small.

We pass a cluster of tall. shimmering grasses and Gee stops the jeep. Impala alarm calls can be heard moving away from the muddy waterhole ahead of us.

A large, tawny head appears above the long grass but she is not observing us. She is fixated on a patch of bare earth to our left. As we watch, another lioness appears as if on cue and she is not alone. Four tiny cubs gambol around her. I fight back tears of joy and wonder as the play unfolds and the unconcerned mother leads her playful cubs to the muddy bank. The role of her companion switches from hunt decoy to protectress of this precious family.

Mother lioness drinks from the waterhole. She is still full of milk and the curious cubs try to copy her but have not yet learned how to drink water. Instead. they play in the mud with each other whilst their mother patiently endures their mischievous, and totally endearing, behaviour.

Eventually she and her loyal companion decide that it is time to move on but the cubs have other ideas!

Mother lioness knows exactly how to resolve the situation and gently picks up the most adventurous of her children by the scruff of the neck. She pads off with the tiny, curled infant in her jaws and the other three cubs obediently bounce along behind her.

The hunt companion and protectress falls in behind them like a well-trained bodyguard.

I fervently hope that fate looks kindly on them and wish them the best that luck can bring!

Read more about our 'Botswana's Desert and Delta' holiday.

We’ve been nominated ‘Best Safari, Wildlife & Nature Holiday Company’ in the prestigious 2020 British Travel Awards. All voters will be entered into an official prize draw to win a Rhine or Danube cruise! Please click here to vote.