Botswana by Hilary Lamont

They have a saying in Africa: ‘You come with rain, you are a lucky person’. After 31 hours of travelling from the North of Scotland to the depths of the Okavango Delta I had just sunk gratefully onto one of the camp chairs round the table in the open-sided mess tent, a glass of cool G&T in hand, happily slurping, when a sudden local storm whipped up in the clearing before us. 

African Hunting Dog

Seconds later, drinks abandoned, we were all clinging for dear life to the rim of canvas, which was flapping and cracking in the wind. Rain washed over our clenched fists, ran down our arms, under our shirts, and reappeared out of trouser legs and into socks and boots. We surely didn’t feel so very lucky then!

What felt like hours later the storm abated as quickly as it had arisen, and we sank back onto our chairs while the camp staff efficiently collected scattered items and re-pitched those tents and ‘en suite bathrooms’ which had suffered in the onslaught. They then produced an excellent dinner, only slightly later than planned, while we enjoyed fresh drinks and worked on developing the team spirit induced by our recent experience.

A few days later we were criss-crossing the area on bush trails hoping for a wild dog sighting before moving camp. Someone had seen them where we’d just been, or they’d been where we were but had just moved on. Then, we drove round a corner and saw an almost-dried-out waterhole – and dogs! WOW! 26 adults and young – OMG!

So entranced were we with the wonderful coat patterns, the behaviours of the animals –particularly the young dogs; their elders had more sense and mostly lay in the shade and digested their recent meal – that it was some time before we raised our eyes to the branches of the big, single tree they were resting under, and saw a big male leopard lying stretched out on a thick branch waiting for them to pack up and go. Double WOW!

Just to add the final touch, a group of elephants then entered from stage right – behind the tree, the leopard and the dogs – crossing the mud near what appeared to be the carcass of a baby elephant stuck in the drying mud. That and the dogs seemed to be putting the eles on edge and there was considerable species interaction as they passed right in front of us.

Having moved camp to Xakanaxa, we took the boat trip on one of the Delta lagoons. We had all decided to go, and were very glad we did as we had a wonderful and very rare sighting of a Sitatunga. He had been lying in the long grass with only his face and horns showing, and, most fortuitously, exactly opposite the only break in the bankside reeds for miles. As the boat headed into the narrow gap he stood up, then turned and cantered across the marsh, giving all on board an exceptional sighting.

The Africans are right. We came with rain, and we were very lucky people.

For further information about our 10-day 'Botswana's Desert & Delta' mammal holiday please visit the tour webpage.