It was still dark outside as I came into work and watching the moon setting over the delta with the pink-orange glow starting on the opposite side of the huge African sky I was blessed with a flyover by a giant eagle owl. What a way to start the work day!
As the day continued, meals, dietaries and staff issues abounded and I momentarily forgot about the flyover. Then, while waiting to have my say in the orientation for a group of agents I was watching the birds in the floodplain opposite our main lodge and wondering how it is possible that such small creatures are able to make it so far, travelling on such fragile things as wings… when suddenly there was a screech from the jacanas and a saddle-billed stork did a hop, skip and a jump into flight.
There was an almighty splash and the king of the delta skies landed himself a meal worthy of a noble feast. What a way for guests to come through to a dining area for their meal to find a fish eagle sitting in the sycamore fig just a few metres away!
Then, after a day of really amazing birds and happy guests with full tummies I took my usual slow amble home after dinner, listening out for the tell-tale scratch and rustle of animals in the undergrowth… In the little section of open ground that is often the domain of a family of hippos that I am starting to regard as the regulars at Jao, through the rather stumpy wide legs of the pachyderms I was surprised and delighted to see eyes reflecting back at me. Taking a couple of steps back to identify the animal, to my absolute delight I saw it was a genet! I think that by following the hippos it gets its fill of little insects.
Arriving at my house in the managers’ village, perched on the edge of an island over the rising waters of the Okavango Delta, I realise again how special this place is and how honoured we are to live and work here at Jao.
By Cindy Swart, Executive Chef