February is a wonderful month to be in the Delta, and to experience the first trickle of water creeping onto the floodplains due to the annual inundation. Although, I have never read the book ‘Okavango, Floods of Life’, the title in itself tells a wonderful story. Taking a trip out onto the dry floodplains of Kwetsani, we went to try and get a feel for how quickly the water was starting to come in. The sight that was before us is really hard to describe, as we literally watched this awesome phenomenon of the Okavango Delta starting to fill with water. From the side of the road, we watched as water spilled constantly over the edge at a certain point. From this point the water began to collect and, when it had enough strength, to start pushing down the road. Drawing a line in the sand about two metres away from the head of the stream we watched as it snaked towards the line, reaching it within 30 seconds! An hour later, a large stretch of the road was covered in water, and in places, the water ventured into roadside grooves to fill that up too. As the water pushes on, all sorts of life begin to unfold.
As the water seeps into the ground, the catfish of all different sizes make their way up to the life-giving water. These fish buried themselves deep into the earth when the waters receded, and lay entombed in the ground until they could feel the rejuvenating touch of the damp earth around them. When they reach the water, they swim with verve and vigour, attracting an array of birds, insects and reptiles - there is this whole cycle of life being played right before your very eyes.
With the insects and fish in abundance, the floodplains are dominated by hundreds of birds. In one place we counted at least 60 marabou storks, commonly known as the ‘undertakers of the bush’. African fish-eagles gather in flocks, which is unusual as they are normally only in pairs. The ground is umbrella’d (for lack of a better word) with black egrets, who bury their heads under their black wings, attracting the fish to the shade that their wings have made, and ultimately into their bellies. The pied kingfishers hover in front of the vehicles knowing that the fish are swimming away from the noise, and then with lightning speed dive and catch their prey. The hamerkop, goes about his fishing ever so relaxed, but catches his dinner every time. The saddle-billed storks, with their colourful beaks are experienced “fisherbirds” and so are the great egrets. Dotted across the plains you can see the wattled cranes prancing light-footed in front of each other, spreading their wings. African openbills use their bills like nutcrackers to crack the shells of the water snails.
In the background red lechwe are gathered by the hundreds, to graze on the wet grass. Every now and then we catch a glimpse of a hyaena tentatively making its way through the water. The resident pride of lion is just north of Kwetsani and we have heard them roar nearly every morning. Cape buffalo hide themselves in the thick bush and the hippo are just delighted to have so much water around them. February is an exuberant month – a month where we all feel so alive.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: MT Malebogo and Ronald Ronald.
The Kwetsani Team