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Chilling on a Mokoro in the Okavango Delta

May 24, 2010

My view from the mokoro, surrounded by reeds and grass

The mokoro is a dugout canoe propelled by poling. Some of them are wooden, but the newer ones are made of fiberglass to conserve trees.  About a 3rd of the polers I see are women, many wearing bright colors.  We poled through some clear narrow channels with lily pads surrounding, but more often we were going through grass or reeds.  The water isn’t very deep – can’t be or poling would be impossible.  It looks like root beer – super clear with lots of iron in it.  I could smell the iron.  As the pole pushes down, the makoro rocks slightly to the side and makes a short quick acceleration.  The pole exits the water, and I hear dripping sounds from the pole and small ripples off the pointed front of the boat.  The reeds make a raspy scratching on the sides.  In grass it’s a whispering soft hiss.  The occasional bendy reed gently swats my face.  This repeats thousands of times – speed up and slow down with every touch down of the pole.  It’s all very relaxing and hypnotic.

A poler named Opopolay

Lily pads on clear, root beer colored water

Jade enjoying the afternoon ride in search of hippos

Baby hippos play fighting in the Chobe* River

*We did see some hippos in the distance in the Delta, but not close enough to get a good picture.   This picture is from the Chobe River, also in Botswana, but not in the Delta.

 The Okavango Delta covers an area bigger than Switzerland.  Check out Planet Earth, the From Pole to Pole episode.  We did a flight over the delta in a small prop plane, but no photos as I forgot my bag at the campsite and had no camera or passport!  Luckily they still let me on the plane…… does not require ID.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2010 11:39 pm

    Incredibly great writing! Honestly!

  2. Marlene Tambre permalink
    May 29, 2010 2:23 am

    Wow, looks like hard work for whoever gets to pole … one of the canoes had lots of bags in it … was that all of your worldy goods and what if the canoe tips? Like all watercraft handpropelled, you really get to appreciate your surroundings because you move slowly and quietly. Looks like a lot of fun unless you are the one on the end of the pole for hours at a stretch. Thanks for sharing. The hippos are appealing in an ugly sort of way, but I wouldn’t want one in my bathtub!

    Love Mom

    • June 3, 2010 1:14 pm

      I’m sure it is hard work. Nobody tips unless they’re racing, or a newbie. I was in full-on vacation mode, so I didn’t try poling, and we didn’t race. It’s a beautiful way to see the Delta and appreciate the scenery.

  3. Ian permalink
    June 2, 2010 4:13 pm

    Cool, is the Mokoro a way of transport? or just for fishing/hunting? Did you go camping somewhere (I think that I can see your sleeping bag in one of the pictures).
    For how long where you traveling on the mokoro?

    • June 3, 2010 1:17 pm

      It’s a mode of transporting people and goods. We also went on mokoros in Zambia several times, to cross the river. It’s quite common.

      Yep, we camped on an “island” in the Delta. I guess we were a few hours each way in the mokoro, before which was a speed boat ride in a main channel.

  4. Rich permalink
    June 4, 2010 10:36 pm

    I love this series of images, like something out of a travel magazine. Great lighting on Jade in the second image! Keep up the posts, I am living vicariously through you !

    • June 11, 2010 9:03 am

      Thanks Rich! The photography compliment means a lot coming from you. Hopefully when we head to the Middle East next week the internet connections will be better and I can post more pics.

  5. Amanda Buckiewicz permalink
    June 7, 2010 9:18 pm

    Your pictures are amazing, and really help to tell the story. Takes me back, that’s for sure! Hope you’re doing well, miss you guys and definitely miss Africa!

    • June 11, 2010 9:05 am

      Hey Buck! Thank-you. We are doing well, heading to Durban tonight. Hope you and Ashley made it back safe.

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