Julian is a friend whom I met while studying abroad in Paris. He lives with his parents in Botswana’s capital city, Gabarone, and they generously welcomed Alexandra and I into their home for Christmas. It was really wonderful to eat home-cooked food and to feel a little taken care of during the holidays. We stayed with them in Gabarone for a few days before flying north to Maun—a town that is supposed to be the gateway of much of the tourism in Botswana.
We arrived with basically no plans because many of the options we had seen online were just astonishingly out of our price range. Even though we weren’t going to some all-inclusive lodge or charting a private plane to do a safari by air, we thought we should be able to find something worthwhile do. After a little investigation, we found cheap accomodation in dorms at a lodge, and a tour group that ran mokoro, or dugout canoe trips into the Okavango River Delta. We had brought a tent with us, and decided to do a two night camping trip. There were three South African guys in our group, and three guides who used poles to propel our canoes through the marshy channels of the delta. We set up camp on an island, went swimming, and the guide led us on walks through the bush.
Early on the morning of the second day was when we got lucky—we saw two elephants, a giraffe, herds of zebra, impala and buffalo, even a cobra. A few days later we did a game drive in Moremi Reserve outside of Maun and saw even more animals, including lions, hippos, a jackal and lots of birds. I think the giraffe was my favorite—so awkward and graceful at the same time and enormous up close. In the Moremi we were able to drive right up close to the animals, but I liked the simplicity of the walk in the Delta, the fact that we didn’t need a vehicle to enter and engage with their natural habitat.
Bars in Maun were required to close at 11 pm, even on New Year’s Eve, but as guests at the lodge we were able to stick around the bar, so we brought in 2011 playin Uno and drinking champagne with some Australians. We pretty much exhausted everything else there was to do in Maun (not much) during our last few days there, then flew back to Mozambique.