After spending less than 48 hours in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to kick off a three-week trip to southern Africa, I headed across the border to the airport in Kasane, Botswana to start my journey to the Okavango Delta – a trip that started with just a bit of drama.
My ultimate destination in the Okavango Delta was Gunn’s Camp and I had booked my flight from Kasane to the camp through the camp staff. To get to Kasane, I needed to book a transfer car from Victoria Falls, which I did through my hotel, the Ilala Lodge. Simple, right? Not so much.
Even prior to my arrival in Zimbabwe, the Gunn’s staff kept asking me when I would arrive in Kasane so they could confirm my flight. And the hotel staff kept asking when my flight was so they could schedule my transfer. Chicken, egg, chicken, egg.
Long story short, I ultimately left Victoria Falls by private transfer around 11 a.m. to get to the Kasane airport for a scheduled 2 p.m. flight. The border crossing between Zimbabwe and Botswana was painless and quick and the only hiccup was that the driver who was supposed to meet me at the border didn’t show up, so my Zimbabwean driver ended up taking me all the way to Kasane.
I arrived at a one-room, mostly empty airport around 1 p.m. My airline, Moremi Air, didn’t have its own counter, so I checked in at another one, receiving a handwritten boarding pass after my bags were weighed and checked. I was taking a puddle-jumper flight to the safari camp, so luggage regulations were strict: only 15 kilograms total and luggage had to be soft-sided; no rollerboard suitcases or backpacks with frames. After checking in, I learned that my flight had been pushed back to 2:50 p.m.
Around 2 p.m., I looked up from my Kindle and realized that the entire airport had cleared out and it seemed like the few remaining staff were packing up to go home. Butterflies started churning in my stomach and I started formulating a plan B in case there actually wasn’t a flight going to the Okavango Delta that afternoon. Of course, I panicked for nothing. Promptly at 2:15 p.m., another group arrived, and I could hear planes landing on the runway. There were six others: two German couples and two Austrian women. To my shock and amusement, the two Austrian women were traveling with massive hard-sided suitcases, which quickly earned them the wrath of the check-in guy, who said he would have to check with the pilot to see if he would allow the suitcases. I bit my tongue as they claimed that their travel agent told them their luggage was fine; I had received multiple instructions throughout my booking process reminding me of the restrictions, so I can’t imagine they didn’t as well.
By 3 p.m., we were in the air! Flying over the Okavango Delta was incredible; the flight lasted about an hour and 20 minutes and for most of it, we were flying low enough not only to see animals below us, but to take pictures! I saw lots of elephants, as well as zebra, giraffes and even hippos out of the water. The pilot also helped us out by pointing out the animals he saw ahead of him and dipping low so people sitting on both sides of the plane got good views. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that the flight was cheaper than my Victoria Falls helicopter excursion, but more than four times as long and was more entertaining!
We landed just after 4 p.m. and Andy, the camp manager met us at the airstrip and led us to the entrance of the camps, which was just a short walk away. As we enjoyed glasses of juice, we listened to an overview of the camp and the rules (don’t walk around alone at night!), and then went to drop our bags in our tents before heading out on a short mokoro (dugout canoe) ride, so we would at least get some activity on our first day. It was great to get out on the water as the sun set and we got to enjoy our first wildlife spotting, albeit giraffe very far in the distance.
Now, a note about the “tents” and this “camp.” These are not like old-fashioned camping tents that you pitch on the ground and snuggle into in a sleeping bag. No, these are permanent structures with solid floors, real beds, and an en suite toilet and shower that just happened to be covered in canvas walls that give a “tent” feeling. This was not roughing it by any means. That said, when we returned to our tents in the dark after returning from the mokoro ride, it was cooler than I expected, so I went to close all the tent flaps to keep in the warmth – and in doing so, I unleashed a small black lizard who had been hiding inside one of the flaps! I admit I was slightly freaked out and just stood there, staring at it until a guide came to get me for dinner. I’m sure the guide got a good chuckle when I asked him to come inside and look at it; he assured me it was harmless.
Dinner was served around 7:30, with everyone who was staying at the camp eating at a communal table together. It was a small group, though, as Gunn’s only has six tents and, being shoulder season, they were not full. So that first night it was just me, a French couple on their honeymoon and the two Austrian women from the airport, who turned out to be a mother-daughter pair. Dinner was surprisingly good, with soup, entrée and dessert courses. They even had homemade gluten free bread for me! I was very impressed. Everyone called it a night by about 9 p.m., eager to rest up for what would be an early wake up call the next morning. All in all, it was an excellent start to what would be three nights and two full days in the Okavango Delta.