A game drive in the wind and rain has never got me jumping up and down with excitement; I’m a warm-weather kind of girl and getting wet and sticky while panicking to cover up my camera and strain my eyes to make out the shape of an impala is usually not my idea of fun. But recently, at Xigera Camp in the Okavango Delta, I had a change of heart.
Perhaps it was being able to appreciate just how much the animals and land needed – and still need – water right now. Xigera (named after the pied kingfisher) is set on a permanent lagoon and guests customarily spend the majority of their time on water-based activities like mokoro (traditional dugouts) and motor boating safaris. But things have really changed up this year! The annual rains from Angola that inundate the Delta during the winter months have been significantly lower this year, restricting these activities. While the water is too shallow for motor boats, guides have had to drive an hour and a half to get to an area suitable for the mekoro. On the up side, this new mokoro location has allowed guests some wonderful sightings of the shy aquatic sitatunga antelope!
Making things even more interesting is the fact that guides have been able to drive in places never accessed by vehicle before! (And sometimes they have even needed to take mokoro guides along with them in case they get lost!) Many animals have been able to cross over onto Paradise Island – including lion and wild dog – certainly making for some exciting game drives!
The nourishing summer rains have also arrived very late which is why I felt so excited when clouds began to build up and I heard droplets of rain. “Are you sure you still want to go out on a drive?” asked my guide Dips. “Yes please!” I answered. I was not going to miss the opportunity to celebrate the coming rain along with the animals.
As we began our drive, gusts of wind burst through the palms, stripping off old leaves. For a while things would seemed to go quiet again, just the low rumbling of our vehicle and a tangible air of expectancy before the wind began again. Hugging his knees and looking out over the scene from a dry leadwood was a lone male baboon. He, like me, seemed in awe of the eerie atmosphere.
Impala on the other hand seemed to carry on as usual; adults chewing and keeping watch while little ones chased each other in circles trying out their new spindly legs. The only difference was the shiny droplets of water that they shook off their shiny coats every few minutes.
My favorite part of the drive was watching a herd of elephant glide gracefully across open glades as if they were floating. It was beautifully surreal and I couldn’t resist taking photos. Perhaps this also played a role in how much I enjoyed the novelty of the rain; having had my camera for quite some time now, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to see and photograph things and the rain, I think, helped me do this. The moisture also brought out a few less common species for us to enjoy including a young rock python and a water monitor.
Thank you Xigera, once again you have awed me with your beauty!