When I started in the safari industry around 1973/74 working for Gametrackers, one of the very first operators in Botswana with luxury mobile safaris to Botswana (there were like 4 lodges then), I learned about the Okavango Swamps (as they were then called) and how it filled up. It was fascinating as this is the only place in the world where a river empties inland, coming from the Highlands of Angola all the way down. I was told that people could actually “walk” with the flood as it travelled down. And they did. I have always, always wanted to do this, or at least a part of it but this is still a distant Bucket List item.
And then along came 2020 and Covid-19 and my dream came true!!!!! The very best thing that I have experienced during this long leave was finally walking with the water as it filled the Okavango Delta, live online. Thanks to Hennie and Jake Rawlinson (and others) who started filming “the lip” as it travelled into Maun and then on to the Okavango, where it is still filling up today, many of us have been lucky enough to follow the water daily. And it looks like this year is a magnificent flood year.
The water’s arrival in to Maun around the beginning of May occurred while very strict “stay at home” instructions were underway, no one was allowed to leave their homes without an approved permit, going walking in public spaces was a big no-no. However, just a few days after Hennie started filming live on Facebook (with a permit), restrictions were relaxed and folks could walk around their particular “zones”, which seemed to coincide with the lip coming through. Of course water is the most valuable thing in Botswana (pula = water, pula = currency) and to the Batswana washing yourself with the water from the lip of the flood washes away the bad, making way for a brand new year. This particular year was poignant in that regard, as they were washing away COVID (may He be listening).
A “watch page” was established on Facebook and others started adding their videos and photos (before and after ones, as well!), as the water flowed past them. I cannot tell you how exciting this has all been. People “not in the know” did not understand how incredibly bloody fantastic this whole thing has been, and most of my US friends have been making fun of me (those that watched and thought this was fabulous for the first few days in the beginning of May lost interest quickly. Still today I get questions (they think they’re being funny) saying “so what’s new, still watching the flood Caren?”. Yes I absolutely am!!!!! Today is June 23rd.
Note: To add to the excitement the local Maunites had a charity raffle for the exact time the water arrived at the Old Bridge in Maun. The winner (James Stenner) won a helicopter flight for three over the Okavango to see this spectacle from the air. James donated his prize to others who study these waters and who had not seen it from the air yet. The proceeds from the raffle went to two beloved Maun institutes, Women and Against Rape and The Polokong Center for the Elderly.
Videos: Floods arrive in Maun, Hennie Rawlinson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U4NxFeHkZ0
Video: Great Flood arrives in Maun by Matthew Copham https://youtu.be/q32_qNfviVs