By Safari Mike
On a blistering hot summer day, it can be a no-brainer to think about a refreshing swim. It doesn’t matter where in the world you may be if it’s hot enough. Since this little episode takes place in Botswana’s Okavango Delta the story has a rather different wrinkle to it. But first, the all-important prelude…
If you’re with me at this point you have to begin to feel the oppression of the sun’s heat at 97 scorching degrees. We’ve been out on a game drive for close to 4 hours in our open Land Rover and have seen cheetah, 2 herds of elephant, several lion including a pair mating and had such great activity that we chose to stay out even longer than usual, in spite of the heat. By now everyone is sweaty, tired and ready to return to Jao (a magnificent 5 Star Tented Camp) for some food and a long nap. Even as we return to camp the sun continues to get higher in the sky and somehow, still hotter. Following a wonderful meal my group elects the least activity possible for a few hours to prepare for the late afternoon/evening game drive. While my group retires to their comfortable 5 star tents, the camp staff is cooking up a very different solution to the heat. Their plan is an adventure even for them since this heat is unseasonably oppressive.
I’ve worked with these incredible guides and trackers many times. They are all wildlife pros and live here 24/7. Kristof and Marlene (a couple and both Certified Zimbabwe Guides, the highest level of expertise in Africa) have been managing the camp for several seasons. Frank and Vundi have spent their lives here and are exceptional guides. We all have a great rapport and I’m treated like regular staff so (lucky me) I’m included in “the plan.”
The following is confirmed from my journal entry for Saturday Sept. 9, 2000:
We’ll take two boats and Frank and Vundi will find a nice ‘safe spot’ for us to cool off and take an afternoon dip (in the Okavango Delta!). When we get to our “safe spot” we’ll wait at least 5 minutes to scout the area and always keep one person on each boat as a lookout before anyone goes in. OK…STOP right there! I’m guessing this is the point that you have most sensibly backed out of joining me any further. Between you and me, I’m glad one of us has any sense at all and It’s obviously not me. So I’m sure, without you, I’ll just continue…
The 5 minute wait gives anything swimming under the surface time to come up for air (so we can see it). Right…crocs, hippos and anything else that might also like our “safe spot”. But just in case, we always have our “two lookouts” to warn us of any impending doom in the water. So there…I’m feeling SO much better and more secure with only a few more minutes before “enjoying” that refreshing water.
Well, as you can see from the photos of me frolicking in the Okavango Delta, we all survived. However…..and it’s a big however….just one or two minutes after our 1/2 hour swim in our “safe spot,”….a lovely six foot long Egyptian cobra just casually swam through as if it was invited. You know, the fabled asp that supposedly put an end to Cleopatra. Well, cobras are excellent swimmers and it just casually cruised by as we all looked at each other from the safety of the boats.
I’ve encountered cobras before but please, not while I’m in the water with them. Thankfully, I was IN the boat during its visit and was able to get one good photo before it went under and swam off. Seriously though…what was I thinking…swimming in the Okavango Delta? While that was my first, last and only swim in the Delta, I have a feeling that Frank, Vundi, Kristof and Marlene hardly gave it a second thought. Ho hum, just another day on safari.