Botswana is full of surprises, one of which was going on a guided walk through our area of operation in the Khwai Community Concession. A friend and qualified guide, Gareth Flemix from Walk Botswana Safaris, used to work in the area in which we now conduct our project and offered to take us on a guided walk. In the vehicle it is sometimes difficult to access certain areas right on our doorstep in Khwai, so taking to foot was a welcome opportunity to discover some uncharted territory!
Soon after we left our vehicle, we were alerted to something in our path. Gareth hastily stopped us and led us to a vantage point downwind. A large bull elephant appeared and ambled past us. He was completely unaware of our presence while we all held our breath. What a way to start our experience! It also awakened us to the fact that one must always remain aware in the bush.
Our plan for the walk was to set off and ‘island-hop’ across the Khwai River channels to see what lay in the different areas. In order to accomplish this we needed to take our boots off and get our toes a little wet. This was quite exciting, however, we soon started getting our chests wet on one crossing and had to send for a mokoro (dug-out canoe) in order to cross safely.
Once on dry ground we set off discovering large floodplains, that some of us had never seen before, inhabited by hundreds of lechwe and impala. Periodically, we would stop at a termite-mound in order to gain some height and scan the area with binoculars to ensure we were on the right path and that it was free of buffalo, hippo and elephant. On one termite-mound check, a male leopard was flushed from the reeds below us. Being the stealthy creatures that they are, only two of us managed to see him but his large tracks were enough to convince the rest of us that he really was there.
Our eventful walk reached an all-time high when we reached our lunch stop – a baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) that was easily a few thousand years old. We all had to marvel at how fortunate we were, for how many people have actually been lucky enough to sit and enjoy lunch under this magnificent spectacle.
Find out here how you can join our student project in Botswana.
Students: Vérane Loriot and Christian Du Plessis