Exploring the Okavango | House and Leisure

Exploring the Okavango

Visiting Botswana’s magnificent Okavango Delta during March was a fascinating experience. At this time of the year, the heavy rains come to an end, making way for beautiful green foliage and wonderful game viewing opportunities. Photographer Patrick Toselli joined me on this adventure, which for both of us, would be our very first trip to this intriguing part of Africa. Our charter flight from Maun into the heart of the delta offered a taste of what would sum up our trip – many laughs and extensive visual beauty that is unlike anything we had ever seen. Wild Africa, with its striking sunsets, roaming wildlife and warped sense of time, has a raw splendour of its own. We had quite a task on our hands: to capture the incredible appeal of the delta in a limited number of images and words. I decided to make the most of every part of the experience and absorb each moment to the full. Our wake-up call every morning was at 5:30am – a challenge for me, not being a morning person – but it proved to be the most efficient way to go about our days. Patrick hauled out his lenses and camera bags around 6am, after we’d had our first coffee fix for the day, and made the best of the early morning light to photograph the sunrise and the golden light streaming onto the lodges and landscapes. We had to make sure we gave equal attention to all elements, the interiors and exteriors of the buildings, the natural environment, the animal life and the people who were our gracious hosts. In between styling and photographing, we managed to fit in several amazing meals, always comprising the freshest ingredients and proving to be completely moreish. Some stand-out meals included the fresh fruit buffets for breakfast, the miniature pizza oven that allowed us to make our own delicious pizzas (with every ingredient on offer under the sun), incredible alfresco dinners under the stars and the most delicious tiny desserts that complemented the homemade iced teas and coffees at tea time. Needless to say we were very well fed and had more than enough sustenance for the days’ activities. Even when our motorboat’s engine decided to cease during an excursion on the lagoon near Xigera Lodge one day, our very resourceful driver, Palo, whipped out some refreshments in the form of tea, coffee and cookies, while we waited to be rescued. Similarly, a mobile bar accompanied us wherever we went, just in case we got thirsty on a game drive or mokoro trip… Our days were structured around planned activities which varied from camp to camp: at Vumbura Plains we had several successful game drives and benefited from the insightful knowledge of our guide, Morongo; at Xigera we made the most of the water-based camp by taking mokoro excursions and boat trips around the vicinity; at our final lodge, Abu, it was elephant rides and walks that set the camp apart. In between activities and meals I assisted Patrick with shooting – taking advantage of the light at different intervals of the day was crucial, as was capturing everything we came across from as many different angles as possible. This included every animal, every beautiful tree and every interior! Being such a talented, meticulous photographer, Patrick imparted ample tips about getting the perfect shot, and I even got to try my hand at styling every now and then. I now never look at photographs in the same way and certainly appreciate the thought and care that goes into composing and styling every shot. The other side of the equation – words – came a bit more easily to me. Each day I scribbled down my observations, took note of which sights inspired me most, and started to string together ideas, thoughts and imagery into what would eventually transpire into a travel feature. The process was quite cathartic and journaling became second nature on this trip. My camera also became my eyes as I snapped away to record my encounters. I carried it with me everywhere, together with my binoculars, sunscreen and note book. The opportunity to experience and engage with something as special as the delta will stay with me forever, as will the smiles of our Wilderness Safaris hosts, and the cherished connection I feel to Africa. Turn to page 120 of the August Luxury issue, which is on shelf now, to read the final product of our adventure, Water Safari… Text: Kim Grové Images: Patrick Toselli and Kim Grové