The mokoro is the typical local boat, originally it was carved in tree trunks, usually of ebony; today fiberglass has almost completely replaced wood, so the mokoro have a longer life but also respect the environment.
This boat has a narrow and very elongated shape, it accommodates only two passengers sitting on the floor, while a boatman stands aft and pushes the mokoro with the help of a long stick, that in the local language is called ngashi, with which he leverages on the slimy seabed.
The mokoro is perfect for slipping quietly over the shallow waters of the Okavango Delta and exploring the canals flanked by papyrus, reeds and other aquatic plants.
An excursion by mokoro is ideal for discovering the flora of the Okavango Deltaand for enjoying the tranquility and silence of this enchanting place; it is also possible to spot amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals on the shores of the various islands and peninsulas.
This morning we woke up at our campsite, the Maun Rest Camp, we had breakfast and then we went to the reception where there was a jeep that was waiting for us; we go up and we leave.
We cross the Thamalakane river, that this year is almost completely dry, and we reach the Old Bridge Backpackers; here we find our friends who, unlike us, stay in the city of Maun.
At 7:30 am we leave and, once on the main road, we turn to the right and head towards the North-East; this is the same road that we will travel tomorrow to go to the Moremi Game Reserve.
At some point, after Shorobe, we turn onto a dirt road and pass some village that has a mix of traditional and more modern houses; but soon the villages give way to nature.
This year there is a lot of drought and, where there is usually water, there is only sand; we have to drive a long way of the track to get to where the mokoro are parked and where the water starts, in all we take almost 2 hours from Maun.
We get off the off-road and we know those who will be our boatmen, in all they are three, one per mokoro of course; always with them we will also do a walking safari.
We get inside the mokoro two by two, we need a bit of balance because the boat is low and narrow like a canoe and we climb from the beached tip but then we walk on the mokoro in the water; inside the mokoro two seats are positioned, in practice they are the back of a chair, so as to be more comfortable while you are sailing.
Once we take a position we leave!
The boatman stands at the stern standing on the end of the mokoro, how he is able to balance himself on such a small surface is a bit of a mystery, with the help of a long wooden stick he pushes the mokoro levering on the slimy bottom of the delta; here the water is not deep and being very clear we see the bottom.
Almost immediately we slip into a canal lined with papyrus and other plants typical of a marshy habitat; gliding silently over water is a wonderful experience, you feel part of this wild and primitive nature.
Some canals are a little wider, others are narrower, so much so that sometimes they are caressed by inflorescences or reeds of lake herbaceous plants.
One thing is very important when traveling aboard a mokoro: do not lean over or make sudden movements as you risk ending up in the water, so you can take photographs and selfies and make videos but always making slow and fluid movements.
At one point we spot two elephants in the distance, we see only the head and the back because they are partially covered by vegetation; on the one hand it would be nice to be a little closer, but on the other it would not be the best as we would have no way to get away quickly if they were bothered by our presence.
We also see some hippos, still in the distance and some birds, I expected more; maybe the drought forced them to migrate elsewhere.
After an hour and a half of navigation we arrive, the boatmen push the mokoro on the grass of the bank and we go down to earth; since it's lunch time we take the seats, put them on the ground in the shade and open our picnic box and eat.
How beautiful the feeling of being here immersed in nature; we enjoy this moment while we have lunch, chat and joke.
Once we have finished our lunch we get up and follow two of the boatmen who guide us in the walking safari.
We do a walking safari of about 8 km and we spot several herbivores including many impalas and kudus, we meet some puddles of water and many puddles where water is only a distant memory.
The two guides are prepared and tell us a lot of interesting information on the traces we find along the way and on the plants we see; this walk in the nature is pleasant even if it is a bit warm in the parts where there is no shelter from the sun.
After more than an hour we return to where the mokoro are, we are a little tired and we thought "thank goodness we are now sitting in the boat"; we get in, we sit down and we leave, we have to go back to the same place where we left this morning.
But shortly after the boatmen stop the mokoro, they make a quick inversion, they go back for quite a while and tell us “hippo! hippo! "; we have not even seen them, but they, being upright, have a better view.
To decide to go back means that they were really close to where we should have gone.
The boatmen push the mokoro to shore and we go down trying to avoid putting our feet in the mud; they pull the mokoro to where they can put them back in the water, on the other side from where we came down, and we follow them on foot and then go back on board.
Obviously it is impossible to orient ourselves, there are only canals, papyrus and other aquatic plants, there is no point of reference to understand the direction, while our friends boatmen are very well oriented, we do not know how they know exactly where to go.
We sail for about an hour in the magical silence of this place, it is so relaxing that you risk falling asleep, but it would be a real pity to miss this marvel.
When we get to where the mokoro landing is located, we are a bit disappointed because slowly navigating through the green vegetation, admiring the wild flowers we liked very much.
We get off the mokoro, we greet our friends boatmen and we go up on the jeep that was waiting for us and we leave; from here Maun is a couple of hours away, most of it is in the vegetation of the Okavango Delta, even if it is a completely different vegetation from the one seen from the mokoro.
Together with us they also drive 2 or 3 local boys to which we give a ride to one of the villages we saw this morning along the dirt road.
When we arrive at Maun it's almost 6:00 pm, the sun is going down towards the horizon and we are happy and satisfied with the wonderful experience we lived.
Our day ended with a spritz at our campsite, obviously it was an Afro-Italian spritz: South African wine and Campari that we brought from home; then we went back to dinner at the Old Bridge Backpackers.