What is a mokoro?

What is a mokoro?

What is a mokoro?

 

 

ALEX NEAVES

Botswana travel consultant for Tribes Travel.

I didn’t know either! So, when on my recent trip to Botswana my guide suggested it, I thought I better give it a go!

When most people are going on safari in Botswana, they think of the traditional 4×4 jeep game drives and boat cruises as a way of seeing the country and wildlife, but if you want to get an authentic and alternative experience on safari, then I would highly recommend a mokoro boat trip on the Okavango Delta.

“My entire experience in Botswana was incredible but I will always remember my time on the mokoro.”

ALEX NEAVES

A mokoro is a dug out wooden canoe that was used by the people of Botswana for transport and hunting in and around the Okavango Delta. Nowadays the only people it is transporting is you and me!

The experience is best taken in the morning, when the sun is still rising and before it gets too hot. This excursion is offered in certain lodges in the Okavango Delta where the water levels are constant and that have the guides with the correct expertise.

We left our lodge at 7:30am and were driven a short distance to where our boats were waiting for us. There we met our guides who would be navigating the waterways for us. Many years ago, the canoes where made of ebony or sausage tree wood, however nowadays they have had a face lift and are constructed of fibre glass. Not only is this much lighter and more manoeuvrable, but also prevents the unnecessary destruction of endangered trees in this part of the country.

My guide (or poler as they are known) was Charles and had worked in the Delta his whole life. He suggested that to learn to pole properly, it can take years and that being taught to swim before you pole was always a lesson he remembers! Charles uses a large 3-meter eucalyptus pole to steer through the waterways. He explained that choosing where to take the boat is key. Poling in an area too shallow can be very difficult and cause you to get stuck, whereas choosing somewhere too deep not only causes lost poles, but more importantly does not allow the polers to spot any hippos lurking in the water! I like hippos, but only at a safe distance, so I was keen to listen to his advice.

“My guide (or poler as they are known) was Charles and had worked in the Delta his whole life. He suggested that to learn to pole properly, it can take years and that being taught to swim before you pole was always a lesson he remembers!”

ALEX NEAVES

We set off at from the banks at 8am and headed upstream. One of the first things I noticed is how peaceful it was. When there is no engine noise the wildlife seems far less bothered that you are there, and you almost blend in to the natural environment. It was amazing to just gently float past the changing scenery in complete silence. At certain times of year, elephants can be seen crossing the water and a wide variety of game came down to the water’s edge for a much-needed drink! We simply floated past like driftwood.

After about an hour, we moored under a sausage tree overlooking some giraffes drinking from the waterhole. Charles presented a cool box and flask containing tea and biscuits. If I felt laid back before this, then I was now almost horizontal! I don’t think I will ever forget that cuppa, and I’m positive I have never eaten a hobnob in a more exotic location. Once Charles and I had discussed everything from the environment to Brexit (yes Brexit!) we decided to head back down river the way we had come.

It was at this point that I thought I would offer to help and that I wouldn’t mind having a go. Charles insisted that I stay where I was and enjoy the ride. I didn’t put up much of an argument and continued to take in the sights, and there were plenty! Elephants, hippos, giraffes, jackals and too many bird species to count.

It was at this point that I realised how knowledgeable the guides in Botswana really are. Not only could Charles identify every bird or insect that I was pointing out, but also could give me a short synopsis of their origin, diet and mating habits. It was truly remarkable.

My entire experience in Botswana was incredible but I will always remember my time on the mokoro.

Not just a load of hot air

Not just a load of hot air

Not just a load of hot air

ALEX NEAVES

When you think about a holiday to India, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? The Taj Mahal? The hustle of the Delhi markets? Tigers? Well, we were no different. So when the opportunity to do a hot air balloon ride over the Indian countryside came up, we thought this would be an alternative excursion to add to our trip , little did we know it would turn out to be one of the most incredible and outstanding experiences.

“why are we up so early on our holiday.”

ALEX NEAVES

It was an early morning as we were picked up from our haveli in Jaipur at 04:15am. After the initial thoughts of “why are we up so early on our holiday” we soon realised that we were in for a very unique experience. We had arrived on the outskirts of the city and the sun was just rising. Our transport for the day was already fully inflated and ready to go. There was just enough time for a swift safety brief and a cup of tea (the essentials!) and we were ready to board our flight.

I had never done a hot air balloon ride before and am not that comfortable with heights, however our pilot for the day made everyone feel extremely relaxed and even made time for jokes on lift off. It was a this point that I hoped not everyone in the basket had estimated their weight on the waver form as I had done, and that they all had consumed a moderate breakfast that morning! In a matter of seconds we were off and away!

I guess the first thing I noticed, and what separates balloon flight from most other modes of transport, was the lack of engine noise. There was silence. We could only hear the sound of cattle below and the chatter of local villagers and they made their way to work or school that day. So quiet in fact that we often startled farmers who were busy working on their fields only to look up and see 16 western tourists in a hot air balloon floating about their heads! For some reason, both parties found this highly amusing.

The other surprise (amongst many) was the height in which we travelled at. I had preconceptions of being high above the clouds and needing binoculars to pick out sites and landmarks. This was not the case at all! As our pilot explained, the balloons are controlled very easily and we spent most of the trip at approximately 10 meters from the ground. This allowed us to brush across the tops of tall trees and even pass sweets to the village children below, an experience I will never forget.

“This amazing experience is always first on the tip of my tongue when describing our time in India.”

ALEX NEAVES

Although I mentioned the balloons are easily controlled, they do mostly rely on wind direction which is why the landing site can often be unplanned and improvised. Today would be no different. As we were all just getting used to our new surroundings the pilot announced that we would be landing in an open field nearby. The touchdown was smooth and was welcomed with a huge applause from 16 highly satisfied passengers.

It was at this point we realised we would not be alone for long, after all it’s not every day that a 30 foot, multi-coloured hot air balloon lands in your back garden and we were soon the talk of the……village. Lots of locals came out to greet us and we were humbled at how welcoming and friendly they all were. We had just enough time to take some photos and have a brief conversation with our new friends before we were picked up by our chasing transfer vehicle.

I had thought this balloon trip would be a story I would tell friends after I had explained the Taj Mahal visit, the tiger sightings and the bike ride through Old Delhi, instead this amazing experience is always first on the tip of my tongue when describing our time in India.