November 18 – Afternoon Game Drive
Despite the fact that we left camp at 3:45pm, our Afternoon Game Drive did not officially begin until after 5pm… and just to make things a bit more interesting, James 007 found a way to “rope” other guests into our vehicular activities. Since Duba is located in the northern reaches of the Okavango Delta, water plays a significant role in almost everything that you do, some parts of the year more than others – like in November when the Delta is just beginning to rise due to the start of the local rainy season. The water will continue to increase in the coming months as it begins to flow down from the Angolan Highlands about 1500 miles to the north (the Okavango flood season usually reaches Duba sometime in May).
To get out to the open plains, the most likely place to find the buffalo herd, you need to drive through water channels (some of them a tad deep) – this is part of the normal course of business. From the picture above you can see dry, white areas which are some of the many “islands” aka, higher drier land dotted amongst the many channels comprising the Delta. The Duba vehicles are specially equipped to maneuver through some of these water channels – many times with even the hood of the car coming close to being under water – all made technically possible by strategically positioning the air intake valve about three feet above the hood. I always get a kick out of these water-crossings – sometimes you get to see a crocodile swim by your door… Despite the fact that the guides make these crossings daily, they still need to be careful and sometimes, despite the best-laid plans, things don’t always work out. Bottom-line, we weren’t ten minutes out of camp when we found ourselves mired in mud with water just shy of our hood – and running along the floorboards of the vehicle (there are drains in the back just to counter this sort of issue, so our camera equipment quickly found a place on our laps). Evan was wondering out loud if we could sink further but we soon understood that we were already sitting at the bottom of the channel with one of the four wheels wedged in an even deeper hole. I began to rethink the phrase “hitting rock bottom” and realized (at least at Duba) that hitting rock bottom would be fortuitous – the lack of fortune lies in our “hitting mud bottom”.
James radio’d for assistance and another guest vehicle, commandeered by Spike, came to our rescue. Spike seemed to get the short end of the stick this afternoon – he was the one who had to wade barefoot into the channel … Spike’s guests waited nearby on foot, and on the watch, for WILDlife, while Spike cautiously drove closer to us so that the tow-rope could reach us and be tied to our vehicle. Before we knew it, Spike’s vehicle was also stuck! The ultimate rescue occurred with a Massey Ferguson tractor, powerful enough to apparently get out of anything with relative ease – it was only a matter of additional minutes before we were on dry land again – and then (finally) we were off. Unfortunately, the tractor-pulling event proved to be the major excitement of the afternoon. The lions and buffs were quiet so we spent a bit of time with the elephants. Always a favorite of mine.