Sitting in the early morning splendour of Gunns Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta it is easy to feel an overwhelming gratitude in the joy of life and nature.
Unfortunately, the refreshed feeling that comes from a restful nights’ sleep just wasn’t there! All the sounds of the delta seem amplified in the darkness – the hippo wallowing and noisily feeding mere metres from my tent in the shallow waters. Despite the tent being a large and luxurious sturdy type of structure, it still only had canvas walls and a zipper as a door. There were a few mystery visitors wandering about on the deck throughout the night. As I lay frozen in bed seemingly waiting for the canvas to be ripped to shreds, I wondered on when it would be appropriate to use the alarm. My only salvation was a simple can with a horn that when activated would signal my distress to the world, well the immediate surrounding area. Despite all of this I wouldn’t have traded a single moment, this land was alive, it was a privilege to be immersed in the sheer natural beauty of the surrounds. (Night two, btw, yielded the same cacophony of sounds from wildlife echoing across the delta, sleep however came incredibly easily.)
One visitor I could identify in the very earliest shades of dawn was Little Dave. This young bull elephant is the closest thing you get to having a pet in the middle of the Okavango Delta. Gunns has been here for around 30 years, so I am guessing in Little Dave’s mind it is just a part of the landscape. The previous evening he’d broken through the simple rope barrier on the elephant crossing – a designated area on the raised wooden platform that runs from the tents to the main camp building. He then wandered up to the pool feeding and giving one of the palm trees a mighty shake to dislodge whatever fruit he could.
Water levels were extremely low when I visited which made doing our boat trip of an afternoon a bit of a challenge, but still we managed to see a nice array of wildlife and abundant bird life in an extremely picturesque setting. Our other activity, a walk on Chieftan Island, was about as productive in terms of wildlife as was the Kruger morning walk but I guess these seem to be more about getting out into the environment and experiencing it on the ground.
The plentiful meals are organised to complement the day’s activities and really, they have the routine pretty much perfect. A siesta during the heat of the day after brunch feels simply indulgent.
For all the espousing of the peaceful surrounds even in the middle of the day there can still be plenty of action. A couple of male baboons decided to have an all out stoush just outside. Fortunately, I was also lucky not to have these crafty little visitors get inside my tent, which is what happened to a lovely Austrian couple. No damage was done, they just had the contents of their back packs strewn around the place – moral of the story is don’t keep fruit in your tent.
One of the other rules is no wandering about unescorted at night. Your guide will come to collect you for dinner then walk you back later in the evening. While you might think that not being allowed to wander around at night unaccompanied is excessive – even just running into Little Dave outside my tent would frighten the life out of me, not to mention whatever else lurks in the surrounds.
Gunns Camp offers a fabulous escape from the rigours of everyday life in an extraordinary environment, I can’t wait to go back one day after the rains have fully revitalised the waterways.