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Botswana: Kayaking the Okavango - EXPLORATORY TRIP!

An Exclusive Wilderness Paddling Safari Across the World’s Largest Inland Delta
Day 1: Maun, Botswana / Okavango Delta – Nguma Island Lodge
Arrive in Maun, where you meet our Expedition Leader and connect to a short charter flight to Nguma Island Lodge in the northwestern Okavango Delta. The lodge is situated on a large lagoon in the permanent swamp and papyrus beds of the delta panhandle region. Our local guides will meet us at the lodge, and if time permits, we’ll enjoy a short boat ride on the lagoon for some birdwatching and sundowners, the sunset cocktails that often close each day on safari.

Day 2: Nguma Island to Duba Island
Our paddling expedition begins today! We rise early for breakfast, followed by a 45-minute boat trip upstream to reach the main channel where our kayaks await. After an orientation to our boats, including safety information, our adventure is underway as we paddle out into the large open channel, lined with papyrus. Here in the permanent marsh, we're sure to see plenty of hippos and crocodiles. The current is swift enough to carry us along with ease, while meandering side channels invite periodic exploration in search of the rare sitatunga, a water-adapted antelope native to this region of the delta. We'll also pass by a large heronry that will hopefully be active around the time we are in the vicinity; the area is also a breeding ground for egrets and cormorants.

Our support boats, which accompany us, carry our lunch. After a full day of current-assisted paddling, we reach our campsite at Little Duba Island. The support staff has gone ahead to erect our spacious dome tents and lay out our bedrolls, with warm bucket showers ready on our arrival. This is our longest day of paddling, and if the pace proves too taxing for the group at the outset of our journey, our guides may opt to have us finish the last stretch in the support boats in order to make it to camp before dark.
31 miles (with current) — 8 hours paddling

Day 3: Duba Island to Mushupatsela
After a light breakfast, we take to our kayaks. This section of our journey offers two options, depending on potential route blockages. Our first prospect is to navigate the main Boro River, a narrow, deep channel with overhanging papyrus posing some challenging paddling, yet with a fast-flowing current to aid us. On this route, we’ll stop for lunch on an island that offers a good vantage point to observe the way the delta was formed and how the channels and currents keep the ecosystem vital. The second option involves paddling through a network of narrow papyrus channels and open floodplains. While it will be easier to maneuver our paddles in this setting, there’s much less current and more vegetation in the water. Depending on the group’s abilities and sentiments, our guides will make a decision about the best routing option. Once we reach camp, if time permits we can do some further exploring on the boats, heading back to camp in time for a hearty dinner and relaxing around the campfire.
20 miles – 5.5 hours paddling

Day 4: Mushupatsela to Xigera
An early wake-up call summons us to breakfast and onto the water again. We’ll take a packed lunch with us for a midday stop on Madinare Island, whose name means “mother of buffalo.” While the scenery for the first part of the day looks similar to the terrain we covered yesterday, it begins to change by afternoon, when the channel widens and we move out of the papyrus beds into a large, open area. A wider variety of wildlife is on display as we emerge from the papyrus—we'll expect to see elephant and red lechwe, while also keeping an eye out for buffalo, kudu and impala. If we're lucky, we may spy river otters, too. Today’s paddle ends in a large, shallow lagoon with a sandy shore, a perfect spot for a swim before arriving at our campsite accented by an enormous ancient baobab tree. Late this afternoon we can explore the lagoon further in the boats, hoping to see some hippo and giraffe.
23 miles – 5 to 6 hours paddling

Day 5: Layover Day
Our campsite and lagoon setting is so inviting that today has been set aside for rest and quiet exploration. No need to rise early—after a leisurely breakfast we take a short walk on the island to look for the resident Pel’s fishing owl. We may see endangered bird species like wattled crane and slatey egret. Lunch is served in camp, and there’s time afterward for an afternoon siesta before a swim on one of the sand banks and further exploration in the boats. After a round of sundowners, we return to camp for refreshing showers followed by dinner. Nights in the delta are magical, surrounded by sounds of wildlife—we often hear lions roaring in the distance—beneath a canopy of brilliant stars. 

Day 6: Xigera to Chao
Fully refreshed, we make an early start this morning, as this is one of our longer paddling days. On this section of our Okavango traverse we’ll experience the greatest change of scenery as we move from narrow to wider papyrus channels into big lagoons, through a very shallow, sandy section, and on to open canals that lace vast floodplains, all beneath an enormous bowl of sky. We’ll plan to stop on one of the islands for lunch, as well as for a safe swim midway through the day’s paddle. This section of the delta is also where we will encounter the most big game. Camp will again be set up ahead of us, allowing a chance to relax as soon as we arrive. Tonight, we share stories around the campfire beneath a huge jackalberry tree as we listen for the roar of lions in the distance.
25 miles – 6 to 7 hours paddling

Day 7: Chao to Moremi Crossing
Today marks our last day of paddling across the delta, and we realize we are getting closer to civilization again (relatively speaking) as we begin to encounter more boats in the channel. It’s an engaging journey, though, as we navigate some narrow sections of the channel marked by tight bends. We’ll again stop on one of the shady islands along the way for lunch. This afternoon we arrive at our comfortable lodge accommodations at Moremi Crossing, where there’s time to shower and clean up before enjoying sundowners on the deck overlooking the channel, followed by a savory dinner.
19 miles — 4.5 to 5 hours paddling

Day 8: Mokoro Excursion / Fly to Maun
Sleep in a bit this morning—you’ve earned it! Then, after a leisurely light breakfast, there’s an option to take a short excursion by mokoro—the traditional poled dugout canoe of the delta. Return in time for a hearty brunch before catching the short flight (just 15 minutes) around midday back to Maun. Our expedition concludes in Maun, where you may connect with onward flights.

Please note that distances and times are approximate. Exact routing is dependent on conditions.

+ Interested in adding a few days to your trip? Click here to view our Extension Options.

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