Eagle Island

With most safaris, the fun does not begin until you arrive at the game reserve. However, when you visit Eagle Island Camp in the heart of the magical Okavango Delta, the fun begins when you step on the tarmac at Kasane airport to see the plane that is going to take you there. No super jumbo awaits, just a high wing, single engine, propeller powered plane that could fit into many peoples garage.

For me the fun got even better when I was able to take the seat next to the pilot; I could almost imagine it was me pushing the throttle forward and pulling back on the joystick as we climbed gently into the clear blue sky. From the air, cruising gently some 1,500 feet above the ground, there are spectacular views of the Botswana veldt, and one can appreciate the vastness of this amazing continent.

Some ninety minutes later, from my vantage point in the co-pilot seat, I could see on the horizon a chalky white strip, carved into a clearing in the bush; that was our airstrip. A single orange windsock, hanging limply in the midday heat is the only navigational aid but our skilled pilot brings us in safely and smoothly (it was me really, but don’t tell anyone) and brings the plane to a halt right by the jeep waiting to take us the short distance to the camp.

There we were met by the camp manager and members of her team with warm greetings and an equally welcoming cool wet towel and glass of delicious home made lemonade. We were also introduced to the guide for our stay, Mann. As one would expect, over the next four days we would be constantly amazed at Mann’s vast knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area and his innate ability to track down any animal that happened to be nearby.

Apart from the communal areas such as the bar and dining room the “camp” consists of twelve “tents.” Let me tell you, I was in the scouts so I know a tent when I see one and the Eagle Island variety certainly do not resemble anything I remember. Air conditioning, power shower, a huge, incredibly comfortable bed and ample storage exemplify the luxury of the camp.

At our briefing we were told that it is quite to safe to walk about the camp in daylight but if you should see any creature you were not certain about, then you are given a number to call. As we set off for our afternoon game drive, lo and behold, we bumped into Charlie the camp’s resident bull elephant. He was quietly blocking our path munching on some bamboo reeds. We debated trying to walk round him, but the sheer size of him made that seem perhaps not the best of ideas. In the end, discretion won the day; a quick call for assistance and a ranger soon came along clapping his hands and shooing Charlie away. With a disdainful snort and a shrug of his massive shoulders Charlie trundled off to the bush and we went on our drive.

Game experiences at Eagle Island are either land based by jeep or water based in a flat bottomed motor boat cruising along the beautiful waterways that make up the Okavango Delta. A boat drive will also enable you to experience riding in a makoro, the long, narrow, wooden canoes used for centuries by local fishermen. I do not think I have ever experienced such peace as when silently gliding along the water, admiring the flowers and the birds that seem to adorn every inch. A helicopter ride is also available which gives you a totally different perspective, especially since they take the doors off, so you have a totally uninterrupted view.

Whether you go by jeep or by boat, wildlife is plentiful – hippos, crocs, elephants, zebra, giraffe, antelope as well as a whole host of birds. I even saw a rare fish owl. Then, to finish off a perfect day, you can relax at the bar on the river bank, sipping a delicious cocktail whilst watching one of the most glorious sunsets you are ever likely to see.

The Okavango Delta is very special and Eagle Island Camp is a very special place from which to see it.

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by Barry Kester

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