As the animal kingdom awakens across the Okavango Delta, we venture out by mokoro canoe at first light to capture every enchanting moment.
Rising before dawn in the Okavango Delta feels like stepping straight into the cosmos. As you peer from under the canopies of Eagle Island Lodge, A Belmond Safari, Botswana, the vast ink-black sky is ablaze with billions of stars. At some far off point on the horizon, the sky tumbles down and spills across the water-logged earth. The shimmering celestial bodies sharing the land with the great beasts we’ve come here to see.
Our adventure begins in those hushed moments before sunrise. Tentative bird calls break the silence. The air sparkles with the charge of a secret, and so we set off from our secluded island perch to discover it.
The Okavango Delta is a real inland oasis. Every year rains flow down from the Angola highlands, flooding the Delta’s grassy plains. The floodwaters bring a loyal following of wildlife. Zebra, buffalo and elephants venture here across Northern Botswana, in hot pursuit of the summer rains. The predators arrive as the marshlands grow rich with different species of bird, fish and fauna. Lions, leopards and even Nile crocodiles are known to stalk among the towering reeds.
Our escort along a network of water channels is a traditional mokoro canoe, captained by our discerning guide. We drift away from the shores of our island paradise. Before us, the treasures of the Delta unfold, wild and untamed.
You can experience this earthly awakening from the air on a dawn helicopter ride. The views of the sunrise reflected in the glittering pools of water are breathtaking. You’ll also witness the migrating herds as they move across the plains—a sight that brings the great circle of life into unparalleled perspective.
By land, you’re in the thick of it. Snake through the grasslands to glimpse the reserve’s wildest inhabitants on a walking tour. Alternatively, join Austrian-born biologist Marc Stickler. As a Leica ambassador and one of the world’s top wildlife photographers, Marc’s expertise is unrivalled. He’ll show you how to frame and capture the Delta’s most dramatic moments on camera.
For us water-borne wanderers, the sense of adventure lies in the dynamism of the floods—feeling the great ebb and flow of life here. Soon the sky appears to burst at the seams. An amber sun casts a fiery glow across the plains. Still, we sail on in awed silence, soaking up the sounds and sights of first light.
Gently, our guide alerts us to wildlife stirring nearby. He is tuned in to a broadcast of rustlings and calls, undefinable to our untrained ears. He signals towards the dark silhouettes of elephants looming against the sunrise. They march on along the fringes of our river, following an ancient migration route through the reserve.
With our Leica binoculars, giraffes are seen lazily chewing on leaves swiped from the treetops. Pelicans are spotted enjoying a daily ritual—splashing through the shallows in search of breakfast.
It isn’t long until it feels like the whole Delta has risen to greet the day. We linger to admire a pair of African fish eagles planning their next dive. Before long, our breakfast boxes are unpacked and we tuck into a variety of hot and cold refreshments. Luxuries are not forgone here in these otherworldly plains.
Returning to our canoes, we glide back towards the comfort of our safari camp. A whole world of natural abundance already uncovered in those first wild rays of dawn.
If you’re inspired to take a leap into first light in Botswana, start planning your escape to Eagle Island Lodge. Unwind in wild surrounds at our luxurious safari lodge then head out for a dawn adventure complete with Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD binoculars. Walking and mokoro canoe experiences are complementary to our safari guests. Alternatively venture out by helicopter, or join international wildlife photographer, biologist and Leica ambassador Marc Stickler for a private tour.
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