Accomodation : Pom Pom
Drivers : Allan and Major
After an early morning safari with Max, we returned to Bakwena and waiting for us was an English breakfast – it seems that when you are the only two guests staying in the lodge, you get the royal treatment, food cooked to order, rather than buffet catering to the masses (ok the masses aren’t huge but made to order they weren’t doing)
Saying goodbye to Opi and Chemba, our twirling, warbling Botswanian welcomers, we headed to Kasane Airport, a little uncertain as to what we might find. This uncertainty stemmed from the fact that we knew we would be flying a small plane to the Okavango Delta and also because we had flown past what was labelled as the airport and only saw a large patch of grass and a small shed type structure. What we didn’t realise and discovered when driving in, was that there was a new flashy international airport that had opened only five months ago, hiding behind a grove of trees.
The airport stood out from its environment in both newness and flashiness. It was so far from what we expected that we actually struggled to take it in. This is a country that obviously is having foreign investment come in and is also looking to develop an easier faster way of reaching places like Chobe from other parts of Africa.
Now we had been told there was a very, very strict luggage limit and so on the safe side we had purchased a very expensive extra seat. This was due to things such as all the camera gear, CPAP machine and an unwillingness to carry a duffel bag all round Africa (deciding to get a heavier soft sided bag with wheels – that still fit into the flying requirements). We were therefore a little bemused when the bags (none of them) weren’t weighed – not the luggage or the carry on. There were in fact bags that appeared to be equally as heavy being loaded onto the plane and the hand luggage just got put behind a strong flap at the rear of the inside of the plane. The situation got even more ‘bemusing’ when we were the last ones to get onto the plane and other singles had taken up the only available double seats leaving us two singles at the back (so much for the extra seat!) the only consolation that I could see was that we were definitely the closest to the emergency exits and given the size of the plane, I had worked out where they were and how they worked.
As the plane took off it rocked to and fro…hmm this is going to be fun. The pilot had explained before we left that as it was hot, the flight would be bumpy…great. He also explained that unfortunately on this flight there was no inflight entertainment or drinks cart…hah very funny. He forgot to mention that there was no smoking in the toilets as there weren’t any!
There were three stops on the flight with Pom Pom being the last. The first would take a bit over an hour, the next twenty minutes and finally Pom Pom another five minutes. Now I don’t mind flying but I do mind it when the plane rocks around in the air, bumps and drops and generally does things that indicate that the flight is not as smooth or as safe as I’d like. With this happening at regular intervals, I decided to close my eyes and imagine that this was just a safari and the bumping was the jeep going up and down. It seemed to work a little. Going for us was that fact that we had already spent a number of days getting up very early and were feeling pretty tired, so luckily I fell asleep, waking up as the plane landed at its first stop. The next two were quick in comparison and we landed on a dry, dusty airstrip in the middle of the Delta with Allen in the jeep waving madly at us.
We had seen numerous photographs and vision of the Delta, filled with water and small pockets of land popping out from the water. Looking at this place, it really messes with that image. For the most part it’s dry, not sandy like Chobe, but where’s the water? Sure there’s a waterhole in front of our very plush tents but we had been told that Pom Pom was on Pom Pom island and unless our pilot had taken us very much off course, there was no island to be seen. When asked about it, we were informed that this image is created three months of the year – May, June, July when the water flows from Angola. Therefore they are dependant on the water coming from there to determine how wet it becomes…hmm didn’t get the memo on that one.
We waited for another small aircraft to arrive and out popped…ok not popped more like staggered an older couple, David and Jill. Jill couldn’t get into the back of the jeep so sat in the front seat. We were told that we were going to be doing the safaris together during our time at Pom Pom. Oh great we thought!
Pom Pom itself was only a five minute drive from the runway. It’s hot, probably the hottest day we’ve experienced. There is a central open air Boma looking out on the water hole. On each side of the Boma are a series of tents all with timber floors and raised off the ground with their own decking. They all look out over the waterhole and give a great view of the various animals. Inside there is a sitting area complete with couch, then a timber doorway takes you through to the bedroom and behind that the hand basin and toilet. At the rear of the tent is an outside shower. Having been in a tent situation in Sri Lanka, this is how tenting should be done! The only interesting thing is that whilst there are light switches and a ceiling fan, there are no power points. If you want to charge anything that is done from a central point in the Boma. (We didn’t need it as gadget guru Phil had brought along his portable battery which charged our phones and watches, and plenty of spare batteries for the cameras). One important aspect of the tent was the locks on the front zippers. We were warned to keep the tent not just closed but locked as apparently the baboons have learnt how to open the zippers and make themselves at home in the tent, also confiscating anything that they find interesting. People’s underwear has been known to be seen hanging from the trees around Pom Pom…point taken.
The safaris here are a little different in that you can go off road and are not compelled to follow tracks. This was observed when we found lions and drove straight up to them. Not a bad starting point although I was still grappling with the lake of water concept. Philip was sold though, especially when part of the dinner option was roast lamb and mashed potato. He even had a go at the blue cheese and pear tart; I think cos it was darker and he couldn’t exactly see what it looked like.
So a big day; another place, new people and a new schedule. Off to bed with the sounds of hippopotamus grunting from in front of us and monkeys and baboons in the trees around us. The heart of Africa is where we are tonight.