As we glide silently through the papyrus-lined waterways of the Okavango Delta on a mokoro, the experience of the true serenity and silence found on the waterways of Botswana start to come to life.
The mokoro or makoro – (mekoro, plural), is a traditional type of dugout canoe, commonly used by local people in Botswana as a mode of transport in the shallow waters of the Okavango. The mokoro has become synonymous with the Delta and is now a widespread way for visitors to explore the Okavango while on safari.
Originally intended to transport fisherman and goods around the channels, the mokoro used to be painstakingly crafted from tree trunks, hollowed out using hand tools. As the demand for mekoro steadily increased with tourism, certain problems arose concerning the impact they were having on the environment.
Today, modern mekoro are crafted from moulded fibre-glass in an attempt to cut down on the environmental impact of constantly cutting down trees. Designed to look the same as their wooden counterparts, modern mekoro are durable and environmentally sustainable but still maintain their character. A ride offers the same serene gliding experience through the papyrus-lined waterways of the Okavango Delta.
A mokoro usually carries 2 passengers, with a boatman at the back using a long wooden pole to push the canoe forward. Years of practice allow local boatmen – or ‘polers’ – to pilot the narrow channels with ease and dextrousness.
A mokoro trip in the Okavango is a popular activity among visitors who travel to Botswana. It offers an opportunity to become totally immersed in the sounds and sights of nature, without the interference of a running motor. Animals are thus much more relaxed and less easily scared off, offering keen photographers unbeatable close-ups of some of Africa’s greatest wildlife.
Mokoro canoe trips are accompanied by expert guides who are highly knowledgeable about the unique ecosystem of the Delta and the wildlife which call it home. They will be able to point out the wonderful variety of birdlife and smaller wonders of the bush, including frogs, insects and plant-life.
Big game is abundant in the Delta and you can expect to peacefully glide alongside elephant moving through the reeds on a river island, or carefully manoeuvre past a pod of hippo ear-deep in the water. You can also hope to catch a glimpse of a rare sitatunga and red lechwe in the Delta.
A mokoro canoe trip in the Delta is an absolute “must-do”. It is a careful balancing act where the simplest sudden movement could land you in the muddy waters of the Okavango. Even if it seems terrifying at first, the guides and polers are experts at what they do and have years of experience.
There truly is no better way to experience the watery paradise of the Delta than from a mokoro, the same way it has been done for centuries.