The Mokoro Experience

One of the best (and also cheapest) ways to experience the Okavango Delta is to glide across the waters in a mokoro (plural mekoro), a shallow-draft dugout canoe traditionally hewn from an ebony or sausage-tree log. With encouragement from several international conservation groups, however, the Batswana have now begun to construct more mekoro from fibreglass. The rationale behind this is that ebony and sausage trees take over 100 years to grow while a mokoro only lasts for about five years.

A mokoro may appear precarious at first, but it is amazingly stable and ideally suited to the shallow delta waters. It can accommodate two passengers and limited luggage, and is propelled by a poler who stands at the back of the canoe with a ngashi, a long pole made from the mogonono tree.

The quality of a mokoro trip often depends on the passengers’ enthusiasm, the meshing of personalities and the skill of the poler. Most polers (but not all) speak at least some English and can identify plants, birds and animals, and explain the cultures and myths of the delta inhabitants. Unfortunately, polers are often shy and lack confidence, so you may have to ask a lot of questions to get the information.

How much you enjoy your trip will depend partly on your expectations. If you come in the spirit of immersing yourself in nature and slowing down to the pace of life here on the delta, you won’t leave disappointed. It’s important to stress, however, that you should not expect to see too much wildlife. From the mokoro, you’ll certainly spot plenty of hippos and crocs, and antelope and elephants are frequently sighted during hikes. However, the main attraction of a mokoro trip is the peace and serenity you’ll feel as you glide along the shallow waters of the delta. If, however, your main interest is viewing wildlife, consider spending a night or two in the Moremi Game Reserve.