Mokoros are normally approximately 20 feet (6 meters) in length and are crafted from the trunks of trees, which are painstakingly hollowed out by hand. Mokoros are used by many of the local people of the Okavango for traversing and fishing the channels. They have become one of the iconic symbols of the Delta and are a popular way for guests to explore the Okavango while on safari.
The mokoro traditionally carries two people, one of which sits at the stern and steers the direction of the boat, while the other stands well toward the front propelling it forward in a pushing motion with a long pole called a ngashi. Local boatmen are able to move with considerable speed and maneuverability as many have perfected this lifelong skill. Skilled locals who travel by mokoro are commonly known as ‘polers’.
It is commonly agreed upon by those that make frequent use of the mokoro, that only certain trees should be used in their construction. The trees should be older and straight for the desired buoyancy and shape to be achieved. Jackalberry Trees, Sausage Trees and Mangosteens are some of the preferred choices used in the crafting process. The long branches of Terminalia trees are used to fashion the poles.
The barks of these trees are hollowed out with tools such as hatchets. However before the introduction of metal implements, people made use of controlled fires to hollow out the trees. The burnt wood was then chopped away with a curved chopping blade called an adze until enough was removed so that the boat became buoyant. The last phase of the building process demands that the boat be crafted to create an elongated and streamlined shape with distinct points at the bow and stern.
While the demand for mokoros has steadily increased over the years in Botswana, certain problems arose concerning their production and the impact it has on had the environment. Although the Delta region is more than able to compensate for the amount of trees needed to make mokoro, the fact that only older trees are preferred, has in turn had a specific impact on this environment. As such, tourism in the Okavango Delta promotes the use of fiberglass mokoros, which is what you will find being used by most of the Delta camps and lodges today.
The mokoro trip is a very popular activity in the Okavango Delta among guests who travel to Botswana. It is an opportunity to fully experience the sounds and sights of nature without running the risk of scaring off animals with a motor and is thus a highly recommended expedition for photographers. Guides that command mokoro are highly knowledgeable about the environment and as such these rides are considered safe and enjoyable.
Some describe a mokoro trip as one of the most peaceful experiences they have had. Imagine gliding through water that mirrors the sky above, brushing past reeds which are home to tiny brightly colored frogs, and approaching an Elephant - ear deep in the water and happily munching reeds. Imagine witnessing an amazing variety of birdlife, or catching a glimpse of Lechwe or a rare Sitatunga feeding by the water.
Read more about an exciting mokoro safari package