Much has been written about Botswana and its wilderness areas, its political stability and strong economy and the wildlife has been dramatised in countless documentaries but experiencing it first hand is priceless.
© Flying out of the Delta at 12:28
By Leigh Kemp
The Great Northern Wilderness
The landscape stretched to the haze-dimmed horizon, barely changing except for outcrops of green scrub and the occasional long-dry pan. At almost three thousand feet above the ground
the wilderness seemed to be an endless canvas of heat broken wasteland, a place where nothing could survive.This pic is taken 14 minutes after the one above, at 12:52
Then a spot of stark white appeared off the horizon, growing larger as the plane headed further north. The voice of the pilot announced that we were approaching the Makgadikgadi Pans. The feeling of wonder grew into awe as the plane came parallel with the largest salt pans on earth
, and one of the many relics in the wilderness of northern Botswana of a vast ancient lake that covered much of the area in times past.
But today the pans are an ecosystem in their own right, cut off for so long from the ancient source. But such is the attraction of the Great Northern Wilderness of Botswana - a place where remnants of a past time have created niches of such diversity that it is difficult imagining them as one
, save for the patterns of their past link engraved on the landscape.
An Enchanted Wasteland
Seeing the Great Northern Wilderness
from the air, especially in the dry season, it would be easy to form an idea that too much land lies waste, such is the vastness of the area. Even from up in the air the wilderness stretches from horizon to horizon. During the wet season the area is dotted with countless pans filled with water, allowing the wildlife to thrive on the bountiful food and water but as the dry season creeps in the pans start to dry to mud and the wildlife has to move to the areas of permanent water.Notice the distinctly sharp division in vegetation.
The patterns of the drying season can be seen from up high, with the trails of animals leading to and from the now dry water pans. During the time of plenty animals do not need these trails as there is water everywhere
but with the drying interior the pans become few and far between and the trails are a necessary link between food sources and water - and for the migration towards permanent water.
One of the most poignant scenes from the Botswana wilderness is looking down from the air and seeing a herd of elephant in single file
, suffering the heat, and heading towards the water source through the vast, arid bush. There may also be the sight of a herd clustered in the minimal shade of a tiny tree, trying to shelter from the intense heat.
Botswana - a Place for All Seasons
There may seem to be a great deal more drama during the dry season but the rainy season has its share of incidents
, for it is with the first rains that many of the antelope give birth, and thereby starting the ancient struggle for survival in the African wilderness.
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