The beating heart of the expedition! We are 16 days into our 10th annual scientific survey #okavango19 across the entire Okavango Delta system using traditional mekoro (6m standup canoes ). This year is different though! We are exploring a new route down the eastern side of the delta, arguably the remotest area in the region. Each day at around 3pm we find an island to set camp and make a home for 12 people who have been pushing and pulling themselves through this dense wetland wilderness for the previous 6 hours. Our home is around the campfire, where ever it might be, our sanctuary nestled in our tents, where ever they might be. The sense of community and mutual caring that develops and binds an expedition team makes any place a place of nourishment, security, and society. This is what keeps us focused, alert and safe during the day. Balance. An amazing sunset to milkyway to full moon rise, on yet another magic island, just reminds us of what a privilege it is to in a wild place like this! The @intotheokavango National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project has been working tirelessly over the past 10 years documenting the biodiversity and health of all the waters of the Okavango River System, traversing over 6500km (4000 miles ) of river in just the past 4 years. All this to build the knowledge base to show the government of the region and the world of how important it is to protect this pristine river basin, especially in this time of global freshwater insecurity. Posted on @natgeoadventure @intotheokavango #okavango19 #insidenatgeo #natgeo
Traveling back from a month of running around the United States, reflecting on the amazing connections made and inspirational time spent with amazing people, I still just can’t wait to get back home! This is Hogsback, Eastern Cape, South Africa the location of our family home and the epicenter of my heart in this wondrous region of Southern Africa! I hold only a South African passport, but call this entire region home, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia. This region is the only place on earth I feel truly at home and fully understand the communities around me. My wish is for these borders to drop and everyone realize we are one and can find the best future for people, fresh water, natural resources and wildlife! I feel we are already on this path, let’s keep going together!
The early morning commute across the Tempué River. After the war years, no major road infrastructure, such as bridges, were left intact in the Lisima landscape, only what the local communities had built to keep the economy flowing. Many of these community made foot (such as this one ), motorbike and a few vehicle bridges connect the villages in this landscape now, formalizing this network and making more permanent structures will aid the development of a sustainable conservation economy in the area. @intotheokavango #lisima19 #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo
Back in the forest of wondrous creatures! Amazing to be back in largest unfragmented Miombo forest in the world, in the central eastern highlands of Angola. What a privilege it is to spend time in this place and have breath-taking creatures like this mantis pay a visit in your day and then carry on with theirs. Life is beautiful! @intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo #mantis #intotheokavango
The boiling lakes of the mornings! Nights in the highlands of Angola get extremely cold in the winter months, dropping below -4C at times, with the days still reaching over 30C. The deep waters of the lakes hold this daytime temperature through the coldest early hours of the morning, and as the sun starts approaching the horizon, the still air starts rousing, bringing the cold, moisture laden air and the warm lake water in contact, creation the streaming mists from the lakes. A time of such beauty, a time we miss so much when away! @intotheokavango #lisima19 #insidenatgeo #natgeo #intotheokavango #mistymornings
On the road to Angola again! 🇦🇴 How we long for the beautiful misty morning, thick with moisture, grass drenching your pants on the walk to the morning coffee around the fire! This is our first morning coming into the landscape of the central eastern highlands of Angola, camping along the railway tracks near Cuemba, Bié, Angola! So good to be back! @intotheokavango @insidenatgeo #lisima19 #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo #mistymornings
War is not to be forgotten, we have to remember, process and learn! The scars of war are still fresh and tender in Angola, and its effects deeply ingrained in the national consciousness. And from these memories one of the most positive, hard working, community orientated societies has emerged to do everything they can to avoid this conflict again. Monuments have been built, like this one in Cuito Cuanavale, to make sure the lessons of these painful memories don’t fade away, and people embrace the peace and prosperity the country deserves! @intotheokavango #cuitocuanavale #angola #war #peace
Retired too early to the wash station. Once a magnificent hard wood in the great Miombo woodland of central eastern Angola, cut down too early, repurposed into a beautiful makoro (dugout canoe ), only to serve the fisherman that made it for 2-4 years before losing its ability to keep the water out. Another valuable hard wood’s life cut way too short. This cycle of cutting down the forest can not be sustainable, especially with a growing population living off the rivers. We need to look for a more sustainable, environmentally friendly means of river transport with the fisherman. You can see the patch work of pieces of plastic being pasted on this old makoro to try extend its short life, but now it has become the village wash station. Our trees need to be valued for more than this, we need them! And notice the Spotted Eagle Owl land near the right of the makoro near the end of the clip. @intotheokavango #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo #timelapse #moonrise #nightlapse
3D Scanning the Delta. We had the incredible opportunity to have the @virtualwondersllc crew come apply their expertise in 3D high definition scanning on the central Okavango Delta. This collaboration between @virtualwondersllc and #natgeolabs will create some of the highest definition imagery of this region as an valuable snapshot of the current state of this wetland wilderness for future comparison to monitor natural and anthropogenic changes to this amazing sanctuary! This is the state of the art camera system hard at work flying detailed transects over the Okavango. #intotheokavango @intotheokavango @natgeo @insidenatgeo
Sharing our space with Giants! With love, respect and understanding we can live in harmony with our giants, our perceived foes, our own demons. Let us all use this New Year, 2019, to identify and learn about our giants, not shy away and fear them, and bring on the harmony we all need to survive and flourish, both internally and externally. 📸 @sandesh_kadur #intotheokavango
Beauty and survival, two factors resonating in the harsh landscapes of southern Namibia. A once vibrant manor house near Grünau, abandoned, crumbles away faster than the timeless environment it stands in. This hyper-arid environment, nestled in between the succulent winter rainfall vegetation of the Succulent Karoo and the woody summer rainfall vegetation of the Nama Karoo, has a stark beauty and vastness that allures, but life is extremely unpredictable and harsh, and few non-native species will find their niche to survive here, humans included. Some places we are just meant to be visitor, let’s try leave them to the species that happily call them home!
The Starry nights of Namaqualand! The crystal clear skies of the Succulent Karoo Biome of Namaqualand, Northern Cape, South Africa, make for some dreamy evenings. This arid region can not support great human populations, therefore very little light pollution, but supports one of the most diverse and interesting floral kingdoms. The succulent slows in this photo make for an incredible landscape, but when you get on your hands and knees and explore the multitude of small succulent plants, the real-life science fiction starts!
Chasing Light! Light brings life to this world! From plants photosynthesizing it into useable energy for all, to bringing the world around us into our reality by burning images onto our retinas and photographic sensors! Chasing beautiful moments of light brings me such deep gratitude in the world around us, and a wonderful challenge to attempt to freeze these moments in time to share. Today the ability of people to capture moments of light is like none other before, and what a world we are all sharing and seeing!
The Fish River Canyon, Namibia! After spending the year in the flat landscapes of the Okavango-Cuando-Zambezi system, a little road trip to breath taking topography and vistas is truly inspiring! This world has so much beauty and inspiration to find in natural wilderness areas, get your maps out, scour Google Earth images, and get out there an explore! #fishrivercanyon #inspiration #explore
Tonight in LA!! So excited to be screening the @intotheokavango film in LA tonight! So great to be back this side of the world, and I finally get to see this incredible work by @neilgelinas on the big screen with an amazing audience! And not long not to sharing it with everyone on NatGeo Wild @natgeowild from the 14/15th Dec, depending on where in the world you are.
It’s raining in Angola! The temperature is rising, water is evaporating, the sky is beginning to boil and the water is beginning to move from the sky to the Okavango system! This is a time of excitement, hope and expectations! When this landscape is dry, it is so dry! No one knows when the rains will come and how they will be. Every drop is to be celebrated, every drop must be valued. Clean, potable water is becoming a scarcer commodity on our planet, we need to value areas that capture it! The eastern highlands of Angola is a water tower, a place that harvests the water from the skies, a place we all need to remain the way it is now! Let’s all educate ourselves on areas like these on this world, and work to guarantee their survival!
Pushing the limits at the Inaugural Ngashi Classic makoro race! On the 6th October this year we, at the Botswana Wild Bird Trust, hosted the first annual Ngashi Classic. An event to celebrate the makoro, a tradition standup canoe, and the culture around using this watercraft of the Okavango Delta, and the Ngashi, the traditional pole made from Silver Clusterleaf , Terminalia sericea, used to propel the makoro effortlessly across this wetland wilderness! We at @intotheokavango have designed all our surveys of over 6500km of river within the Okavango and Cuando System around this beautiful craft and the knowledge of the people who grew up on them. Being able to carry up to 450kg of gear, we can really push the limits in what is possible in research and media production. Here a Bayeyi poler show us exactly how to take a corner at speed at the turning point of the race. #botswanawildbirdtrust #ngashiclassic #intotheokavango
Rays of hope for an incredible future in West Papua! Last year I had the amazing opportunity to go to a land I had only dreamt of, only visualized while reading books, and images thereof halt me in my tracks, the land of Papua. We went on an expedition to West Papua, a far flung province of Indonesia, spent some time up in the remote, forested highlands on the eastern border, and then down to the area around Palau Waigeo in Raja Ampat. What we saw was a place of boundless biodiversity, protected to this point in time largely by remoteness and inaccessibility. But today our capabilities and need for resources have increased so much, no part of our earth is impossible to exploit. So to hear through @shawnheinrichs @sealegacy @bluespherefoundation @conservationid @paulnicklen @cristinamittermeier that we are on the brink of a law being passed declaring West Papua the world’s first Conservation Province, or “Provinsi Konservasi”, with conservation being at the forefront of policy decision making, is just incredible. These organizations and individuals are doing everything they can to support and encourage the adoption of this law! Please go to any of their profiles and learn more about this initiative and how we can all get involved! It’s moments like these we all need to feel the urgency, get together and contribute to the voice, wilderness areas worldwide are disappearing at an alarming rate, and when opportunities like these are created and are standing there, it is our obligation to get involved!! This photo is of a fishing village on Palau Gam, Raja Ampat, the community here has incredible environmental ethics, let’s see if we can help protect the world around them, so the environment they protect and utilize everyday will always remain this way! #provinsikonservasi #protectwestpapua
The Magic of the Rio Kembo! After following over 6000kms of river within the Okavango and Cuando catchments over the past 4 years, the 260km of Kembo River truly stands out clearly in my mind as some of the most dream-like stretches of water! This was the only little step-down rapid of the Kembo where we found some really interesting rock deposits. In this deep Kalahari sand basin, rock is incredibly rare, so I does excite when we find some. But just look at that water!?! #kembo18 #cuando18 @intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo
The Remembrances of War. Here Elias Ngunga from Kutiti village, at the confluence of the Kembo and Cuando Rivers, walks past an old Viscount plane that was downed in the floodplains of the Cuando River in 1984 during the devastating 40 years of civil war in Angola. Elias grew up in an area ravaged by war, near the stronghold of the opposition forces, and from an extremely young age was brought into involvement running weapons and supplies. Elias is one of the most incredible, intelligent characters we have ever met, and wise way beyond his 28 years. We, at the Okavango Wilderness Project @intotheokavango , are privileged to have met and worked with Elias on the #cuando18 expedition, and look forward to continuing our work with him and his community, to help provide all the opportunity the world surrounding him did not offer in the past, so that he can decide where his future will lie. It is now a time to realize the world is one place, one system with incredible imbalances due to the ways of the past, and we all need to work together to stabilize these imbalances for the perpetual health, survival and well being of everyone and everything! #intotheokavango @insidenatgeo @natgeo
An amazing 30 minutes that everything was just perfect! With the rains starting to build over the Okavango Delta, it makes me think of this moment from January this year and how we wait to see how this season is going to be with such great anticipation! I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited as when I walked to the other side of an island we were camping on, to check what the rumbling was all about, and laid eyes on this incredible scene! A super active thunder storm on the horizon, with starry skies above, and a full moon rising lighting up the tops of the clouds, a whole lot of elements coming together beautifully. This cues the mad scrambling for gear, site selection, camera settings, do not want to miss this! This is the third post I have done from this amazing moment, scroll back to check the other ones, the first one was the day after on 6 January 2017. Just mind blowing the beauty that is out there waiting for us, let’s get out there and find it!
Early morning rituals! The thing I miss most about our expedition life when back at home, is having a fire to huddle around with friends/colleagues/family as the sun cracks over the horizon, to slowly enter the new day! Nothing should be done in a rush out there! Coffee, conversation, photography, contemplation, peace. Getting ready for the intensity and focus of safely navigating down these pristine rivers systems of the Zambezi/Okavango Complex. #tb to #kembo18 @intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo
Meditation of the Avo! It has been quite a while since I last posted anything, and this is largely due to what is described in the previous 2 posts. We had a couple weeks of contemplation and preparation after the #cuando18 expedition abruptly halted, and then went into our 9th Wetland Bird Survey #okavango18 crossing of the Okavango Delta. I felt a deep need to go internal to reconnect with the reasoning, ethics and philosophy that drives us to explore and document this incredible system to advocate for its eternal protection and appreciation. During this time I did not feel confident enough in my own energy and thoughts to tell the story of our work and exploration as well as lead our team through this pristine, yet dangerous, wilderness. @kodilu did such an incredible job, pretty much by himself, in telling a beautiful story of our #okavango18 crossing, he is an amazing photographer, videographer and storyteller, and @intotheokavango is privileged to have his exuberant, ever-positive energy on the team! We are now finished our expeditions for the year, spending time with family and friends, eating fresh food (AVO!! ), and sharing the data and media we have gathered to inspire and motivate governments and individuals to ensure the future of this system! This photo by the wonderful @akasha_kae , back in the Okavango Delta a week ago, under very much more controlled conditions than we are used to, sums up the last couple months and is just perfect to get back on the social media horse and keep on riding! #avocado #meditation @intotheokavango
.......continued from previous post The next day we dried gear, processed events, and had a team meeting to make sense of the hippo’s reaction. We decided this was unique behaviour, and unlikely to be the standard. The next morning we got back on the water, moving slower, heightened awareness, and after 90 minutes the flotilla was passing an entrance to an oxbow lake, a lone hippo burst out and strikes the 8th makoro. After paddling over 6000km of rivers in this region over the past 3 and half years, guided by the knowledge of the people using these waters every day, we had never encountered behaviour like this, and now on 2 consecutive days! Before continuing we needed to know more: more about the closest communities' relationships with this river and its hippos, and if this behaviour were out-of-the-ordinary or expected. We went walking, following the best used routes between islands separated by shallow water. We found a farmer, he had crops on multiple islands, and he welcomed us to sit with him to talk about the hippos and this channel. He told us that the community does not use the main channel at this time of the year as the flood water has dropped, and the all the hippos are confined to what remains. He continued to explain that not only are all these hippo confined to this limited space right now, but that they are also different from hippos in other rivers and areas. He said these hippo were terrorised by armies as a food source as well as a hinderance to their use of the waterway. This population is deeply traumatised, and has been driven to a strategy of aggressively defending itself. He did add that in April/May when the water levels are up, the hippos have more room and don’t feel cornered, so the waterways can be shared with people again. We listened to this advice, we’re going to take time, speak to more local communities, and work out how and when we can safely travel down the Cuando again. For now, we make our way back to Botswana to re-goup and process these events and the data we have gathered on this expedition. #cuando18 #intotheokavango #natgeo #insidenatgeo
After 84 days of paddling, surveying and living on 2000km of river in the Cuando System, we had reached a point where we cannot continue our journey. There is still 600km of river downstream from us, reaching the Linyanti Swamps, the end point of our survey, where the river changes identity and exits the swamps as the Linyanti River, connecting with the Zambezi through the Chobe River, and in exceptional flood years, join to the Okavango Delta via the Selinda Spillway. On 1st August the team made the incredibly difficult decision to halt the expedition early due to safety concerns for the 10 mekoro of 20 people travelling this waterway. On the last 2 consecutive days on the water before the decision was made, we had encountered hippos whose behaviour no one in the team could really understand, from the Bayeyi of the Okavango Delta, to the Ngangele fisherman from the upper Cuando in Angola, to the Lozi fisherman from the lower Cuando in Zambia, on our team. We had already passed through 1300km of river with dense hippo populations, just fleeting glimpses and swirls in the water, these hippos were terrified, and in a panic, and would do anything they could to get away from us and not be seen. This is not the way we usually want to encounter hippos, we want them to be calm and confident, look at us, together we communicate our intentions and comfort zones and grant each other passage. When a hippo is scared and hiding, they are only reacting to their perception of what could be happening on the surface, and not what is actually happening. We then came upon our first pod of 5 hippos that did not frantically flee, they were very nervous, but for the first time they stayed, they would periodically come to the surface and give us a good look, not too threatening, but a confused defensive look. After spending time with these hippo, for them to calm down, we decided to try pass, one of the hippo proceeded on charging and knocking 2 of our mekoro, almost sinking both. What just happened? No one read that this was how the hippo would react. We had to be even more patient, give them more time and give them more space. ..........continued in next post Video by @kodilu
While packing up the tent and gear for the 9 o’clock push off, I looked up and saw a pair of Lesser Striped Swallows circling above. The male dived down straight into a nest hole, revealing their mud nest under an overhanging branch in a nearby Sausage Tree. Wish I could sit down and spend the rest of the day watching them build and tend their home, but no time for that? So instead I set the camera up nice and close to the nest, connected the remote control, and now I could attempt to do 2 things at once. Trying to keep an eye on the swallows to see when one of them makes a dive for the nest, while making sure all the gear is neatly and securely packed in its place. Here the female comes in with some nesting material to add to the comfort in her home. We live life on the move out here, traveling everyday, but always make time to appreciate the diversity of life all around us! Expedition #cuando18 @intotheokavango @wildbirdtrust #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo
Before this #Cuando18 Expedition, we studied the satellite photos of the vast floodplains of the Cuando River with no clear idea on how to the spend days living without the option of meeting mainland again. Will there be dry land to put our tents for 20 people, will there be wood to cook our food, can we do this? We noticed little clumps of trees hidden in the endless reed and papyrus beds, where these going to become our homes for these nights? We started meeting these little tree islands to find that most of them had no land in them, were incredibly beautiful swamp forests, but no home for 20 people. How are we going to do this? The further we travelled and the wider the floodplain grew, these islands seemed to start maturing, the trees were capturing sand from the flowing river and holding it to make small patches of dry land in these swamp forests. We could make this work?! We tried one of these swamp forests, and made an amazingly compact camp using every inch of this dry land, we loved it, we can do this! Now, weeks down the line, the islands have grown and matured, we have become better at reading which ones are habitable and how to make comfortable homes on them. Yesterday we camped on the mainland, there was ample space and wood to camp for days, a month ago this is something we longed for, but I found myself wishing for another island, not needing all this space and resources, our perception of these floodplains have changed, we are home here now, we don’t look and wait for the mainland anymore, the islands are our home! @intotheokavango #intotheokavango #natgeo #insidenatgeo
After 65 days of following the waters of the Cuando River system #cuando18 #kembo18 , paddling our makoros daily to the next piece of land that could be a home for our team of 20, covering well over a 1000km of river now, and time starts playing with perception Sometimes it feels like we just got on the river a week ago, but then you think back on being in the icy mists of the upper highlands, and then it seems like it was a lifetime ago! I do miss those misty mornings, he light catching the mist boiling out the river and drifting through the Miombo woodland. But as this Cuando River unfolds in front of us, it continues to amaze. We cannot wait to take in every next kilometer, this pulls us down the valley, until one day we will reach its end, and we will no longer have to wonder what the kilometers of this river look like anymore, it is in us! @intotheokavango #natgeo #insidenatgeo
The unseasonal clouds bring beauty and warmth! Winter in the Angolan highlands is characterized by cloudless skies and frosty mornings, but for the last 2 weeks we have been treated to a beautiful blanket of patchy cloud cover, and the warmth they trap down by the surface. For the photographers, no complaints with the extra bit of help to make the images pop! We do love water in all her forms! @intotheokavango #cuando18 #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo
Is it night or it is day?! The brightness of the moon out in the Angolan highlands brings the light of day to night! What a privilege to live with this incredible sky as our roof. Join us on @intotheokavango on Expedition #cuando18 for more this incredible place! #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo #moonlight
The air up here is heavy with moisture All day the water flows below us, and as soon as the day’s heat dissipates, this water in the air starts transforming from its invisible state and does some magical things! Follow our research expedition down the Cuando River #cuando18 on @intotheokavango #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo
A land where the separation between dream and reality is hard to realize, in the present and for the future! We live here, along the river courses of the central eastern Angolan highlands #lisima in a dream-like state, engaging with a world thought to be lost, unreal when thinking about it from home, in perfect harmony with it while here. We dream of this land remaining this way, and returning even further to its pristine state under protection and management, now it is in a beautiful, fragile moment, lingering in the aftermath of war, unsure of what will be next, we can only continue dreaming of the bigger brighter future for this region, and putting all our energy into bringing it to reality! Follow our journey #cuando18 on @intotheokavango #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo
Back to the tent after the sunrise coffee around the fire with the early risers! The routine of breaking down and then setting up again in a different location on a daily basis is part of the rhythm that we have designed this river living around. Our mission in having the lowest impact possible on the environment around us while studying it, is achieved by a very short time at each location as not to create permanent paths and negatively affect the fuel supplies, all gear being vital and needed every day with a specific packing places, and everything being cleaned and repacked so regularly. We love this lifestyle, and all of us take these lessons back home! @intotheokavango #cuando18 #intotheokavango #insidenatgeo #natgeo
The stillness and warmth of a night in the forest We are always excited to find a campsite at the end of the day with a dense, healthy forest to make our home. The warmth it traps and holds, and the protection from the dew and frost do not go unappreciated! These forests are not here for our comfort, the ecological services they provide to us and the entire planet do go unappreciated, take a moment to give forests around the world the recognition they deserve! @intotheokavango #intotheokavango #natgeo #insidenatgeo #kembo18 #cuando18 #forests