Morning finds us goofing off at the airfield, as siblings are wont to do.
Photo shenanigans taken care of, we boarded a plane to the Jao Reserve. Unlike King’s Pool Camp, Jao sits in the middle of the delta, and it’s a completely different type of ecosystem. Rain falls in Angola and, over the next six months, travels 1600 km through Namibia and the Okavango Delta to form Jao’s marshes and lagoons. It’s one of the rare places in the world where water ends inland, rather than continuing to an ocean.
All that moisture creates very fertile soil. Everywhere we look, thick clusters of reeds wave their tops beatifically from muddy ground. Though some are papyrus, the most prevalent reeds are lekatha, or “common reeds.” Locals use common reeds to build houses, weave mats, and all sorts of other purposes. Plus, their thick roots are critical for phytoremediation, or plant-based water purification, and are the reason why the Okavango’s waters run so clear.
Here and there, little green islands peek up from the water’s surface. These are formed in summer, when the waters recede and termites build their mounds from grains of sand and spit, starting deep underground. If an anteater or other predator attacks a colony, they flee and rebuild elsewhere, leaving the mound to erode. As the tunnels are exposed, the mounds become available for snakes, mongooses, or other insects to move in. Sometimes, edible mushrooms sprout from deep within the mounds, creating a fungus garden. And sometimes, birds sit on the mounds and leave droppings full of seeds. Once those seeds sprout and the water returns, the mounds are submerged with just the treetops showing.
Our first drive is relatively short, but that doesn’t prevent us from seeing lots of new species (well, new to us) that live off the insects and fish in these ripe lands. Such as African fish eagles, which are the cousins of American bald eagles.
Saddle-billed stork. Incredibly majestic birds.
Check out this water monitor lizard! Like a snake, he has a forked tongue that helps him smell. If you’re wondering where his legs are… well, there are two in the front and two in the back. ^.~
Nice big croc sunning himself.
Cheers, Jao. Nice to be here.