Meet Olepeng Maitapiso – or simply ‘Ollie’ – who hails from a village deep within the Okavango Delta and has been a guide with Desert and Delta for over twelve years
llie’s roots may be buried deep amongst the wetlands and lily pads of the Okavango Delta, but his heart is with the dry scrubland of the Boteti region, a little-explored wilderness which he is proud to call home.
“Working here is quite amazing because it’s totally different from where I was born. Looking at the habitat, the plants and the wildlife – it’s all different. Because in this area you will find animals like springboks, oryx and also brown hyenas. Way down in the delta where I am from you can’t find those animals there because it is too wet for them.”
Over the years Ollie has worked in many wilderness areas of Botswana. Still, the Boteti region holds a soft place in his heart. “Botswana is not all about Okavango Delta and Chobe, so people should explore other areas like Makgadikgadi, Kalahari and also Nxai Pan because these areas are totally different to the Delta.”
The Boteti region is renowned for its zebra migration – over 25,000 of them migrate to the Boteti River in the dry winter months. “The best time to come for zebra migration is after the rain stops, for example in May, when the animals start to come back. And sometimes you find it changes because of the rain. This year we had an early migration because we didn’t have enough rain and there was not enough water in the pans, so the zebra came back. But if there is a lot of water, like if it rains in Nxai Pan where they migrate to, their return back here will be late.”
Aside from the zebra, a highlight for Ollie which he feels is often overlooked is the large population of white-backed vultures. The birds live in large numbers along the riverbed, taking advantage of the kills during the zebra migration when food sources are good.
“They raise one chick, putting all their energy into that one baby and because of the good food supply they can raise it very well. They look after the chick for maybe eight months.”
By Mana Meadows