Jacana Camp, Central Okavango, Botswana

On the flight to our next location, Jacana Camp, the pilot pointed out a huge herd of elephants. There must be at least two hundred. He initially thought they were buffalo, but if you click on the photo to zoom in, you can see they have trunks.

Huge elephant herd through airplane window

Here's the Jao airstrip. On each landing, the pilot did a flyover, presumably to inspect the airstrip, read the wind sock, and make sure there wasn't a herd of elephants about to wander into the way.

Jao airstrip from the plane
Tom & Cathy just off the plane

The food at all of the camps was amazing. Everyone did a great job providing us with interesting vegetarian options and gluten-free baked goods for Cathy. This lunch buffet at Jacana shows how lovely the presentations were.

Jacana lunch buffet

Our tent's porch looked out over a large open field where we often saw animals getting their day started as we headed to breakfast. During the wet season, the field would be covered with water.

Elephant from our tent's porch

Termite mounds play a key role in the environment here. As the mounds are built up over decades, plants and trees grow around them, providing habitat for other insects, birds, and animals. In the wet season, they become islands.

Termite mound raised up above the plain

In the dry season, rivers become ponds that attract the plants, birds, and animals that depend on the shrinking water supply. All we had to do was park near the water to see a huge variety of everything from birds to hippos and elephants.

Black-winged stilt
Pied kingfisher

The largest ponds were filled with crocodiles, a dozen or more catching fish or floating along in the water with just their eyes and nose sticking up, ever hopeful for an unwary bird or animal to wander by the shore.

Crocodile swallowing a fish
Another crocodile swallowing a fish

Between these two marabou storks was a crocodile. Was the crocodile hoping to catch a stork?

Marabou storks loitering next to a crocodile

Suddenly, the crocodile came up with a fish and the two storks jumped back.

Marabou storks startled by a crocodile snapping

Moments later another crocodile came up with a catfish and chomped it in half.

Crocodile with fish in jaws

The stork was bold enough to step into the water to retrieve the fresh fish head dropped by the crocodile. That seems like a dangerous way to get a meal. The craziest part is that the fish head was too large for the stork to swallow, so it got dropped on the shore and was then taken by an eagle.

Marabou stork grabbing fish head from the water

This grey heron is standing on a hippo in the middle of the water.

Grey heron with herd of hippos

The hippos just hang out in the water, now and then stretching up to yawn. Occasionally, they would bellow out in a chorus of rumbling grunts that sounded like Jabba the Hutt laughing. The next herd up the river bed would then answer back.

Hippo stretching out of the water to yawn

This hippo has clearly been in some battles.

Hippo backside showing scars
White-faced whistling ducks reflected in the water
Three pelicans on the shore

While we were enjoying the antics of the hippos, this herd of elephants appeared for a drink and quick splash. They seemed wary of the water filled with hippos and crocodiles, but eventually found a place where they dared to cross the water.

Elephants moving toward the water

After the group in the photo above crossed the water, this youngster was ambling along figuring out how to use its trunk. Pro tip: dirt is for sun protection and cooling off, not for eating.

Video of baby elephant learning what to do with dirt

During the wet season, this road is under water and land vehicles must go over the wooden bridge.

Bridge over a dry riverbed

A baby elephant with mother and older sister? So adorable.

Baby elephant with two adults

Sausage trees bear a large fruit that looks like a squash but is hard as a rock.

Sausage tree

The "sausages" are big and heavy!

Tom holding a sausage tree fruit

That's not a tusk in the center of the photo; the elephant is eating a sausage tree fruit.

Elephant munching a sausage tree fruit
Adult and baby elephant walking away
Baobab tree
Frolicking impala

That's a crocodile track going down the middle of the road. Notice the giant claws in the footprints and the pattern left by the tail swishing back and forth. Great, we have to watch out for crocodiles even when we're away from the water.

Ona showing us a crocodile track in the middle of the road

We saw a few African wild dogs here, just one to three at a time, no big packs.

African wild dog

On our second morning at Jacana, Tom went on a doors-off helicopter tour while Cathy elected to remain on terra firma.

Helicopter lifting off with pilot, Tom, and Ona
Landscape view with buffalo
African fish eagles
Grey heron and crocodile
A trio of male lions

The helicopter pilot, Scott, was quite pleased to find a trio of male lions. He took us for a few extra minutes of flight time because he wanted to go back and see them again. They were chasing a buffalo, but it got away.

Two lions after an unsuccessful buffalo chase

We saw so many interesting birds while at Jacana! Here are some that weren't at the water.

Wattled cranes taking flight
Dickinson's kestrel
Saddle-billed stork

Our last evening at Jacana, we followed a herd of elephants as they walked toward the sunset, joining other groups along the way.

Elephants kicking up dust in the evening

Next Up: Camp Kalahari

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