Okavango Expedition 2013: Into the Wild Okavango

Join us now on www.intotheokavango.org and be part of our live experiences during the Okavango Expedition 2013.

Follow our progress live as our personal locator beacon locates us every hour. All wildlife sightings, quotes, beacon data and geo data is updated every day. We have not seen the representation of the data that we are uploading via satellite as part of our long-term research data. We are using new App made for Android and, in presence backing up our data in New York. Soon you will be able to see what we are seeing, hear what we are hearing, track our heartbeats… Be part our live experience! Jer Thorp, 2013 Emerging Explorer at the National Geographic Society, is making the data art happen and we are very excited to see what happens…

Steve working out our GPS position
Steve working out our GPS position

Tonight we are on an inaccessible island at the end of a secret way through a maze of papyrus, reeds, islands, winding channels (to get you confused) and large, windy lagoons. You know when you get there, but everyone on the research expedition feels somewhat lost all the time. We check GPS and read the flow of the water around obstacles. We will, tomorrow, eventually get there one meter at a time. We will then get to a system of islands off the northern peninsula of Chief’s Island and get to paradise on earth, one of the most vital wilderness areas left.

The experience of this place for the first time will bring anyone to tears, overwhelmed by the abundance of life all around you. Life being all it can be. That is where we are going tomorrow after three days that can only be described as a “purification by pain”…

From Paul Steyn’s Expedition Diary

Our team has been toiling the last few days. Dragging mokoros through thick reeds and mud, like slaves. It’s late in the flood season so the water has receded somewhat, leaving us with ankle deep water at points. There have been moments when I’ve wondered what the hell I’m doing here.

Pulling the mokoro through thick reeds with solar panel on top. This is how we transport power.
Pulling the mokoro through thick reeds with solar panel on top. This is how we transport power.

It’s sometimes tempting to romanticise expeditions such as these. Here we are out in the middle of the wilderness living every man’s dream. But there are moments when one just needs to be honest. It’s bloody hard work. We are wet, tired, filthy and desperately in need of a bath. And we are only a quarter of the way in.

I’m not complaining. This is everything I expected and more. The beauty of this place blows my mind at every turn and I’m energised by the bush. There are small wonders that make the toil seem like nothing. Whether it be the Meyer’s parrot that just flew over my head, or the distant call of a fish eagle signalling today’s sunset. There’s so much here to be enjoyed. Beyond that, the promise of Chiefs Island keeps us going – the Eden on the horizon.

Mokoros at sunset
Mokoros at sunset

 They say that nothing good comes easily, and we are working hard for Chiefs. Madinari is the gateway to the island from the north, and this is where we find ourselves camping for the night. Not by choice but because we have simply run out of energy for the day.

As we set things up for the evening, spirits are high and we are ready to go at dawn tomorrow. We are totally focused on our daily tasks, to move forward and survive.  Living each moment with these basic objectives makes us feel alive.

 And that’s what it’s all about.

Check out the video upload from today here.  We look like a bunch of pirates.

See you tomorrow.

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Meet the Author
Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.