The Rains, November 2014

General1

And the rains, finally, arrived. This is a huge high point on the calendar of anyone that lives in Botswana. In most areas, it will not have rained since March. That’s eight months of dust, drying grass, herbivores looking skinny, and not a cloud in the sky. The scent of the first rains, the first storm that produces enough water to actually make it to the ground, and everyone wanders round with big grins and a huge sigh of relief. Of course, if you have paid a lot of money to come to sunny Africa, it’s not every visitor’s idea of a dream weather, but for the vast majority, the happiness and the release of the months of build up is infective.

There is, however, one thing that every camp manager has to go through at some point of their career. No amount of training or coaching can prepare you for it, and when it happens there is, literally, nothing you can do but wait and see how the guests react. It’s often said that the two forms of wildlife that have had the most impact on the construction of the Okavango Delta are hippos and termites. Hippos, because of their movement through the water, clear channels and change the course of water over the years. Termites, because of the homes they build, are responsible for the land masses and islands that have formed the Delta. And its one of these two life forms that results in the Trial of the Camp Manager, soon after the first heavy rain fall.

I guess we should be grateful for small mercies – it is not thousands of hippos that come dancing out of the water and careen towards the nearest light with the ever perfect timing of Murphy’s Law – exactly at dinner time. But the termites do just that. For only one night a year, every young termite in the area launches out of their mound and uses brand new wings for just a couple of hours, whilst they look for love. Not only attracted to each other, they are attracted to any form of light source, and will completely swamp the light. They find their mate, drop their wings, and each happy couple goes off to be King and Queen of their own new termite mound.

It is one of the most amazing things you can witness – the air filled with fluttering wings, as they launch in the moonlight and jostle and dance in clouds or smoky columns. But, for the unsuspecting overseas visitor, it can swing either way…. They are going to love it or hate it. It’s kind of like going to see the Serengeti migration, when you don’t like wildebeest.

Although the night this event will occur is never known, the time it occurs is like clockwork. The first flutters will be timed perfectly with the guests sitting down to dinner at 8o clock. By 830, whatever your meal is, you won’t see it, as the only way to avoid eating termites is to eat in the dark. Generally, by the time dessert and coffee rolls around, the chaos is over, there are piles of lacy wings scattered over every surface, but it remains difficult to avoid regicide when walking anywhere.

Naturally, this occurrence is sometimes deemed the Camp Manager’s Fault, by those guests that are not keen on having the experience in 3D. But, without this experience, the Okavango Delta would not exist. So if it really is the Camp Manager’s Fault, you really should be thanking them profusely!