So much has been said about the Okavango and Chobe Rivers of northern Botswana, but perhaps the least known of all is the ephemeral waterway called the Boteti. Flowing south east from the delta toward the ancient salt pans of the Makgadikgadi, the Boteti was once a strong flowing force carrying large volumes of water deep into the desert. Now in contemporary times, the unpredictable flooding of the Okavango has reduced the Boteti to a sandy river bed – until recently that is.
Unprecedented flood waters over the past few seasons have forced the Boteti back to life, and the channel is now flowing strongly carrying life blood into the parched regions of the Kalahari, where before only seasonal pans provided drinking water. The effect on the huge migrations of zebra and wildebeest around the area of Meno a Kwena has been staggering, and more elephants than ever are now resident. For many years the hardy Boteti crocodiles have been making a living off cattle or antelope that ventured down to derelict shallow pools of rainwater in the river bed. These crocodiles actually lived in caves on the river banks where they would lie dormant, living off their body proteins. Some crocs even specialised in catching diminutive red-billed quelea before scrambling up the steep banks to return to the caves.
The Boteti, and her residents, are both unique and mysterious. On a recent safari to the Kalahari we played with school kids on the banks of the river, watching the water trickle down. Some kids were 16 years old, and had never seen the river in flood – such is the value of water in the Kalahari. Perhaps think about this during your next 15-minute shower!