A Miracle of Nature – the Okavango Delta and its changing water levels
As you may be aware the water levels in the Delta are dropping fast and furiously this season. Boating and mekoro activities are being stopped in most areas as either there is no more water left, or it’s packed with crocodiles and hippos who are holding on to the last bit of wet that is available out there, which means: we really don’t want to place our guests in the middle of it all on a boat or mokoro.
The Okavango has gone through wet and dry spells as long as time. Local rainfall, Angolan rainfall, small seismic shifts in the underlying tectonics, it all makes for a rather involved and very unpredictable miracle of nature. For the past years, we could all lean back, almost guarantee water activities for most of the year in lots of areas and have our clients looking forward to gliding across the delta on a mokoro and zooming through the papyrus lined channels.
Currently we are looking at a totally different scenario, the Okavango is at its driest since a long time. I’m sure some clients will be a bit disappointed about missing out on their water experience. Did the Okavango cheat us? Maybe we have to change our approach in how we present it? The Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s last wildernesses. There is no regulating its flows, it’s left to nature, the water comes and goes and the animals adjust to whatever comes along. The delta has hundreds of different faces. Wetter ones, drier ones, and lots and lots in between. Every single season has its very unique upsides. Sure the bush is thick and rather impenetrable in the rains, but it also makes for wonderful lush background, for happy and relaxed animals, lots of babies everywhere, for dramatic skies, and it is all dotted by the summer migrants who come visit.
The dry months are more dramatic, the animals are bound to being close to water, there is high competition for food and the air vibrates around the hot spots. The lines between dry and wet months have started becoming rather blurry, climate definitely has changed. So maybe we should wave good bye to trying to predict the next season as clearly as possible and prepare our travellers as meticulously as we can on what exactly to expect. Let’s rather convey a message of being open minded for anything that nature and the Okavango have up their sleeves for us. In average years it might be this and that, but we cannot know exactly, we can only guarantee that it will be wild, untamed, untampered with, that it will be “the real thing”.
We need to focus on that Miracle of Nature and understand that change brings new opportunities in the Delta. The game is more concentrated as the water levels drop, and the sightings can be more varied and exclusive. This is the reality of our “Backyard” and rather than missing a water experience, you are part of one of Wildest Africa’s greatest natural events.
Developing of Staff
We are sure that our readers are also interested in our in-house training and how we develop our staff:
While many companies claim that their staff are their best asset and that the development of talent is a key strategic priority, it is rare to find a company where this philosophy is lived out on a daily basis. All too often the development of staff is a task undertaken when “we have time”. In my experience, things are different at Safari Destinations (SD). Staff development at this small but dynamic company goes beyond being a necessity for survival in a developing country with a small population and limited skills.
It is a matter of success and a source of pride. As the new HR Manager at SD responsible for driving the staff development agenda, I have often heard the following from Lorraine Potter, one of the Managing Directors of SD: “This is a learning opportunity. This needs to be shared with staff. How can we do this?” I arrived to find weekly training sessions an ongoing practice. Talk of developing the product and destination knowledge amongst the reservation’s team is foremost in the minds of management as this is key to the company positioning itself as an expert on Botswana and the experiences available to travellers. Material resources had already developed to support the reservation’s staff in acquiring this knowledge and learning about the organisation’s processes.
One to one mentoring by a senior takes place with all new staff in this team and has been the practice since the early days of the company. Informal feedback on performance is inherent in these roles with more formal feedback taking place every 3 months in the first year and thereafter, every 6 months. A recent development is that staff themselves (and not only management) are responsible for the training of new staff. This is in keeping with the philosophy that we never stop learning and that while we teach, we learn. With the rapid expansion of the company and inevitable stretching of staff resources, the company restructured and appointed team leaders in the reservation’s team in late 2014. But the values and practices, on which the company was first built, have held strong and are fiercely protected by the two Managing Directors, Lorraine Potter and Carina Grüninger. One such value is the commitment “To constantly strive to learn more about our country, agents, suppliers, our jobs, ourselves and each other”. Transforming this commitment into action requires leaders who themselves actively demonstrate their own openness to learning, are excited to learn from others and make the time to learn as well as create the space and opportunity for others to develop and grow. This is what I have found working at SD. It is the foundation on which the company has grown and been successful and provides fertile ground for the future for as management guru, Peter Senge says: “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition”.