A nocturnal encounter in a wildlife-filled wetland in Botswana

Aerial landscape showing grass, trees, and water


I’m not a fan of flying. And yet there I was on a propeller plane, my face pressed up against the window like an inquisitive child, fears banished by the sheer majesty of the Okavango Delta spread out below me.

It was October 2019, and Botswana was suffering from its worst drought in decades. From my vantage point, it was clear the waters had receded in many areas, but I could also see large verdant swaths crisscrossed by the “hippo highways” made by the portly giants plowing their way through reeds and mud.

Over the next few days, I was taken aback by the rich diversity of life that calls the Okavango home—from curious elephants that wandered through our camp each day, to a baboon perched on a boulder one morning, doing a spot-on impression of Rodin’s The Thinker. Here, in defiance of an increasingly inhospitable climate, was proof not only of nature’s great beauty but also of its astonishing resilience.

The experience that sticks with me the most occurred on our very last night in Botswana. I was walking to my cabin with our guide Francis when the beam of my flashlight settled on the face of a male lion, perhaps 20 yards away. The lion walked with us, keeping pace but never trying to close the distance. It felt like there was a tacit understanding between us: Don’t mess with me, and I won’t mess with you.

Fair enough.

Francis escorted me the rest of the way to my cabin. “Will you be okay walking back to the center of camp alone?” I asked him. “This is what I do,” he replied with a shrug, cementing his status as the coolest person I have ever met.

Travel to Botswana with WWF.


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