Saturday, October 24, 2020

Low water levels in Thamalakane affect local boat cruising businesses

MAUN – For a couple of months now, safari companies in Maun  who trade on boat cruising and mokoro excursions as some of the many activities offered to their clients have had a tough time as the Thamalakane and the Boro rivers had completely dried up, thus halting their daily business. But just recently, that is the period between May and June, large amounts of water started flowing in from Angola and other flood plains and business seems promising. 

Oscar Bolele of Nxunu Safaris said in an interview with this publication that while the boat cruising business is the most lucrative and loved by many, there are so many hindrances attached to it, such as the issue of inconsistency. He stated that there had been a very serious hold up on their part as mokoro polers, most of who because of lack of capital do not have enough resources to carry out other activities besides boat cruising. The other challenge, he said, is their lack of capital to put up accommodation facilities such as lodges or camp sites as this has proven to be the quickest way of luring more customers rather than waiting to pick them randomly. However he still believes all is not lost as he has recently acquired a river front plot in which he intends to build some structure, now that he is also in possession of the required integrated license.

 As if not enough, he said they had to face tough competition from well established tour operators who temporarily relocated their boats from Maun by trailers and other means to places as far as Sepopa and Shakawe where water levels remained consistent. “They never turned away clients. Despite all this they continued to receive advance bookings from clients and it was business as usual. They never saw the water scarcity issue as an excuse not to receive clients”, he said. 

However it is not all of these people in this kind of businesses who are amused by the development, particularly those whose establishments are situated in the river front. This is because during this time when rivers start flooding, excitement drives people to frequent these places because they take delight in watching the water come in. While there might seem to be no harm in doing so, these people are also seen as a health hazard because according to lodge owners, so much litter is left scattered almost everywhere soon after they would have left.

“I think we are better off without water in the Thamalakane. In fact for us it is always a relief when there is little or no water at all. Mind you, we have other activities such as day trips to Moremi Game Reserve, sightseeing, and many others that bring better cash than boat cruising. We have raised our concerns with relevant stakeholders including the North West District council by-law department who promised to do frequent patrols of the area, but there has never been any change”, said a senior management officer at Okavango River Lodge who chose to remain anonymous.

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