A vital component of Wilderness Safaris’ remote camp operations, freight runs deliver a unique set of challenges. Ensuring our guests have a sublime culinary experience whilst on safari – from a fresh garden salad for lunch to craft gin and tonics with all the trimmings for sundowners – does not happen by magic (although sometimes we wish the flick of a wand would do the trick). Getting supplies into camp is a whole other world, and we’d like to share some of the logistics, plus a true story from one of the camps, with you.
The Freight Run – From Source to Table
Hours before the dawn chorus, a dedicated team in Maun carefully packs boxes of fresh ingredients, bound for our camps deep in the Okavango Delta. To keep things fresh, time is of the essence; the food needs to reach its remote destination before the day heats up.
At first light the boxes are carefully loaded and secured in a Wilderness Air freight Caravan, with safety always top priority. Precious cargo – such as herbs and salads picked by our local farmers the previous evening – get VIP seats on the aircraft. In Botswana, perishables are flown into camp twice a week, while the non-perishable items, ranging from tinned goods and beverages to fuel and toilet paper, are driven in by truck once a month – a journey that can take up to eleven hours, should there be no deep river crossings or flat tyres en route.
Meanwhile in camp the team prepares an on-the-go breakfast for the pilot, before heading out to the airstrip with a tractor and trailer or utility vehicle. The arrival of the plane is met with excitement and sharing of news – town vs camp – before the hard work starts. A human chain is formed to offload the new supply as quickly as possible – not only for freshness, but in the event some of the local wildlife might appear … occasionally lions and elephant show more than a passing interest in the commotion at the airstrip.
The boxes are colour-coded with tape, if there is more than one camp, and the atmosphere is vibrant, with shouts of “this one’s for Abu” and “careful, eggs in that one for Seba!” There is even some bartering between the staff, depending on instructions from the chef – “can we swop a bag of potatoes for a watermelon?” Heavier goods are packed at the bottom of the vehicles, with the breakables carefully balanced on top. Containers from the previous delivery (to be reused) are packed into the plane and the pilot, or hero to many, is waved off as he or she heads back to town.
The staff have a brief respite on the drive back to camp, hoping there are no wildlife roadblocks that might allow the butter to melt! Once back in camp, the new supplies are checked off on the order and packed away, or whisked straight into the kitchens for the chefs to prepare the day’s menu… imagine a scrumptious roasted butternut, biltong and blue cheese salad for lunch, followed by a delicious and perfectly wobbly raspberry panna cotta!
Lions at the Lebala
Our Food and Beverage Manager at Vumbura Plains recalls one of her most memorable trips to the concession airstrip for the weekly freight run collection….
Freight day had rolled around once more. Our driver KB and I packed ourselves into the utility vehicle and bounced down the road to the airstrip, known in Setswana as Lebala.
When we approached the gravel airstrip we could see a mass of brown across the runway. Drawing closer, the mass turned out to be wildebeest that soon dispersed with the sound of our rattling vehicle. Then KB noticed a sandy brown blob to the far left in front of us.
“Lion!” he exclaimed, but quickly doubted himself. We drove closer and could soon see the telltale flick of a tail; in fact, there was not one, but two male lions sleeping at the side of the runway. We took the airstrip radio from its box and called the pilot, who had just looped above us.
“Golf November Uniform, come in for Lebala”.
“Good morning, go ahead”.
“Mona tau, mona tau [lion] on the airstrip, copy?”
As per protocol, the pilot had done his flyover to check the airstrip beneath him, and begun his descent. Lions that had been watching the incoming aircraft intently from a thicket close to the airstrip, were seemingly annoyed that their nap had been disrupted, and jumped up. The pilot in command noticed his new “bystanders” and chose to overfly the runway. The lions flopped down again to enjoy their nap, barely a metre from where they had been lying originally.
After a second flyover, and with assistance from the camp vehicle, the lions finally realised that this disturbance was here to stay and it was time for them to move off into the bush. This allowed the aircraft to land, and deliver the much-needed fresh produce to camp.
With a wary eye open at all time, we were able to safely offload the aircraft! Now you don’t get that at Tesco’s…
Let’s plan your next journey
When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.