A Tale of Two Swamps – Out on to the lagoon

The market was still going full pelt when we realised if we did not get going soon we would miss our appointment with the headman and his fishers at the little village across the lagoon, so reluctantly we weaved our way back to the Fisheries mooring site and piled in to a small aluminium flat bottomed boat.

A couple of the fisheries staff donned lifejackets but I saw the lake was near still, so just soaked in the scene of an almost dead flat landscape pricked apart by occasional stands of trees.  We picked our way backwards into the open water, then the captain opened up the throttle.  It was good to feel the wind against you at this late morning hour.  We navigated straight west across the lake, passing a few pirogues heading to and from the melee at the landing site.  For many minutes we crossed open water, but then I started to spot little clumps of grass poking above the lake surface.  Despite us being so far inland, the waves generated on the lagoon became choppy and the fisheries officers were happy they had their lifejackets on.  The grassy “outcrops” became much more frequent and higher and I noticed that I could see a layer of grass just a couple of feet below the surface of the water – indeed a couple of times I could hear grass scrape the boat’s bottom.  We spotted plenty of birdlife out on the open water and resting on little grassy islands in the lagoon – in some cases the islands were wholly nests.

 I was close to the front and saw a wall of long grasses poking up above the water – we were heading straight for them.  I could see no way through but as we approached a significant channel opened up- wide and clear and aiming away from the lagoon towards a distant clump of trees.  As we entered this channel,  I noticed there were carpets of white water lilies in amongst the grass, like a fantastically large ornamental pond stretching as far as the eye could see.  In a few places they clogged up our channel and we had to cut our way through hoping the outboard motor did not snag in the roots.

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