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Okavango Delta

An vast oasis in the heart of the African bush in northern Botswana, the Okavango Delta is known as the ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’. It is an inland delta that occupies an area of 20,236 square kilometres and ranks high on the list of the most iconic tourist destinations in Africa.

This seasonal swamp land is made up of lush grasslands, thousands of waterways and islands, water-lily strewn inlets, acacia thickets, borassus palms and woodlands. The delta is like a mystical gateway to a wildlife paradise. Formed around 60,000 years ago, the Okavango Delta is a comparatively new addition to nature’s growing wonders and offers numerous activities such as bird watching, fishing, wildlife safaris and bush walks.

Formation of the Okavango Delta

Before the formation of the Delta, the water from the Okavango River flowed into the large lake in the Makgadikgadi Pans region. This flow of the water, however, was disrupted by seismic activity which caused the land to shift, forcing it to spill into the open plains, forming the Okavango Delta.

Every year, water from Angolan highlands eventually joins the network of streams that lead to the Cubango and Cuito rivers. The water from these rivers come together after a journey of 1,000 km to form the Okavango River, which then flows along northern Namibia and finally into Botswana. During its journey to Botswana, the majority of the water evaporates, but what is left flows into the Kalahari, and forms this amazing seasonal inland delta, becoming home to tens of thousands of animals.

Okavango Delta Attractions

Moremi Game Reserve

The Moremi Game Reserve covers an expanse of 4,921 square kilometres and is part savanna and part lush lagoons, all filled with spectacular wildlife. This game reserve is one of the most well known attractions of the Okavango Delta region. The widow of Chief Moremi III was concerned about the effects of hunting on the wildlife in the area and began to implement a  conservation plan, which eventually helped Moremi to gain game reserve status in 1963. Later in the 1970s, the park was expanded by merging chief Moremi’s hunting grounds with the existing game reserve.

Okavango Panhandle

The Okavango Panhandle gets its name due to its resemblance to a handle of a frying pan. It is the region where the Okavango River meanders between two steep sided banks, before flooding out into the Okavango Delta. It is an excellent place to relax on a house-boat, taking in the lazy river, spotting animals and watching birds. At low water, large sandbanks appear which are ideal spots for crocodiles to bask.

Mokoro Trips

A mokoro is a narrow dugout canoe and one of the most efficient and thrilling ways to experience the channels of the Okavango Delta. Mokoros are the traditional mode of transport as well as being used for fishing. There are now motorboats in the Okavango, but mokoros remain a favourite. The silent glide of the mokoro doesn’t scare away animals, which lets visitors into a whole new game viewing experience whilst on their safari. The makoro is suitable for two passengers with the boatman at the stern, using the ‘Ngashi’ to propel and stear the Mokoro.

Camps in the Okavango Delta

  • Guma Lagoon Camp: An ideal destination for fly-fishing, Guma Lagoon has African pike, green-headed tilapia, redbreast tilapia, tigerfish, three-spot tilapia and purple largemouth.
  • Xugana Lagoon Camp: Experience the fauna and unique bird and plant species found in the area accessible by traditional mokoros. Other activities include bush walks, day and night game drives and catch and release fishing.
  • Dombo Hippo Pool: The pool is a gathering place for hippos and the camp has an elevated observation post for viewing hippos from a secure location.
  • Khwai/North-Gate Camp: Due to the absence of fences, wildlife strolls through the camp, so stay alert! Campers might get the opportunity to see the wandering hyenas, monkeys, lions, or wild dogs. The Khwai River draws in wildlife from the surrounding savannah.

Wildlife in the Okavango Delta

  • The Delta is home to over 200 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 150 species of reptiles and 71 species of fish.
  • The Moremi Game Reserve adjacent Okavango is an ideal destination for sightings of the big five.
  • The Okavango Delta has its share of predators, caracal, African wild dog, cheetah, leopard, hyenas, aardwolf, bat-eared fox and meerkat.
  • Herds of blue wildebeest, sitatunga, springbok, antelope, zebras and Thomson gazelles can be seen around the water sources and grazing in the grass plains.
  • There is a stunning variety of birds, which include some of rarely sighted species. Black heron, crested crane, Egyptian goose, South African shelduck, sacred ibis, kingfisher and secretary birds are some of the birds found in the Delta.
  • Fishing is one of the attractions of the Delta. African sharptooth catfish, sickle barb, tigerfish, various bream and tilapia are some of the varieties of fish found in the area.
  • Nile crocodile, flap-neck chameleon, monitor lizard, adders, cobras, sand snake, python, black mamba and Barotse water snake are some of the widely-known reptile species found here.

When to visit the Okavango Delta

The best time to visit the Okavango Delta is the dry season from May to October. In May, June and July, which are the winter months, the water levels are high (due to the floods arriving from Angola), which is the best time for makoro and boat safaris as more of the Delta is accessible. The dry season also offers increased opportunities for wildlife sightings as the thirsty animals come down in vast numbers to the water.

The summer rainy season from November to April is sensational for birdwatching and the Okavango is transformed into an even more lush and colourful environment. Ultimately the Okavango Delta is a year-round destination because of the permanent water and high concentration of resident animals, supplemented with seasonal visitors.

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