The Okavango Delta

April 10, 2013

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is by far one of Africa’s biggest draw cards! Not much can compete with it’s phenomenal wildlife and wilderness. This large inland delta, formed where land between the Gumare and Kunyere fault dropped. The water flow was stopped by the Thamalakane fault, ultimately causing the ‘fan’ shaped appearance of the Okavango Delta.

The Okavango Delta represents one of the world’s last untamed wildernesses. Starting at the Angolan highlands, this watery mass of 16,000km²  is made up of elaborate channels and islands. It lies in Botswana’s northwest, and flows in the opposite direction each year.

Situated in an extremely dry area, the delta attracts a large population of wildlife and consists of a massive network of water channels that do not reach any oceans. The Okavango Delta is fed by the Kavango River which originates in the Angola highlands. The Kavango River floods the Okavango Delta in the winter months (June to August). During the floods, water will run into Lake Ngami.

Local farmers used to call the Okavango Delta a ‘useless swamp’, and wanted it to be drained so they could use it as farmland. Fortunately, the delta has been recognised for its significance in conservation, and today this mysterious, placid and beautiful area is a sanctuary for a huge elephant population.

The Okavango Delta starts flooding from around mid June (rain dependent obviously) and July, August and September is a great time to visit to catch it flooded. There are some very prestigious luxury camps, or you can choose tours that give you a bit more of a rustic real African experience.

Wildlife of the Okavango Delta

The Delta is home to a high population of wildlife, and has become one of the finest areas in the continent to observe different bird and animal species. Throughout the wet season, majority of the big animals depart from the delta in search of the dense, green grass that encircles it. When the grass gets thinner and winter approaches, the animals make their way back into the delta.

Some of the magnificent animals that can be seen in the delta include:

  • African Bush Elephant
  • African Buffalo
  • Hippopotamus
  • Lechwe
  • Topi
  • Blue Wildebeest
  • Giraffe
  • Nile crocodile
  • Lion
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Brown Hyena
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Greater Kudu
  • Sable Antelope
  • Black Rhinoceros
  • White Rhinoceros
  • Plains Zebra
  • Warthog
  • Chacma Baboon

The threatened African Wild Dog still manages to survive in the Delta and boasts one of the largest pack densities in the continent.

Along with all the animals, the Okavango Delta is also home to more than four hundred bird species including the the African Fish Eagle who finds this place to be paradise. Also found in the waterways of the Delta are 71 recorded fish species that include the Tigerfish, Tilapia and Catfish.

Bear in mind that the Okavango Delta is incredibly big, which makes spotting wildlife a little more challenging than your average game park. This is not for the impatient traveller, but rather for the traveller who wants to experience Africa for what it is, and not for the Big Five alone.

How to safari in the Okavango Delta

The unique and exciting difference about going on safari in the Okavango Delta is that you can choose to go via land, air or water.

Here you’ll drift around on a mokoro (dug-out canoe) and go on african walking safaris – the best ways to explore the delta. Don’t despair, you will have a poler with you, who will steer your mokoro for you and will find safe spots for you to swim.

Mokoro trail in the Okavango Delta

You’ll also get a chance to go on a walking safari with an experienced delta guide, and track some spoor. Your guide will fill you in on everything you need to know about the wildlife, birdlife, plant life and all the intricate ways of the delta.

Aside from its wonderful diversity of animals and birds, the Okavango also offers prolific plant life, with papyrus and reed rafts forming the majority of the Delta’s vegetation. A must-see when visiting this area is the Makgadikgadi Pan (a huge salt pan that lies in the centre of the arid plains of north-eastern Botswana). This pan is one of the biggest in the world, and is all that remains from the massive Lake Makgadikgadi which at one point stretched over an area bigger than the country of Switzerland, but has since completely dried up.

Moremi National Park: Best reserve for game watching in the Okavango Delta

On the eastern side of the delta is the fantastic Moremi Game Reserve. This spectacular region was officially declared as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.

Although not one of the biggest Parks in the country, the Moremi Game Reserve contains up to five hundred bird species that can be spotted during boat tours on the lagoons. The Park also offers spectacular vistas of the plains and resident game.

Activities in the Okavango Delta:

  • Mokoro trips (traditional wooden dug-out canoes)
  • Boat rides
  • Game drives
  • Birding
  • Fishing
  • Walking safaris
  • Indigenous forest walks
  • Horse back safaris
  • Elephant back safaris
  • Helicopter flights

The Okavango Delta is truly an unforgettable destination, with thrilling game viewing, an abundance of peace and pristine natural scenery. A paradise for predators, the Delta is renowned world-wide for its wide variety of rare and uncommon animal and bird species. Explore the region by bush walks, guided game drives or boat trips. With so much to see and do in this natural wonderland, the Okavango Delta is most definitely an area to pay a visit to during any trip in Botswana.

Top Adventure Tours to The Okavango Delta:

16 Day Botswana Overland Adventure

14 Day Botswana Wild Explorer

20 Day Cape Town to Victoria Falls Overland (Comfort)

21 Day Cape Town to Victoria Falls

Botswana Tours and African Safari Packages

 

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