The Okavango Delta is one of the worlds largest inland Delta systems. A vast maze of permanent marshland, lush lagoons and seasonally flooded plains are connected by meandering channels.
These channels are created by the Okavango River (also described as “the river that never finds the sea”) which originates in the Angolan highlands and slowly makes its way to the basin of the Kalahari desert in Botswana, where it does not have an outlet to the sea. The whole process takes about 9 months over a distance of 1600 km. At the start of the dry season in Botswana, around March, the water starts flowing into the Delta with its peak in July/August. This seasonal flooding in the dry season gives this wetland its unique ecosystem, sustaining a vast amount of animal and plant species.
Seen from above, the Okavango Delta is fan shaped and can expand from 15.000 sq. km up to 22.000 sq. km during the occasional floods and wetter periods in July and August.
So why should you go and visit the Okavango Delta? Out of our experience we have listed a few reasons to do so.
Large amount of wildlife and plant species
The Okavango Delta hosts a large diversity of bird and animal life all adapted to living in this wetland system. Due to the lay-out of the Delta, you won’t see large herds of animals, but rather a larger diversity in animal sightings during a safari. Animals that are most likely to be seen are elephants, giraffe, warthogs, various antelopes, zebras, wildebeests, buffalos, hippos and crocodiles. The Delta also sustains large populations of endangered species as cheetah, rhino, wild dogs and lions, which occasionally can be spotted as well.
Typical plants and trees of the Okavango Delta are the papyrus, palm trees, reed, acacia and sausage trees.
Not many tourists
The government of Botswana uses the tourism strategy “low volume, high value”, meaning that Botswana is a higher priced tourist destination but you’ll get more value for your buck. Only the tourists that really want to be there will pay this higher price resulting in a lower number of visitors and higher quality of service etc for the tourists that do visit.
The camps in the Delta are of very high quality, but for a high price. The rule which states, ‘you get what you pay for’, really counts here. The camps are located deep in the Delta and you’ll get there by light aircraft. Arriving by air adds value to the visit as it allows you to experience the delta from a different perspective. Also provision of the camps needs to come by air, hence the higher price for accommodation.
The construction of the accommodation is entirely made to blend into the local environment. Animals roam around freely and can be seen from the deck of your “luxury” tent, with no fences between you and them. Animal safety will be explained to you on arrival. There is a great feeling of intimacy and privacy due to only a handful of guests and the way the camps are constructed.
Various exciting activities
For game viewing in the Delta, there are various activities that can be taken with a local guide. A good way to explore the Delta is on foot. The guides will walk on the various islands in the search for animals. Meanwhile, they provide a good explanation about nature and animal behaviour by showing diverse plant species and looking for footprints and animal dung. Most of these guides are born in the area and their knowledge is just amazing. Seeing a wild animal during one of these walks is an unforgettable experience. The fact that there is no fence between you and the animal is priceless, however, safety should not be forgotten. Again, this will be explained to you.
Another activity is by mokoro, aka: a dug out canoe.
While listening to the gentle sounds of nature and searching for animals, you slowly make you way through the various canals, surrounded by papyrus and water lilies.
A mokoro is the principal means of transport of the local people living in the Okavango Delta. It makes for a relaxed, beautiful and memorable experience.
By walking or by mokoro, the distance you cover is rather small, meaning you may see less animals, but this should not detract from the general experience of just being in one of the most serenely beautiful places on earth.
For covering greater distances and slightly increasing your chances of animal sightings you can take a tour by motor boat. It’s a great and often fast paced exciting experience, albeit slightly more noisy but none the less worth it, as long as you are not concerned about your hair do.
There are a few more viewing activities that are organised by the different lodges but these 3 are the major ways to explore the Delta by land or water once at your camp.
It’s all about the experience
You cannot just visit the Okavango Delta, you have to experience it. It’s about the smell, the sounds, the views, the animals, the feeling of just being there. It’s a magical encounter that is difficult to explain. This you will realise when experiencing it yourself for the first time, and hopefully many more. Just being there, watching the sunrise or the sunset and reflect about life.
Unesco World Heritage
And last but not least, since 2014, the Okavango Delta is part of the Unesco World Heritage list.
Have you ever visited an oasis in the desert? Which one would you recommend to visit?
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