Top Attractions in Okavango Delta
The Okavango delta among world safari destinations stands out like letters of fire across the sky, no wonder quote and quote it is world renowned as the wet green blue Kalahari jewel.
It is located in the north-western parts of Botswana deep in the middle of the fourth largest desert in the world, the thirsty rust red dusty Kalahari Desert. In 1962 the Batawana tribe’s men set aside a third of the Okavango delta as a conservation area cover to conserve the flora and fauna of the area for its future generation, a master stroke if I may, considering the times. They named it Moremi Game Reserve after their beloved leader Chief Moremi III.
The deltas area swings between 6,000 – 18, 000 square kilometres depending on the tenacity of the floods. Overtime this pristine nature’s masterpiece (desert fresh water wetland) has earned itself several accolades and aptly so. On the 11th of February 2013 in Arusha, Tanzania this aquatic paradise despite not being the largest in the world, be it even in Africa, was drafted in the exclusive hall of fame of the seven natural wonders of the Africa!
Not to be confused with the seven natural wonders of the world, it shares this prestigious accolade with other African mystic beauties like Mountain Kilimanjaro of Tanzania, the Nile river of Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Southern Sudan and Uganda, the Red Sea reefs of the coast of Egypt, Eritrea and Sudan, the Sahara Desert of Algeria, chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia and western Sahara, the Serengeti migration of Tanzania and Kenya and last but not least the Ngorongoro crater of Tanzania. Just the next year as if it was just all of a sudden that this dramatic aquatic beauty of the largest swamp in the world was being noticed. On the 22nd of June 2014 in Doha Qatar, at the meeting of the world heritage committee chaired by Sheikh Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani (yes it’s quite a name, we concur with you). The Okavango delta was inscribed as the proud 1000th site on the UNESCO world heritage list. It was such a party in the streets of Botswana from Gaborone to Maun for the young and old alike, for this wasn’t a mean feat that their own country’s symbolism was now sitting on the same table of legends like the Taj Mahal, The Grand Canyon and the Great Wall of China just to mention a few.
This exceptionally scenic land scape of a rare beauty of permanent crystal clear waters in the otherwise dry Kalahari Desert wasn’t meant to be so hence in some sectors it’s called a nature fluke considering that most deltas are sprawling wetlands at the end of rivers as they empty into seas just like the Niger Delta spreads into the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) or better still India’s Ganges emptying into the Bay of Bengal (Indian Ocean).
A natural phenomenon the mystic Okavango delta defies, as it is birthed out of bantam trickles of water from the highlands of Angola as if lending credence to the English saying “small beginnings are the launch pad to great and mighty endings”. For this trickle on its downstream 1,600 km journey through three African countries through Angola links up with smaller tributaries to form the mammoth river Cuito, which flows southwards to Namibia gaining more size and speed as the Cubango River joins it as well a coalition that eventually climaxes into the mighty River Okavango (third largest in south Africa).
Before the formation of the Okavango Delta the Okavango River flowed through Botswana depositing in the massive lakes of Botswana’s Makgadikgadi pans just like rivers are coded to empty into seas and lakes. However, over 50,000 years ago it all changed when an earthquake in today’s border areas of Namibia and Botswana disturbed the rivers gradient, a thingamajig that chocked the river system leading to a staggering over 12 million litres spillage of fresh water into the desert, a fluke like some refer to it has so richly blessed the world with this magnificent oasis (world’s largest) called the Okavango Delta, a fluke nature has not replicated anywhere else on planet earth.
Some call it the last Eden on planet earth, a moniker it comfortably and pompously wears year in year out without a glitch. This fan shaped delta owing to its river system not emptying into the sea but into the middle of a landmass signifies that geographically it’s called an endorheic delta and it is further classified as an alluvial fan because it has areas that are occasionally, seasonally and permanently flooded. The variable and unpredictable distribution and flow of the the Okavango River waters in this alluvial fan of Okavango delta are manipulated by both physical processes (early sand channels, tectonic movements, slopes, faults & sedimentation) and biological processes (hippo movements, termite mounds & vegetation growth). The delta comprises of many channels, minute tributaries and inlets as well as thousands of islands erratic in size from the smallest termite mound to the larger than a city (largest) island known as the chief island. The swamp is characterised by two distinct kinds of vegetation with the perennial swamps having lush emerald swathes of papyrus, groves of wild dates, lagoons fringed with flooding water lilies and islands laden with mopane forests. Then the seasonal swamps that dry gradually with the onset of summer are mainly open floodplains enclosed with sumptuous grasses during the summer and are immersed in water during winter. The boundaries of the flood plains sustain scrub vegetation, fig trees, sausage trees and elegant fan palm trees.
The timing of the floods in the Okavango delta are magical so to speak, since in summer (April & May) when the Botswana rains disappear the flood waters begin their gruelling overly 1,300 km journey of one month from the Angolan heights to the Botswana at Mohembo in the Caprivi then onto the enormous fan shaped Okavango Delta, a phenomenon caused by a measly 60m elevation drop from the highlands to the delta. It then takes another three months for the water to sieve through to revitalise the astonishing titanic ecosystem of animal and plant life in the delta, a doodad that causes the fluctuation in the delta’s area size from 6,000 - 18,000 square kilometres. A lot of the sweet waters of River Okavango is lost to evaporation and transpiration on the river’s journey, in that by the time it is reaching the deltas southern fringes in the town of Maun 95 % of the water is already gone with as little as only 2 % reaching Thamalakane River that may continue to the east to the Boteti River to fill Lake Xau or the Makgadikgadi Pans or channel west to to fill Lake Ngami. The floods in the Okavango Delta normally are at their epic during the months of July and August and they begin to lessen in the month of September. To throw a spanner in the wax when the floods are at their highest in the delta it is actually the the winter dry season of Botswana with no rains at all in Botswana meaning its River Okavango that swells the delta just Lake Kariba takes months to be filled up by the waters from the upper reaches of River Zambezi. Then November – February are the hottest months characterised by remorseless heat during the dusty hollow bone dry day and a biting cold in the nigh yet it is the wet season because it is when rain falls in Botswana. Because of the deltas seasonality the flora and fauna of the delta have overtime adjusted their biological cycles to synchronise with the floodings and rains making the Okavango an exceptional poster child of a perfect interaction between biological, climatic and hydrological processes.
The Okavango delta is home to the African big five (lions, leopards, buffaloes, elephants and rhinos) meaning the hardest african animals to hunt. The delta fan at its swolest point of over 1800 square meters in the months of July- September attracts well over 200,000 animals that trek thousands of miles during Botswana’s dry season through the Kalahari Desert in search of the sweet waters of the Okavango delta which filter through the Kalahari sand and evaporate before it stagnates hence making the several isolated islets home. You will be astonished at the staggering number of Loxodonta africana (scientific name of African elephants) coming through from the deserts with a ghostly white dust covered body before they plunge in the waters of the Okavanago delta. During this time the place will be home to half of the elephant’s population on the african continent and notably also it is the home of the largest population of the Lechewe antelope in Africa. Several other mamals like the wildebessts, zebras, aardwolf, pangolin, aardvark and bat-eared fox. warthogs, antelopes, waterbucks, monkeys, baboons and of course the predators like the African round eared wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas are all found in this wildlife aquatic paradise and some like the sitatunga and lechewe even the lions have adopted to the semi-aquatic life of the Okavango delta swamp. These array of exciting animals make up for an exciting game viewing opportunity in this wildlife laden unmolested wilderness thus making Okavango delta an ultimate safari destination since it’s not a national park which signifies fewer restrictions on activities allowing off-road driving in search of game as well as night drives and safari walks as well as affording exclusive and private safaris.
Okavango delta is a birders haven since it is an important Bird Area (IBA) harbouring well over 530 recorded species of birds both migratory and resident with well over 24 bird species that are globally threatened like the Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, the Southern Ground-Hornbill, then 33 species of water birds that is roughly a 1% of their total global population and several other birds like the beautiful colourful weaver birds, , bustard, hornbill, spurfowl, lapwing, plover, nightjar, cuckoo, lark, shrike, warbler, swallow, swift, oriole flycatcher, batis, weaver, babbler, canary African skimmer, quails, storks, ibis, Pel's fishing owl herons, egrets, cranes to the beautiful sounds of the doves kruuu kruuu kuruuuuu kuku, so birders will have a trigger happy moment with their cameras as the birding action is just unbelievable as one navigates the channels in a Mokoro canoe with the polers (guide) pointing at every bird along the channel and educating his visitors about them at every turn of the channel as the Mokoro slowly sails through some of the bird nests and habitats on the banks. A good camera with lots of storage space and binoculars will be in handy for the birding action is like no other in the swamps of Okavango delta when it comes to birding. Making Okavango delta arguably the single best destination for birders in Southern Africa.
The Okavango Delta is divided into 18 concessions given to private developers and communities who operate not more than 6 lodges on them and Moremi national park its self that inhabits 40% of the Delta’s area known as mopane tongue that is characterised by lush forests, lagoons and floodplains. The majority of wildlife here are noticeably human interference adapted, as they will stay relaxed allowing close vehicle approaches, like they are saying you are welcome to to our slice of heaven. You will particularly find big herds of elephants here and many prides of lions stalking their prey in the thick of the night. This area is particularly dedicated to mobile tent safaris and self-drive visitors.
Top things you simply must do in Okavango Delta
Game Drives in the Okavango
Game drives in the Okavango Delta are private and exclusive owing to the fact that the delta is remote and secluded plus it is not a national park meaning there are few restrictions to game viewing. Since the animals in this delta are not visitor shy and being that it is not a national park. We tailor drives to suit the client’s sensitivity where one is guaranteed of up-close views of spectacular exclusive wildlife and blossoming vegetation. It will involve driving in 4*4 tourist off road vehicle through the virgin African landscape sometimes off road to real go where the not shy animals are and in the process it will be a gruelling water splashing, muddy adventurous escapade, nail-biting at times but safe nevertheless. All in search of a one on one moment with the wildlife of the delta like the antelopes, edgy sitatunga antelopes, powerful smart predators like leopards which are in plenty and get ready to be amazed by the sight of the Rhinos horn a thing of Jurassic parks. Not forgetting a herd of zebras is such a sight to behold just beautiful, yes the elephants these are the kings of the jungle and you will feel that air of royalty around them when you come up-close with them. This will give our clients a real African adventurous safari full of unscripted hair raising moments never to forget. We have morning drives when the animals are actively going tout to get breakfast both the herbivores and predators be ready a quick bloody well calculated lion kill of its prey, nail biting if we may.
Bird watching in Okavango
Birdwatching can be spectacular, with over 400 species including avian jewels such as Pel’s fishing owl, slaty egret, pygmy goose, crowned and wattled cranes, Western banded snake eagle, coppery-tailed coucal and colonies of incandescent carmine bee-eaters. More than 450 species of bird can be found in the Okavango Delta, both migratory and resident, including ostrich, Bataleur Eagle (thought to be the bird depicted on artefacts from the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe), Osprey, African Cuckoo Hawk, several types of vultures, owls, goshawk, falcon, harrier, buzzard, kestrel, duck, stork, heron, goose, pelican, flamingo, pranticole, dove, quail, bustard, hornbill, spurfowl, lapwing, plover, nightjar, cuckoo, lark, shrike, warbler, swallow, swift, oriole flycatcher, batis, weaver, babbler, canary and so much more.
Lake in Moremi Game Reserve
It is one of the loveliest areas of Moremi game reserve commonly known as Paradise Pools aptly so as the name suggests. During the dry season, tracks lead past forests of lifeless trees and among the perimeter of reed-filled swamps in the backdrop of impalas and other antelopes drinking nervously at the ebbing beach of water holes.
Zoo in Okavango Panhandle
A sanctuary for rescued crocodiles from the panhandle located not very far south of Drotskys Cabins. It has over well over 8,000 crocodiles being bred for those with an apetite for crocodile meat and the money-spinning crocodile-skin market.
Mokoro Boat Safari
Some people describe a mokoro trip as one of the most experiences they have had. Imagine gliding and approaching an Elephant - ear deep in the water and happily munching reeds. Imagine witnessing an amazing variety of birdlife, or catching a glimpse of It’s the chief activity of the delta which involves gliding through a maze of obscure lagoons and well-defined channels on traditionally made Mokoro boats (Canoes) that were once carved out of ancient Delta trees like the ebony and kigelia which tame up to 100 years for the trunk to reach the right size in order for it to be curved into a canoe. A mokoro canoe has a life span of 5 years a thing that made the traditional mokoro un sustainable in the long run hence the introduction of environmentally friendly fibreglass ones and invention which is much appreciated like sliced bread in this area. Despite the hazard bit it’s an inevitable peaceful mode of transport for our visitors to explore the Delta with while sitting sheer centimetres atop the water. They are categorised by peaceful silent sailings through waters that mirror the sky above, brushing past reeds which are home to tiny brightly colored frogs, beside unsuspecting wildlife with the immensely experienced polers(boat captains) with a ngashi pole carved from the branches of terminalia trees skilfully navigating the channels with their poles while they impart indigenous wildlife knowledge to the visitors. Since the delta has several channels get ready to be amazed by hair brush encounters of, springing waterbucks, grazing herds of elephant, baboons and monkeys chilling on the branches of trees on the beaches, red lechwe on palm islands, crocodiles basking on the beaches of the channels without a care, family of hippos coming out of the water to graze, the birds screeching making nests in the swamps, the water ducks and geese splashing water beautifully with its big wings while making their beautiful quack sounds, the elegant African fish eagle plunging its claws in the blue waters to grab a bite, leaping fish and many more unscripted semiaquatic wildlife exploits.
Chief's Island, the largest island in the Okavango delta is a part of the Moremi game reserve locally known as Mopane tongue. It was formed by a fault line that uplifted an area over 70 km long (43 mi) and 15 km wide (9.3 mi) a thingamajig that clearly shows that the delta is tucked in a geology area that is a part of the African Rift Valley System. Traditionally it was an exclusive hunting ground for the BaTawana Chiefs and in honour of Chief Moremi III, her widow declared it a conservation area for the future generations benefit. A futuristic intelligent act we revere in present times and relish the benefits of because it is now the core area of the majority resident wildlife in the Delta. Like much of northern Botswana that is parcelled up for conservatory magement, the area around the the Okavango delta and Moremi game reserve is no exception where it has been divided into vast private concessions for management by communities and private eco-friendly wildlife tour operators who have set up lodges not more than 6 on each concession and offer several activities and services to their exclusive visitors. They offer activities that one wouldn’t find in Moremi game reserve since they are not parks a feat that gives them lee way to offer activities like walking, mokoro and night game drives and other specialities like elephant back safaris, and horse safaris as well as conservation ranches. Despite the leeway of not being parks the government reigns in hard on the standards of nature conservation thus maintaining a virgin safari environ.
For those seeking tranquillity and equipoise the delta offers unmatched fresh thrilling panoramas that one will absorb by walking through this virgin wildlife Eden. Our guides will take visitors on a fun fresh educative tour of the aquatic jungles of the delta through alleys best known to the experienced guides since they and their ancestors have like forever walked these lands and know it like the back of their hands and hence will take the visitors to the most refreshing wildlife spots in the delta while sharing their indigenous knowledge unreservedly. This safari will leave the visitors smell, touch, taste, hear and sight senses refreshed as it engages every being of the visitor as they come in contact with plants, trees, animals, birds, insects, tough terrain and elements of weather. A test of one’s steadfastness that pays off in form of the the unforgettable mind-blowing precious scenic moments, the indigenous knowledge and exercise that will leave one physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually fit. So get ready to sweat, taste some sweet, bitter fruits, bake in the sun, climb and slope hills, plunge in the sweet waters, hear the birds sing, feel the winds of Kalahari whisper, take shelter for a bit from the scorching sun in the ancient mopane forests, occasionally take notes from the guide, snap away every spectacular moment, meditate in the woods, taste one’s bravery and many more on this nature walk safari that is laden with unscripted wildlife action.
Experience an Air Safari
To genuinely absorb the magic and true sense of the Okavango's limitlessness one will need an elevated sightsee, where visitors armed with cameras board charter flights in and out of the camps for an aerial rodeo trip over the expanse of sweet Okavango delta that encompasses deltas magical landscape of islands, plains and lagoons that are faultlessly decorated with rare fresh spectacular beauty in form of plants, animals and tranquil blue water channels. It is one of the most rewarding activities in the Okavango Delta. With the deltas remoteness and off path nature an aerial viewpoint is the most ideal way to relish the vast Delta and its zigzagging maze of crystal-clear sky blue channels and the herds of elephants, zebras, giraffes, antelopes going about their business in their natural habitat since these awe-inspiring panoramas are clearly visible from above. A virgin beautiful panorama awaits you as you become a bird and fly over the incredible expanse of Okavango Delta.
Lagoons in Akavango
With the water levels steadily receding, water rests in waterholes, major canals, river beds and many larger lagoons that attract a snowballing number of wildlife. Several lodges and safari camps are found in the viccinity of these lagoons. They include but not all among the major ones with their bearing locations: Dombo Hippo Pool (19°12′1.8″S 23°38′25.8″E), Gcodikwe Lagoon (19°9′54″S 23°14′24″E), Guma Lagoon (18°57′52.2″S 22°22′40.8″E), Jerejere Lagoon/Hippo Pool (19°5′16.8″S 23°1′12″E), Moanachira Lagoon/Sausage Island (19°3′23.4″S 23°3′44.3″E), Moanachira Lagoon (19°3′45″S 23°5′24″E), Shinde Lagoon (19°6′18″S 23°9′14.4″E), Xakanaxa Lagoon (19°10′48″S 23°23′42″E), Xhamu Lagoon (19°10′1.2″S 23°16′15.6″E), Xhobega Lagoon (19°11′0.6″S 23°12′25.2″E), Xugana Lagoon (19°4′10.2″S 23°6′0″E), Zibadiania Lagoon (18°34′12″S 23°32′6″E).
Fishing in Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is a world renown African fishing destination. With still delta waters having plenty of diverse variety of fish our visitors will be mentored in the native methods of catching dinner on top of using the orthodox well known soothing ways of catching fish. Distinguished fish species include the sleek catfish, the African pike, the impressive Tiger fish, bream, tilapia and more other species, this activity in the backdrop of the beautiful wildlife of the delta is majestic and therapeutic a much needed patience activity needed to usher in a break from the fast paced life of the western concrete jungles. So welcome to the aquatic beautiful jungles of Okavango delta.
Okavango Khwai Concession
NG 19 – Khwai Concession
The Khwai Concession is located in the extreme north east of the Okavango Delta and is controlled by the Khwai Community. The camps and lodges of this concession benefit both from the Moremi Game Reserve’s excellent game and the enhanced activities the concession offers allowing for night game drives and walking safaris. This concession links the Okavango Delta to the Linyanti with a focus on land activities.
NG 20 – Kwara Concession
Bordering the famed Moremi Game Reserve in the south, this northern concession is operated by Kwando Safaris. Game viewing is exceptional, benefiting from game movements between the Moremi and Linyanti regions. A large concession of 175 000 hectares, the northern reaches of the Kwara Concession offer a very different landscape to the south.
NG 21 – Shinde Concession
Located on the northern boundary of the delta, the Shinde Concession comprises of mainly permanent delta wildlife residents with the northern edge of the concession providing access to fertile floodplains. The southern camps focus their activities on the waters of the delta with walking, mokoro and boat excursions while the northern camps offer both water and land activities.
NG 22 – Kwedi Concession
With a variety of habitat types ranging from floodplains to thick mopane forests, the Kwedi Concession provides an excellent environment for the concession’s diverse game population. It has camps like Little Vumbura & Vumbura Plains
NG 23 – Dubu Plains Concession
Located in the northern ranges of the Okavango Delta this exclusive concession of 77 000 acres is home to only one camp. The concession is operated by Great Plains Conservation in partnership with the Okavango Community Trust which represents five villages in the Okavango Panhandle with Duba Plains Camp as the only accommodation facility.
NG 25 – Jao Concession
The Jao Concession at the head of the western channels of the Okavango Delta offer rich game viewing both in the permanent delta areas to the east of the concession and in the seasonal areas in the west. Game is particularly prolific on Hunda Island, especially during the inundation. It is home to several camps like Jacana Camp, Jao Camp, Kwetsani Camp, Little Tubu, Pelo Camp, Tubu Tree Camp.
NG 26 – Abu Concession
Celebrated for its elephant back safaris the Abu Concession offers a mix of all the delta’s land types, with permanent delta, seasonal floodplains and island habitats in the north. In the west the sandveld supports large concentrations of game. The Abu Concession is also home to African Horseback Safaris’ Macatoo Camp as well as Abu Camp, Seba Camp and African Horseback Safaris.
NG 27A – Pom Pom Concession
This distinguished private concession at the head of the Xudum River is on the western boundary of the Moremi Game Reserve. With a variety of habitats, the concession benefits from access to the permanent waters of the Xudum supporting good populations of game all year round. It houses several camps like Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp, Kanana Camp and Pom Pom Camp
NG 27B – Xaxaba Concession
One of the best known water based concessions, the Xaxaba Concession lies in the permanent delta and borders the famous Chief’s Island region of the Moremi Game Reserve. It house the Eagle Island Lodge, Gunn’s Camp and Moremi Crossing
NG 28 – Moremi Game Reserve
Overhanging into the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve preserves the heart of Africa’s finest game viewing region. Established by the BaTwana tribal authorities in 1963, this area protected the traditional hunting areas of the delta. Well protected, the game reserve provides a refuge for a diverse population of African game. It has camps like Chief’s Camp, Xigera Camp, Little Mombo, Mombo Camp and Mombo Trails on chief’s island and Okuti Camp, Camp Moremi and Camp Xakanaxa in Xakanaxa
NG 30 – Rann’s Concession
Formally a hunting concession, this area is now only used for photographic safaris and has experienced a considerable improvement in game viewing. This mixed landscape comprises typical Okavango Delta floodplains and islands in the north and dry sandveld in the south west. When not flooded this area should be combined with a permanently watered area for a complete delta experience. It is home to Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp, Xudum Okavango Delta Lodge and Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
NG 31 – Chitabe Concession
Located on the southern border of the Moremi Game Reserve with its western and eastern boundaries formed by the Santantadibe River and Gomoti Channel respectively. With both permanent delta and seasonal grasslands the concession attracts large concentrations of game. It is home to Chitabe Camp and Chitabe Lediba Camp
At the south eastern extreem of the delta, NG 32 is a large concession that is situated to the south of the Chitabe Concession. This is a community operated concession and home to Sanctuary Safaris’ two land and water delta camps of Baines’ Camp and Stanley’s Camp.
Best Time To Go
The Okavango delta is an all year-round destination, although most people travel here to see the wetlands in full flood during Botswana’s dry season between July and September. For the best wildlife sightings, call the Okavango Delta during the May to September dry season which mystically coincides with the annual flood and animals are forced to gather on higher ground making them easier to spot. The weather is also cooler, drier and less humid at this time of year with plenty of sunshine during the day. During the rainy season (November to March) the floods recede and many animals leave the Delta area to graze in the surrounding grasslands. Some lodges are unable to offer water-based safaris at this time of year and others close down. However, the green season is the best time for birding and cheaper rates.
Maun, situated at the south-eastern tip of the delta is the main gateway to the Okavango and most people fly in to Johannesburg and then connect directly to Maun Airport. The 2 hour’s drive from Maun to Okavango Delta is 95 miles to Moremi’s south gate. A 4WD is essential once inside Moremi as the roads vary from soft and sandy to wet and muddy in the floodplains. During the rainy season (November to March) the park may close to self-drive visitors and being that its a fly-on park, and you can get there via light aircraft from Maun since most concessions have airstrips. However, flights also operate from Kasane, a small town set next to the Chobe River on the busy overland route from Victoria Falls.
Where to stay
Botswana has been able to develop its tourism without the urgent need for revenues that face many other African countries. An eco-tourism policy of high yield, but low impact, has resulted in visitors being able to experience an Africa in its most natural, unspoilt and impressive condition. Thus the Reserve itself has very few lodges, and only four areas set-aside for camping (at South Gate, Third Bridge, Xakanaxa, and Khwai) plus a number of lodges on the outskirts of the Reserve, whose guests visit on daily game drives.