Okavango Delta Botswana
One of the most sought after wilderness destinations in the world, the Okavango Delta gives entrance to the spectacle of wild Africa such as dreams are made of – the heart-stopping excitement of big game viewing, the supreme tranquility and serenity of an untouched delta, and evocative scenes of extraordinary natural beauty.
A journey to the Okavango Delta – deep into Africa’s untouched interior – is like no other. Moving from wetland to dry land – traversing the meandering palm and papyrus fringed waterways, passing palm-fringed islands, and thick woodland, resplendent with lush vegetation, and rich in wildlife – reveals the many facets of this unique ecosystem, the largest intact inland delta in the world.
The Okavango Delta is situated deep within the Kalahari Basin and is often referred to as the ‘jewel’ of the Kalahari.
That the Okavango exists at all – deep within this thirst land – seems remarkable. Shaped like a fan, the Delta is fed by the Okavango River, the third-largest in southern Africa. It has been steadily developed over the millennia by millions of tonnes of sand carried down the river from Angola.
Size of Okavango Delta Botswana
The Okavango Delta is 6,000 square kilometers (2,316 square miles). However, when the floodwaters arrive in the winter months from March to September, the delta triples in size, to about 15,000 square kilometers (5,791 square miles).
Location of Okavango delta Botswana
The Okavango Delta is a large low gradient alluvial fan or ‘Inland Delta’ located in north-western Botswana. The area includes permanent swamps which cover approximately 600,000 ha along with up to 1.2m ha of seasonally flooded grassland.
How to get to Okavango Delta Botswana
Generally, access into the Okavango delta and the private safari camps is by flying in. There are several airstrips usually situated a few minutes’ drives and/or boat ride, from the camps. Flights into these airstrips can be from Maun or Kasane Airports, or linked from other airstrips in the different areas of Botswana, and are usually not included in the standard rates, although they may be packaged in with multi-night stays. The lodges and camps will pick up from the airstrips, sometimes at no extra cost. Flights into Maun are via Johannesburg and Cape Town, or locally from Gaborone and Kasane. Charter flights are another option, and inter-camp air transfers are available when booking with sister camps in Botswana. Flights from Maun Airport into the delta take no more than 30 to 45 minutes.
Self-drivers who plan on camping at one of the campsites in the delta can easily drive in through one of the Moremi game reserve gates. Driving from Maun to the South Gate of Moremi takes less than 2 hours. The other access point into Moremi is via the North Gate of the reserve en-route from Chobe national park. Self-drivers do require a 4 x 4 vehicle into the delta.
Things to do in Okavango Delta Botswana
The Delta is probably best known for its Mokoro rides. These are boating trips through the maze-like channels and shallow lagoons of the Delta. They are conducted in traditional boats which are called Mokoros. These sturdy boats used to be handcrafted out of large Delta trees. Today most of the boats used in the Delta are fiberglass replicas, to prevent the cutting down and depletion of the Delta’s magnificent trees.
Mokoros are a great way to go game viewing. As they are not motorized, they allow you to glide silently through the channels. This allows you to approach the wildlife silently and you will see more, as they are not scared off by a motor. You will see many animals that feed on the grass and reeds on the palm islands such as Lechwe, Sitatunga, Elephant, Hippo, and Crocodile as well as many others.
Guided walks in the Okavango Delta are a fantastic way to see the many picturesque scenes and islands. These walks usually take place in the early morning before the day gets hot. The walks are led by expert guides who will ensure your safety and help you track animals and offer a wealth of information about the animals and local plant life. The guides will help you track animals – you may even come across Elephant and Lion, although you will not approach them too closely. These guided walks are a great way to spot the many birds that find sanctuary in the Okavango Delta.
The availability of game drives at the different camps in the Okavango Delta depends on many factors. The two most influential are where the camp is situated and what season it is. People talk of wet and dry experiences in the Okavango. Some camps are situated in dry areas, such as Khwai and Kwara, these camps focus on game drives.
Most of the camps that are situated in a private concession will offer game drives at night as well as during the day. These are a great opportunity to see the many animals that are more active at night than during the day such as Aardvarks, Aardwolves, Leopards, and Servals. Lions also hunt at night and it is a good chance to come upon them when they are feeding on a kill.
Game drives are led by knowledgeable guides who will tell you about the flora of the region and the behavior of the animals you come across. Some of the animals might even be known to the rangers and they can tell you something about their particular habits.
Horse Back Safaris
Horse Back safaris at Macatoo Camp are a wonderful way to see the Okavango Delta as you can go where the safari vehicle can’t. You need to be an experienced rider to do these safaris as the terrain can be rough and you need to be able to control your horse should they spook and bolt.
The horseback safaris take you over varied terrain which means that sometimes your horses will be walking along with a herd of Zebra or Lechwe or cantering through the water meadows along with galloping Giraffe. This is possible because the animals perceive you as part of a four-legged animal when riding and as such, less of a threat. Some caution is necessary when riding in the Delta, as the predators will also be less afraid of approaching you, and you will need to follow your guide’s directions carefully.
These trips are led by experienced guides, who will lead you through the many beautiful Delta pathways past many scenic vistas. Horseback safaris usually take place on the seasonal floodplains in the southwestern areas of the Delta.
Elephant back safaris were pioneered in the Abu region of the Okavango Delta in the 1980s. However, these Elephant back safaris have been phased out in Botswana due to concerns over animal welfare. Lodges now offer elephant interaction and education including an immersive walking-based experience. This is a stunning experience that allows you to learn about these huge, gentle animals. It is a wonderful opportunity to physically and intimately engage with the Elephants. You will also learn about their natural behavior, through watching them feed, play, and interact with one another.
Many of the “water camps” in the Delta offer game viewing by motorboat. These trips allow you to see the Okavango from a different perspective, although some of the wildlife may occasionally be scared off by the sound of the motor. The boats are also be used to get you to other camps, or to specific destinations such as a visit to the Gcodikwe heronry near Xakanaka.
Try your hand at catching the fierce Tiger Fish, or Tilapia on your Botswana safari in the Okavango. Not all water-based camps in the Okavango allow fishing, but some camps do allow fishing on a catch and release basis. Most of the fishing however takes place in the Panhandle region where the Okavango River enters the Delta. Deeper into the Delta, the camps may offer fishing seasonally such as at Gunn’s camp and Xugana and Moremi Crossing.
The spectacle of the Okavango Delta is probably best viewed from the air. Scenic helicopter flights are a wonderful way to see the beautiful Palm-fringed Islands and a myriad of waterways that form the Okavango Delta. You may see some of the Delta on a scheduled flight to and from your Lodge, but to truly see the Delta and gaze down at the many animals below, you should go on a scenic helicopter flight. Many of these flights leave from Maun and are a great option when going to or returning from your camp.
When to visit Okavango Delta Botswana
Botswana’s climate is generally sunny and hot, but in the dry winter months, it is much more comfortable and it is when larger concentrations of game are seen as they search for water sources.
Although it really is a year-round safari area, the best time to visit the Okavango Delta is during the cool dry season of May to August. Seasonal flooding happens when the water from Angola reaches the delta between March and June, peaking in July. During this time, the plains game migrates from the dry outer areas to the delta in search of water. Daytime temperatures are usually below 30°C (86°F), but it does get cold after dark, sometimes very close to freezing. This is also the best time for boat cruises and makoro (canoe) trips.
Where to Stay in Okavango Delta Botswana
The sublime Okavango Delta is considered Africa’s Garden of Eden and one of the last remaining wildernesses on Earth. It’s a leading safari destination that offers unique activities like traversing the waterways on a mokoro– a traditional dug-out canoe that is propelled through shallow waters by skillfully pushing a pole – the Delta’s quintessential game-viewing vehicle.
Here are our picks
- Little Vumbura
- Vumbura Plains
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