The Okavango Delta in Botswana

The Okavango Delta in north west Botswana is the worlds largest inland Delta.  It is also Botswana’s most desirable safari destination due to the spectacular scenery and large diversity of wildlife and birdlife.  The river starts in the western highlands of Angola and flows through Namibia into Botswana.  Millions of years ago the Okavango river flowed into an inland lake but seismic shifts the water to pool.  The Makgadikgadi was once part of this river system but is now an uninhabited dry salt pan.  The Delta measures 16 000 square kilometres in area and is a labyrinth of watery channels that are best explored on a mokoro or dug out canoe. The Delta is a permanent water system that is governed by two events – the summer rains and the winter floods.  The summer rainfalls are in the form of localised thunderstorms that keep the channels full and when the waters recede the winter floods from the Angola Highlands replenish the delta.  The rainy season  is when the animals give birth to their young and there is an abundance of wildlife.  When the waters recede between the months of April and October, the landscape becomes drier and the wildlife congregates at the remaining water resources, making them easier to spot.  The region is mostly inaccessible during the winter flooding. The water that flows through the Delta is clean and can be drunk without purification.

There are about 50,000 small islands scattered all over the Delta – all of which are different in shape and form. The woodlands that surround the islands are lush and luxuriant and support many species that would not be bale to adapt to the harsh desert landscapes of the Kalahari. Chiefs Island is the largest of these islands and where most of the wildlife congregates.

The Delta is home to the Big 5 and a host of other species including vast herds of elephant, buffalo and hippo as well as antelope, giraffe, zebra, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and many smaller predators.  There are no fences in the region and wildlife passes freely between the reserves.  The Moremi Game Reserve is a national park that spreads along the eastern side of the Delta – it was named after Chief Moremi of the Ba Tawana tribe. The Moremi landscape consists of permanent waters and drier areas that create an interesting contrast for visitors.

The Delta is also a breeding ground for hundreds of bird species including large numbers of migrant birds that visit between November and March.  Wattled Cranes and Pel’s Fishing Owls are particularly notable bird species that inhabit this ecosystem.  There are 71 species of fish living in the watery channels including catfish, tigerfish and tilapia.

Rebecca Sparrow is Marketing Manager at Safari.co.uk.

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Comments (1)

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  1. AFP says:

    Oh, how I love the Okavango Delta!This brings back great memories, the greatest of all camping with family near to the delta, and experiencing the mass of water, the animals in their masses, the scenery and the beauty of it all. And this is where I first saw lions swimming, seemingly habituated to it all.

    My favourite Botswana area is definitely Chobe Game Reserve, especially because of its setting on the river, teeming with game.

    I will definitely go back and show it to my children…it is really an awesome experience.

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