The jewel in Botswana’s crown is the extraordinary Okavango Delta, a 7000 square mile complex of waterways, marshes and wetlands seasonally fed by runoff from rains in the Angolan mountains; it forms one of the great ecological wonders of Africa.
It is also rare in that it does not flow into an ocean or sea. The deltas waters are seasonal (though there is always water) with the annual floods arriving in the panhandle at the top of the delta early January and finally filling up the deltas edges by August, thereby keeping the delta full during the dry season until the annual rains arrive late November. Hydrological and organic processes keep this wetland and its vegetation in prime condition for the wildlife living in it.
The Okavango Delta also incorporates the magnificent Moremi Wildlife Reserve, famous for its elephant, wild dog and lion as well as unusual and beautiful antelope and birdlife. No visit to Botswana is complete without incorporating a visit to the Okavango Delta and here one can stay in beautiful lodges and camps on private concessions or even have a private, tented mobile camp erected just for you and where you have a private guide and vehicle or boat, which allows you complete flexibility and freedom each day.
Dependant on the camp visited there are different activities on offer such as excursions on motor boats taking you further into the deltas waterways along main rivers such as the Boro and Maunachira, or you can take an early morning walk on palm and mangosteen filled islands and a game drive in the evening as the sun sets.
Highly recommended is a canoe ride through the reed beds - slow, calm and utterly wonderful. You glide over shallow calm waters with a delta poler pointing out painted Angolan reed frogs and minuet bell frogs in amongst blue water lily nymphaea nouchali and dense yellow night lilies, water chestnut and purple water hibiscus, ipomoea sp. and water shield floating on the surface.
Move quietly towards birds – perhaps in a heronry and see pelicans, egrets, ibis, and even perhaps a gallinule. Visitors can also do horse back riding safaris from three camps and stroll through the grassy islands with rescued orphaned elephants at other camps.
From top to bottom, the gradient over this vast expanse is only 62 metres over approximately 250 kilometres and the little water that flows out of the delta fills Lake Ngami – wonderful birdlife and the Thamalakane and Boteti Rivers - dispersing finally into the Kalahari sand.
The Okavango is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife – some rare such as the rhino and wild dog, some shy such as the sitatunga antelope and other common species including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, red lechwe, reedbuck, bushbuck, waterbuck and tssesebe. In the waters hippo, crocodile, otters and a variety of fish species live in crystal clear waters.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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