Okavango Delta

Botswana is home to the Okavango Delta, Kalahari Desert, Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve, but the most unique and fascinating area is undoubtedly the Okavango Delta.

In the north-west corner of this otherwise dry country, and covering some 16,000 square kilometres, is the maze of channels, lagoons and palm-covered islands that make up the Okavango Delta. This is the largest inland Delta in the world, and water levels vary on a seasonal basis with the rains in the Angolan highlands actually contributing more water that the rains falling on the Delta during the November to March period. Thus the annual flooding of the delta, waited for with baited breath, usually starts in April or May, and can continue for some months. The Delta is fed by the Kavango River (renamed the Okavango in Botswana).

The waters are crystal clear, and are best navigated by traditional mekoro (dug-out canoes), many of which are now made of fibre glass, to preserve the majestic trees in the Delta, that were traditionally used.

The Okavango is the last surviving remnant of the great Lake Makgadikgadi whose waters once covered much of the middle Kalahari. It also is closely associated with the Kwando, Linyanti, and Chobe River systems and marshes to the northeast of Botswana. It is probable that the Okavango, Chobe, Kwando, and upper Zambezi waterways flowed as one massive River across the middle Kalahari, to join the Limpopo River and then into the Indian Ocean.

With minor seismic shifts, a rift was formed, which impeded this flow. As the Okavango River left the highlands of Angola, and entered the arid flatness of the Kalahari, it slowed and deposited much of its sediment load. Channels became blocked and the water was forced to find alternative courses and, over time, tons of sand and debris were deposited, creating the existing fan shape of the Delta that we see today.

A number of fault lines now effectively control the direction of flow of the Okavango River, from the Panhandle, to the Maun area – where the Thamalakane fault forms a natural dam, some 240 kilometres in length. It is here that the channels change direction, and form the Boteti River.

The Delta is a breeding ground for several hundred species of bird, including many migrants, who visit from November to March, making the area a bird-watchers dream destination. It is not uncommon to see hundreds of members of one species, in a morning.Part of the Delta has been incorporated into the Moremi Game Reserve, set aside in 1963, by the local community to preserve the wildlife. The delta has a number of Lodges and Camps, many of which are in private concessions, bordering the Park, and therefore allowing for more excellent game viewing. Game drives are not possible at many lodges, therefore walks and mekoro excursions are the order of the day – and there is possibly no better way to experience nature than on the tranquil waters of this magnificent place.

Travel throughout the different regions of Botswana is facilitated by the wide availability of light aircraft, and most properties have their own landing strips. It is therefore advisable to design an itinerary which enables you to visit two or three lodges in different regions. Accommodation in Botswana is of a very high standard, especially when one considers that many Lodges are built in remote areas.