Okavango Delta Safari
Imagine a vast wilderness of reeds and channels, of towering jackleberry and giant sausage trees. A place where bulrushes hide huge herds of buffalo, where elephants wallow and lions roam. This is the oasis of the Okavango Delta, the jewel in Botswana’s magnificent crown. A wildlife wonderland, it’s been called the last Eden of Africa – both a tribute to its splendour, and an indictment on the decline elsewhere. Its maze of swamps and lagoons form a unique refuge for vulnerable species, with hidden regions so remote that even the acutely threatened rhino can thrive. In the Okavango, you’ll find one of the richest and most bio diverse ecosystems on the continent, a conservation success story and arguably the best wildlife destination in the world…
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2014, the Okavango Delta is recognised for its unique annual flood. 11 trillion litres of water pour south down the Okavango River each year, a deluge from Angola that never reaches the sea. Instead it spreads southeast into the Kalahari interior saturating some 20,000km2 of sand. This is the last vestige of what was once an enormous inland lake, which over millennia has dried and gradually retreated, until only the immense Makgadikgadi Salt Pans remain. The Okavango’s waters may no longer feed a lake, but they’re still critical to wildlife across the region. Central Botswana is the heart of the Kalahari, a semi-arid desert that sees very little rain. What makes the Delta particularly special is that its flooding coincides with the bone-dry winter months. As the summer rains fade in March and April, the waters begin their surge down the north-western ‘Panhandle’. As they hit the Delta, they gently fan out, and can take up to four months to percolate south to Maun. This seasonal flow provides a year-round source of water, a life-bringing reservoir for thousands of species of animals and plants.
The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s best wildlife regions, not just for its great game viewing, but as a general triumph in conservation. Much of its success is down to tireless, careful management and an overriding conviction that successes must be shared. Botswana has long operated a low-density tourism model, allowing a limited number of camps and lodges who then operate at a premium. This can quickly ramp up the cost of a safari to Botswana, but local communities are included and significant revenue is shared. In the Delta, you’ll find some of the world’s wildest and most spectacular game lodges and although prices can be high, it is the price of success. When you visit the Delta, the surrounding communities see value, which keeps poaching low and general encroachment at a minimum.
There are also ways to see the Delta which don’t involve luxury lodges – from houseboats on the Panhandle to Moremi and Khwai’s simple campsites. But wherever you go, park fees and tourism levies ensure that when you touch one of the world’s last great wilderness areas you know that in some small way you’re helping it survive.