Okavango Delta – Botswana
There are few places on Earth you can compare to the Garden of Eden and the Okavango Delta is the closest place to Paradise on Earth, thus leaving Botswana without exploring the spectacular Okavango Delta is the worst mistake any tourist will ever do. This is the most beautiful place you will visit in the country and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Okavango Delta is considered the largest swamp Inland Delta in the whole World and was formed when the Okavango River reached a tectonic trough in the middle of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. Most of the water reaching the areas of the Delta is completely evaporated and transpired thus flowing into any Ocean or Sea. Extending for an area of 20,235 square kilometers (2,023,500 hectares) of lily-covered lagoons, champagne-colored rivers and papyrus-choked reed beds, Okavango Delta system was designated a Ramsar wetland of Importance on 12th September 1996 and is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa that was officially declared on 11th February 2013 but became the 1000th area to be officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 22nd June 2014.
The Okavango Delta was formed from seasonal flooding while the River flows through the area in January to February. The heavy rains from the nearby Angola highlands and the surge flows for almost 1200 kilometers in about one month the waters then spreads over the Delta area for 250 kilometers by 150 kilometers over the next four months (especially from March to June). Usually the high temperatures of the Delta contributes to rapid transpiration and evaporation which results in a cycle of increasing and decreasing water levels that were surprisingly not fully understood until the early 20th Century.
The Moremi Game Reserve is found on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and is also one of the magnificent sites to explore during African safaris.
Attractions within Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is a biodiversity hot spot with exceptional species of flora including the Papyrus and reed rafts that make up the largest part of the area’s vegetation while during the flood season, they float very well above the sandy river bed with roots dangling free in the water. These species of flora play a vital role in offering cohesion for the sand while the levees or banks of the river usually have a high mud content which combines with the sand in the river to continuously build up the river banks.
The Okavango Delta is also a permanent and seasonal haven to a wide range of wildlife species, totaling to 164 species of mammals such as the southern African cheetahs, Brown hyenas, African bush elephants, leopards, sitatunga, Lechwe, Hippos, Springbok, Blue wildebeests, South-Central black rhinos, Chacma baboons, Tsessebe, south African giraffes, southern white rhinos, Burchell’s zebras, buffaloes, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, Sable antelopes, vervet monkeys, common warthogs and Roan antelopes. Also, the endangered Cape wild dogs call the Okavango Delta home thus making it one of the sites endowed with high Park densities in the African Continent. Unfortunately, most of the large mammals within and around the Okavango Delta are not year round residents because they leave with the summer rains to find fresh grass to graze and trees to browse then make their way back as winter approaches. There are also 157 species of reptiles such as the Nile crocodiles,
This biologically diverse site is also a birding Paradise with more than 540 species of birds including the grey crowned cranes, African fish eagles, South African Ostriches, Pel’s fishing Owls, Lilac-breasted rollers, sacred Ibis and Hammerkop among others.
Additionally, the Okavango Delta is a habitat to more than 71 species of fish including Tilapia, several species of catfish and Tigerfish found in the Zambezi River making the area a historic link between the two River systems. Other interesting sites to explore within the Okavango Delta include the Chief’s Island, the largest Island in the area and the Salt Islands among others.
Common activities that tourists enjoy within the Okavango Delta include game viewing, water-based safaris on the permanent channels, horseback rides, walking safaris, bird watching and photography among others.
Best Time to visit the Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is an all year round destination much as most tourist travel to this spectacular destination during the country’s dry season (from July to September) to see the wetlands in full flood.
How to reach the Okavango Delta
Maun, found on the south-eastern corner of the Okavango Delta is the main entrance path to the site much as chartered flights can be organized with light air-crafts from Kasane, a small Town near the Chobe River on the busy route from the Victoria Falls. However, you can opt for the two-hour drive from Maun to Moremi’s south gate with a 4WD Vehicle preferred because the roads vary from soft, sandy and muddy routes in the floodplains.