This huge area of winding waterways, swamps, and islands form the largest inland delta in the World. The Delta supports a rich and unique ecosystem, that includes huge elephant herds, a myriad of birds and aquatic creatures.
This wilderness is essentially uninhabited, except for tourists visiting the limited number of safari camps, their staffs and a few small villages.
Unlike most river deltas the Okavango flows inland emptying into a vast wetland that touches the edges of the Kalahari Desert. Each summer, floods pour down from the highlands of Angola into the Okavango River and flow on through a vast network of narrow waterways, lagoons and broad expanses of the Okavango Delta. The water courses through this huge, 10,000 square kilometers of flood plain and dissipates. This wilderness is uninhabited, except for a few river Bushmen who roam there, still working iron with primitive bellows, making knives, axes and spears. Their canoes, called mokoros, are hand-hewn from logs.
The Okavango Delta is frequently called a swamp, even though most of its waters are beautifully clear and blue. Although most of the Okavango waters are soaked up by the desert, or evaporate, in good years, enough can remain to flood Lake Ngami in the south and feed the Boteti River, which runs into Lake Xau in the west and eventually into the huge depression of the Makgadikgadi Pan. The floods reach their peak in May, covering vast grass flats and making thousands of islands out of tree-covered ridges of land. Thick papyrus grows everywhere and, in the northern parts of the delta, chokes the waterways so that they are impenetrable except by canoes. In the parts of the delta where there is perennial water there are large numbers of crocodiles, hippos and buffaloes. Animals like the sitatunga, lechwe and Chobe bushbuck, which have adapted themselves to the conditions of reed and water, live on the islands.
The Delta birdlife truly amazing, with a full array of both bushveld and water species. This is one of the only places in Africa where you might spot the rare wattled crane, pels fishing owl, the palm-nut vulture, or gymnogene, bee-eaters, crowned crane, red ibis, sunbird, malachite kingfisher, and lilac-breasted, fish eagle, betaleur, snake eagle.
This vast wilderness encompasses the Moremi Game Reserve along with many large private wildlife concessions, some exceeding 200,000 acres.
Park Size: 6,200 sq. miles – 10,000 sq. kilometers
Ecosystems: Swamps, grassy plains, islands
Wildlife: Elephant, lion, wild dog, and hyena, leopard, buffalo, antelope, shy sitatunga, puku, reedbuck, crocodile, hippo – Birds: 600 + species including rare wattled crane, pels fishing owl, palm-nut vulture, bee-eaters, crowned crane, red ibis, sunbird
When to go: March through September
Highlights: Game drives, canoeing, camping, fishing, horseback riding