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The Okavango Delta

In the words of Alexander McCall Smith, “The Okavango Delta is an astonishing sight”. It’s quite simply one of the most magical places in Botswana and perhaps, understandably, one of the most sought-after wilderness destinations in the world. A journey into the Okavango Delta will touch your heart and soul forever. An astounding 15,000 square kilometres of palm-fringed islands, thick woodland, seasonally flooded plains and fringed waterways, all resplendent with lavish vegetation and rich in wildlife. It is the largest intact inland delta in the world and is one of the last remaining true untouched wildernesses. 

Often referred to as the ‘jewel’ of the Kalahari, The Okavango Delta is situated deep within the Kalahari Basin. Swollen with floodwaters from the summer rains, the Okavango River begins way up in the Angolan highlands, crosses into Botswana from the Caprivi in Namibia, then spills out over the vast, fan-shaped Delta. The extraordinary timing of the flood means that just as the water from Botswana’s summer rains disappear (April to May), so the floodwaters begin their journey – 1,300 kilometres of which is through Kalahari sands – revitalising a vast and remarkably diverse ecosystem of plant life and attracting large concentrations of wildlife. By the time the water reaches the town of Maun (June to July), at the Delta’s southern fringes, its volume is a fraction of what it was. As little as two percent of the water reaches the Thamalakane River in Maun, over 95 percent lost to evaporation. The flow of the many rivers fringing from the Okavango River are determined by tectonic plates, embedded deep below the Kalahari sand.

For the passionate safari lover, the utter beauty of the Okavango is complemented by the high concentration of wildlife located in its vicinity. In the ‘dry-season’ months of July through to October, the Okavango attracts a reported 5 million mammals in their search for water. Game viewing is outstanding with many ways to explore this region either by vehicle, motorised boat, walking or mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe). Add to this, the fact that the great majority of the Okavango is divided into private concessions (or reserves) and most only reachable by light aircraft flights, safaris are only available to guests staying in the camps, which guarantees that those guests will enjoy unprecedented levels of exclusivity, service and privacy. Night drives and walking safaris can also take place in private concessions giving guests totally different wildlife experiences. Walking safaris offer the opportunity to get up close to the African flora, and as nocturnal animals begin their twilight rounds, night drives are both arresting and educating. The level of guiding is second to none as almost all the guides have grown up in the local areas, providing guests with the most outstanding knowledge not only of the wildlife but also the flora and fauna that beset this vast landscape.

Given the unique ecosystem, a huge and diverse number of animals and birdlife thrive in this oasis and notably, the Okavango is home to many endangered species including the largest population of wild dog in Africa. As of 2001 the region once again became home to both black and white rhino as the ongoing reintroduction projects have proved immensely successful with a number of calves born all to mothers that have been released in to the program.

The delta has the world to offer; great game, great lodges and great guiding - there’s a reason it is so highly coveted! It is also incredibly suitable for both seasoned safari goers and first timers – a must on any Botswanan itinerary.

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To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
Bill Bryson

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