If you haven’t already had the opportunity to visit to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, I would highly recommend it. The vast open spaces and the feeling of pure isolation is something not often experienced in today’s day and age.
The adventure often starts with a short flip in a light aircraft from Maun into the heart of the Delta. It is only from the air when one starts to realize the abundance of water, below which lies a thick carpet of fine Kalahari sand. It takes one a while to grasp the concept that the water levels are at their lowest in the Delta during the rainy season. The pilot advised that there are more usable landing strips in the summer than in the winter. This seems absurd but is because the very same rains also feed the Okavango River, the source of which is further North in Angola. It takes a couple of months for this rainwater to flow approximately 1500km from Angola down into the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana. Due to the fact that this river doesn’t flow into the sea, it filters through a panhandle and disperses into a portion of the Kalahari Desert, becoming the Okavango swamps.The surreal experience of driving through a waterway in a safari vehicle with only the snorkel (of the vehicle) showing was something I will never forget. Getting to the lodges is easier said than done. As we approached the flowing water, where our track came to an abrupt end, only to re-appear on the other side, our ranger briefed us on the crossing process. We were to sit on our headrests, holding our luggage, cameras and binoculars while our vehicle somehow navigated across this waterway. Our ranger sat on his door with his shoes wrapped around his neck, tied together by his shoelaces, making use of the choke to propel the vehicle slowly forward. One the other side we had to park on an incline and opened the doors to allow the water to drain from inside the vehicle compartment. We were all then handed a dry poncho to put over our seat to sit on so our bums didn’t get wet. It was at this moment that I knew that this was just the start of an amazing adventure. At the next crossing we were confronted with, the excitement and adrenalin levels caused by the challenge had waned a bit and there was then more time to appreciate the aquatic life at very close quarters.The variety of plant, animal, reptile, bird and aquatic life is only fully appreciated once you have spent some time in the area. Although one may not see the Big 5 around every corner, the beauty of the surroundings alone brings visitors back year after year. Typically known for a very flat landscape, many open grassland islands are found dotted between the crystal clear water, which is constantly being filtered by the reeds and desert sand. These are home to a number of magnificent trees.
Whether tracking lions from the vehicle, taking a birding bush walk or escaping herds of elephants while trying to get back to your room at the lodge, there is never a dull moment in the Delta. An exceptional feature of the Okavango that separates it from many other Safari experiences is the fact that there are a lot of different activities to choose from to keep one busy. The most peaceful excursion of the lot is being able to spend time on a mokoro (dugout canoe), where one sits centimeters above the water meandering through Hippo channels, while admiring the scenery. It is difficult to explain. It is similar to sitting in a Gondola, being poled along through the canals in Venice except -instead of being serenaded to in a densely built-up city, this time you listen to the call of an African Fish Eagle in the distance while watching the fish beneath the boat with the occasional Angolan reed frog hanging on the reeds that pass by. What a place of tranquillity!
The highlight of my stay was taking a scenic helicopter flip over the Delta. This was an experience I will never forget even though it only lasted 30 minutes. We circled around herds of Elephants, hovered above pods of Hippo and flew alongside Red Lechwe bounding through the reeds. Flying without doors and just metres above the ground made for extraordinary photographic opportunities.
The only downside about visiting this pristine wilderness was having to say goodbye to go home. That being said, I knew that it wouldn’t be my last time either…The Okavango Delta should be on every animal lovers bucket list and we offer some of the world’s best lodges and tours in this wild paradise.
Can't decide between the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park?
We put them to the test and have a winner!