5 Reasons to Visit the Okavango Delta
Considered one of Nature’s masterpieces, the Okavango Delta offers visitors an insight into one of Africa’s truly great wildernesses.
Located in Botswana the Okavango Delta is not only one of Africa’s most fascinating and captivating regions to discover, it is also one of the most unique ecosystems, as well as one of the world’s premier wilderness areas and largest inland deltas in the world. It is a vast and virtually untouched freshwater wetland area fed by the Okavango River. The delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
The delta is characterized by a complex network of channels, lagoons, and islands, which are home to an incredible and diverse array of wildlife along with a wonderful variety of bird species. The area is particularly renowned for its population of African wild dogs, which are among the most endangered wildlife species in the world.
The Okavango Delta covers between 6,000 and 15,000 square kilometres of the Kalahari Desert in northern Botswana and owes its existence to the Okavango River which flows from the Angolan highlands across Namibian Caprivi Strip and into the harsh Kalahari Desert.
The Okavango Delta is an important wildlife area protected by both the Moremi Game Reserve on its eastern edge and the numerous wildlife concessions within Ngamiland. However, the Delta is known for its superb wildlife with a large population of mammals and excellent birding, particularly in the breeding season
There is absolutely no denying the fact that the glorious Okavango Delta is an oasis that offers travellers, wildlife and nature enthusiasts, globe trotters, and absolutely everyone in between a true immersion into a world of wetland island and waterways, teeming with wildlife, birdlife, luscious vegetation, magnificent landscapes and so much more – you simply have to see it to believe it.
Here are 10 reasons to visit the Okavango Delta and why you shouldn’t waste another moment to experience, explore, and discover everything it has to offer. The Delta is a true natural wonder and extraordinary safari destination that should undoubtedly be at the top of your African safari travel bucket list!
#1 The Okavango Delta is an ecological marvel
The Delta is as complex as it is beautiful. Surrounded by desert, it’s completely sustained by seasonal rains that nourish a staggering range of plant and animal life. Seasonal flooding swells replenishes this verdant oasis, attracting huge numbers of iconic wildlife that move between fertile plains, marshlands, and huddles of shaded islands. When the floodwater recedes, the Delta shrinks, concentrating animal numbers, making for some of the very best game viewing in the world.
Unlike nearly all deltas around the world, which are generally places where rivers and other bodies of water empty into an ocean or sea, the Okavango Delta is a unique and ever-changing inland delta. About 2.5 trillion gallons of water carried by the Okavango River, and other permanent and ephemeral rivers, empty into a dusty plain hundreds of miles from the nearest coast. The delta is therefore responsible for transforming an otherwise bone-dry landscape into a lush, green, bustling and thriving hub of activity.
As mentioned, the Okavango Delta is highly affected by seasonal flooding, with the delta floods covering over 6,175 square miles/ 16,000 square kilometers every year. The Delta’s peak flood season takes place during May – October (with water levels being at its highest during June – August). The Delta’s peak flood season coincides with Botswana’s dry season, which in turn coincides with great migrations of plains game from the dry hinterland. Hundreds of wildlife species depend on the freshwater rivers that feed and the floodplains that make up the Okavango Delta. So much so that many wildlife species have timed their migrations and breeding seasons to coincide with the bounty that the floodplains bring during the winter dry season.
**Extra Note: The nearly 5 million acres (2 million hectares) of permanent swamp and seasonally flooded grasslands of the delta are still largely wild and untouched by humans. Its pristine ecology attracts tourists from around the world and earned the Okavango Delta status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The larger Okavango River Basin, which feeds the delta, is similarly important for wildlife and people.
#2 Premier wildlife & the iconic African Big5
#3 It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise
If you’re an avid birder or bird watching enthusiasts, this is undoubtedly one of the top reasons to visit Okavango Delta. Home to over 550 recorded bird species, including wetland birds, has transformed the Delta into the ultimate hotspot for ornithologists and local and international birdwatchers alike.
During the Delta’s wet season, from October to April, several migratory birds can be spotted in the area. In addition, many resident bird species can also be seen / found nesting during this period, making this time of the year perfect for birding tours.
Some of the most notable birds to look out for in the delta are:
- The African darter
- The African skimmer
- The green-winged pytilia
- The long-toed lapwing
- Pel’s fishing-owl (the world’s only fish-eating owl)
- African fish eagle
- Lilac-breasted roller
- The Hamerkop
#4 Exhilarating Water-based Safaris
The Okavango Delta is by far the best destination in Africa to go on a thrilling water-based safari – AKA a traditional Mokoro Safari or a motor boat.
**What is a Mokoro: A Mokoro is a traditional dug-out canoe which is used to traverse and explore the waterways and channels of the Okavango Delta. Enjoying a mokoro journey through the Delta is not only a unique bucket-list worthy safari experience, but gives you the opportunity to see and explore hidden gems, secret spots, and rare sightings you might miss on a traditional game drive.
Nowhere else in the world can you experience the sublime serenity of being poled along in a traditional dugout canoe as birds like jacanas and herons walk among the lilies, elephants arrive to feed on the soft grass, and sitatunga antelope retreat shyly into the reeds. Leaving / trading in the 4×4 game-vehicle for an authentic and exciting Mokoro safari opens up the world’s most unspoiled wetland of Botswana’s Okavango Delta to be fully explored, discovered, and experienced from a whole new perspective.
Embarking on a sightseeing Mokoro safari adventure has fast become one of the top reasons to visit the Okavango Delta. Gliding on the surface of the water, exploring the labyrinth of waterways created by the river, searching for wildlife while surrounded by water lilies and papyrus – there truly is nothing like it!
- Seasonal water levels will be for mokoro rides and boating activities.
- Look out for tiny painted reed frogs and dazzling dragonflies.
- Unusually tall termite mounds and baobabs that escape the floodwaters.
- A unique activity available nowhere else in Africa for a select number of guests.
#5 Vast Private Concessions for Less-Crowded Safaris
There are several legendary private concessions for an immersive and authentic Delta Safari experience – like Jao Plains, Abu, Nxabega, Khwai and Kwando – that are not open to the public but to guests only. Travellers, wildlife enthusiasts, and safari goers can expect low visitor numbers, very few vehicles, and an unhurried approach to sightings. This allows for truly sensational wildlife and birdlife sightings. Camps are very well spaced and offer some of the purest game viewing in the most pristine conditions anywhere in the world. Look out for rare species like sable and roan antelope as well as honey badgers if you’re very lucky!
- Night drives are permitted so you may see lions hunting and nocturnal animals like porcupine, aardvark, genet, civet, and owls.
- Go on guided nature walks to get closer to the smaller fauna and flora.
- Experienced guides will go off-road to get you closer to sightings and kills.
- One of the top destinations to see leopards is in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.