The river course starts in Angola’s western highlands, with numerous tributaries joining to form the Cubango river, which then flows through Namibia where it is called the Kavango and finally enters Botswana, where it is then called the Okavango.
Facts about Okavango Delta
Millions of years ago the Okavango River flowed into the huge Lake Makgadikgadi that dried up over the year to form now Makgadikgadi Pans. The river is trapped in the sands of Kalahari Desert making a unique system of lagoons dotted with lilies, narrow channels fringed by papyrus reeds, swamps, islands and shallow lakes that glisten in the sun supports a vast array of animal and plant life in what would have otherwise been a dry Kalahari open savanna.
This slow meandering pace is due to the lack of drop in elevation, little more than 60 meters over a distance of 450 kilometers. The Delta’s water ends in the Kalahari – via the Botetle River, over 95 per cent of the water has evaporated along the way.
Okavango Swamps are fed by Angolan rains, which start in October and finish in April. The floods only cross the border between Botswana and Namibia in December and only reach the bottom end of the delta at Maun sometime in July. The flooded delta covers close to 16,000 sq km after the rains and reduces to 9,000 sq km in the dry season.
Naturally this bounty attracts a huge variety of mammals and bird species, though on occasion they are almost secondary to the sheer wonder of the setting. The water moves into the Delta as the surrounding land dries out (winter months are dry in Botswana) and so huge populations of wildlife congregates on the edge of the newly flooded areas – May through October.
Okavango Botswana safari
Botswana Okavango Delta safaris and tours include walks in lush forested islands, game drives to the main islands and canoe rides using a dug out canoe from Sausage tree often poled by a local guide. Other Okavango safari ideas include horse rides and elephant rides particularly good for birding adventures.
Okavango Delta wildlife safaris
The Okavango Swamps and Delta are home to large numbers of animal populations including crocodile, the amphibian red lechwe, shy sitatunga antelopes, African elephant, wild dogs, wildebeests, bushbabies, warthogs, mongoose, spotted genet monkeys, tree squirrels, buffalo, white and black rhino, zebras and many other. Many of the animals are migrants from neighboring parks like Chobe National Park and Moremi Game reserve. Herds of elephants and buffalos arrive in Okavango delta around the summer and often return to their homes on the onset of summer rains with the search of fresh greener pastures and just in time to escape Okavango seasonal floods.
There are more than 500 different species of birds, many of these migrant birds that visit the delta during the annual floods. Regular bird sights on safaris Okavango delta include wattle and created cranes, African fish eagles, Lilac breasted roller, ostrich and Sacred Ibis.
When to visit
The best time for game viewing in the delta is from May to October when herds of game congregate around the remaining flooded areas and water pools, the dry season then dries out the rest of the vegetation. The best time for birding and vegetation is during the rainy season, November to April with several flocks of migrant birds returning and the plants are fully blossoming and green again.
Safari walks are probably the most exciting form of adventuring on Okavango delta safaris while game viewing flights are available using helicopter and charter aircrafts. Okavango delta is a Malaria zone thus all tourists are advised to pack anti malarial treatment and drugs. However, June to September are low risk malaria months but be dressed in long sleeves and trousers to avoid mosquito and insect bites.
Okavango delta camps and accommodation
There are a number of Okavango safari lodges and camps built in and around the delta area, bordering Moremi Game reserve in the west, Chobe National park and Linyanti wildlife reserve. Each of the Botswana Okavango game lodges offers iconic views, some of the best game sightings, bird watching, fishing and photographic spots.
Some of the popular camps include Abu camp located on the western side of the delta and popular with elephant back rides through Okavango delta. Book Xakanaxa camp if you are looking forward to boating and canoe rides. Kwara camp near Moremi game reserve is renowned for good game sights and carefully guided game drives or safari walks.
Other safari camps include Mapula lidge, Okavango House Boats, camp Okavango, Pompom camp, Macatoo camp, Xugana Island camp, eagle island camp, Nxabega safari camp, Stanley camps, Xaranna tented camp and mobile camping safaris from public camp sites. Botswana Okavango safaris don’t have to strain and worry you on where to stay… you could spend the whole day trying to pick which safari and game lodge have the finest facilities given several to choose from!