Elephants Bathing in the Delta
Where: Okavango river, Botswana
When: From August to March you can experience fantastic fishing and top birdlife
Happenings: Watch elephants bathing, birds migrating and catch a fish or two
Remember to Bring: A mokoro and camera
Where It’s At
Go by Mokoro – a dug out canoe perfect for exploring the nature of the Delta silently
The Okavango river flows for over 1000 miles from the Angolan highlands through Namibia before entering Botswana where it bursts into the formations of the Okanvango Delta, an exhuberant display of green swamps spanning around 250 miles. The Okavango Delta is a shifting web of crystal clear channels, lagoons and palm studded islands.
What Wildlife is Found Here?
The best way to explore the islands is by mokoro – a traditional African dug-out canoe. The vast waters lie on the edge of the great Kalahari Desert, which just shows that Africa is a continent of extremities. It is often called a swamp, although it is actually a winding broad channel concealing other tiny water channels, behind a wall of papyrus reed. These tiny networks of passages form a succession of lagoons, islands and islets, grasslands and flooded plains. Depending on rainfall locally and in the Angola region where the river flow starts, anything between half and all of the Delta can be flooded during any season.
The water in the delta is amazingly clean and pure and is a great place for fishing. The deeper water of the fishing camps in the Panhandle region in the north of the Delta is your best bet for bigger, meaner fish. August to February is the best season to fish.
But the Delta is most famous for its birds and game, home to 350 species of birds year round. Spring and summer are great times for birdwatching, and October to March is the time to see the birds of Europe prior to migration. There’s plenty of large game to see in the Delta, and travelling on horseback is a great way to get closer to the wildlife than on foot. Canter alongside giraffes and you will hear the cry of the fisheagle, hyena screams and hippos grunts.
Wealth of Habitats
The Delta boosts three main habitats: The “Panhandle” around the river is one of the biggest river in South Africa during the flooding and an amazing site for birds. Lush riverine forests line the river with papyrus and phragmites dominating the flora. In the Panhandle you can see many species, like the Bat Hawk and Carmine Bee-eater to name a few, or you can follow a “barbel run” from August to October when the barbels swim upstream to breed followed by numerous birds stalking them!
The permanent waters of the Delta are situated in the North and are characterised with fast flowing rivers and islands. Waterlife to spy includes crocodiles, hippos, red lechwe, buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and antelope. Birds include the pinkbacked pelicans, brown firefinch, western banded snake eagle, swamp warbler, pygmy goose and the slaty egret.
The drylands are around many of the areas and border the Delta. The regions are a combination of grasslands, rich forests, mature woodland and palm fringed islands. Chiefs Island is a large arid island in the centre of the river. These islands are great spots to view birds from. Here you can see birds including the Wattled Crane, Rufous bellied Heron, Chirping Cisticola and theRedwinged Pranticole.
Many dams are being proposed by the Angolan government to water a thirsty population inWindhoek, which threatens the future of the Delta, although sustainability environmental projects have been started to protect the nature in the region.
By Jess Halliday