The very word "Okavango" evokes a sense of adventure and exploration, and this is exactly what the Okavango Delta is about. Often called the Okavango Swamps, this intricate maze of waterways and sandy islands is an explorer's dream, and the destination should be on the wishlist of anyone looking for a unique travel experience.
The geology of the Delta is fascinating, with its creation being attributed to tectonic plate action from thousands of years ago causing the Kavango River to flow from Angola into the Kalahari Desert as opposed to the Atlantic Ocean.
So while the vegetation is lush, and the wildlife plentiful, the waterways are actually cutting through Kalahari Desert sand, and the entire delta is an enormous oasis.
Termites are credited with the creation of the many islands around which the water slowly flows, as their mounds, common features of the landscape, are responsible for the formation of sand and foliage around them.
There is a continuous scurry of life in the Delta, from the smallest of creatures to the largest of elephants, and every twist and turn of the channels brings some new form of life into view. The Okavango Delta is truly one of nature's greatest creations.
Highlights of the Okavango Delta include:
Due to the sensitivity of the Okavango's eco-systems, the Botswanan government has done very well to promote low volume and minimal impact tourism, which means the visitor numbers in the area are relatively low.
Most safari experiences here are via fly-in trips to remote locations, with camps scattered around the area on small islands.
Most camps are set in private concession areas, meaning you will not see any other vehicles during your drives, and with the ability to drive off-road, you will have acres of exclusive wilderness to explore.
Some of the camps in Botswana have taken luxury safaris to a new level. With their remote locations, idyllic settings and beautiful views come designer tents with everything and more that you can expect from a 5 star hotel room.
After time spent out in the wild searching for game, returning to camp to welcome drinks and a long soaking bubble bath, you'll wonder what more there could possibly be to life!
The only way to get an idea of how the Okavango Delta really works is by flying over it. When flying into your camp you will have good views over the area, but scenic flights are also available which will take you to the further waterways near the panhandle where the Kavango River first starts fanning out.
You will fly over the clear channels and see how the Delta flows over the Kalahari sands. The country is so flat that you can see the endless horizons and look far into Africa.
Day and Night Game Drives
Although some of the camps are not able to offer game drives due to their location in the swamps, those camps which do are usually able to provide both day and night game drives, which lead to hugely exciting experiences.
It is at night at which the predators come alive, and driving along in the complete darkness with just a spotlight and the vehicle is a thrilling, and often spine tingling experience. The night sounds echo through the trees, and you can sense the animals' wariness as they know the lions are on the prowl.
Okavango safaris are well known for offering amazing animal interaction sightings. Whether it be hunting cheetahs or leopards, or battles between lions and buffaloes or hyenas, you will more often than not leave the Delta having witnessed something special.
A speciality of Okavango safari camps is their ability to offer activities besides game drives, and walking safaris are an amazing way of seeing the African bush from another perspective.
Being guided by local experts you will immerse yourself in the wilderness, taking note of many of the smaller things you usually miss while on a game drive.
Although walks usually do not offer as many sightings as drives, it is not uncommon to have amazing views of wildlife as you quietly pass through their domain. Seeing animals while on foot provides you with very different and exciting encounters.
Being used by the local tribes as the earliest form of transport through the Okavango, most camps in the Delta offer mokoro excursions along the surrounding channels.
A mokoro is a dug-out canoe, driven by a "poler", in a Venetian gondola style. It is one of the most peaceful and relaxing ways to enjoy Africa, as you glide silently along the water, gaining a close up view of the small water creatures which call the Okavango home.
Lying back in the mokoro, listening to the bird calls and frog croaks it is easy to drift off into a dreamworld and forget that there ever was a reality such as work and traffic.
Fishing and Boat Excursions
In addition to mekoros, some camps also have motor boats which carry you deeper into the Delta, and which can also take you out on fun fishing excursions.
It is not uncommon for fishermen to return to camp with a catch of 10 or more, and the camps will usually be more than happy to serve them up on a plate for guests that evening!
Moremi Game Reserve
Covering a large section of the eastern Okavango Delta is the Moremi Game Reserve; one of the most beautiful reserves around. The mopane forests create superb colours and the entire reserve emits a sense of peaceful nature at its best.
Some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Delta are found within the Moremi, with Chief's Island and the Xaxanaka Lagoon attracting animals in their numbers.
Chief's Island is the largest sand island in the Okavango, covering about 1000 square kilometres, and plays host to exceptional predator sightings. Moremi has a good network of roads and is easily accessible by car from Maun, allowing for mobile camping safaris and self-drives.
Hardly a second goes by when you don't hear some emotive bird call, or see a flash of colour as another delightful feathered creature whizzes by.
From ducks to eagles and finches to parrots, the variety and concentration of birdlife is astonishing. Waking up every morning the sky is full of flocks as they head out to feed for the day, and in the evening the sounds of wings beat against the backdrop of the sunset as they fly back to roost. The Okavango Delta is a twitcher's paradise.