Okavango delta Botswana – Established 1963. 3900km2; Moremi is the first sanctuary in Southern Africa created on its own land by an indigenous tribe. Combined with the Okavango Delta, the wildlife area now covers about 22,000km2.
From exciting Big Five game drives to tranquil Mokroro trips in the lagoons to scenic helicopter flights, there are plenty of activities on offer in the Okavango. There are many different activities on offer on an Okavango delta safari in Botswana. They will change depending on what area of the Delta your camp is situated – whether it is in an area of permanent or seasonal Delta, it will change the activities that the camps can offer.
The Delta is probably best known for its Mokoro rides. These are boating trips through the maze like channels and shallow lagoons of the Delta. They are conducted in traditional boats which are called Mokoros. These sturdy boats used to be hand crafted out of large Delta trees. Today most of the boats used in the Delta are fiber glass replicas, to prevent the cutting down and depletion of the Delta’s magnificent trees.
Mokoros are a great way to go game viewing. As they are not motorized, they allow you to glide silently through the channels. This allows you to approach the wildlife silently and you will see more, as they are not scared off by a motor. You will see many animals that feed on the grass and reeds on the palm islands such as Lechwe, Sitatunga, Elephant, Hippo and Crocodile as well as many others.
Guided walks in the Okavango Delta are a fantastic way to see the many picturesque scenes and islands. These walks usually take place in the early morning before the day gets hot. The walks are led by expert guides who will ensure your safety and help you track animals and offer a wealth of information about the animals and local plant life.
The guides will help you track animals – you may even come across Elephant and Lion, although you will not approach them too closely. These guided walks are a great way to spot the many birds that find sanctuary in the Okavango Delta.
The availability of game drives at the different camps in the Okavango Delta depends on many factors. The two most influential are where the camp is situated and what season it is. People talk of wet and dry experiences in the Okavango. Some camps are situated in dry areas, such as Khwai and Kwara, these camps focus on game drives.
Most of the camps that are situated in a private concession will offer game drives at night as well as during the day. These are a great opportunity to see the many animals that are more active at night than during the day such as Aardvarks, Aardwolves, Leopards and Servals. Lions also hunt at night and it is a good chance to come upon them when they are feeding on a kill.
Game drives are led by knowledgeable guides who will tell you about the flora of the region and the behavior of the animals you come across. Some of the animals might even be known to the rangers and they can tell you something about their particular habits.
Horse Back Safaris
Horse Back safaris at Macatoo Camp are a wonderful way to see the Okavango Delta as you can go where the safari vehicle can’t. You need to be an experienced rider to do these safaris as the terrain can be rough and you need to be able to control your horse should they spook and bolt.
The horseback safaris take you over a varied terrain which means that sometimes your horses will be walking along with a herd of Zebra or Lechwe or cantering through the water meadows along with galloping Giraffe. This is possible because the animals perceive you as part of a four legged animal when riding and as such, less of a threat. Some caution is necessary when riding in the Delta, as the predators will also be less afraid of approaching you, and you will need to follow your guide’s directions carefully.
These trips are led by experienced guides, who will lead you through the many beautiful Delta pathways past many scenic vistas. Horseback safaris usually take place on the seasonal floodplains in the south western areas of the Delta.
Elephant back safaris were pioneered in the Abu region of the Okavango Delta in the 1980’s. However these Elephant back safaris have been phased out in Botswana due to concerns over animal welfare. Lodges now offer elephant interaction and education including immersive walking-based experience. This is a stunning experience that allows you to learn about these huge, gentle animals. It is a wonderful opportunity to physically and intimately engage with the Elephants. You will also learn about their natural behavior, through watching them feed, play and interact with one another.
Many of the “water camps” in the Delta offer game viewing by motor boat. These trips allow you to see the Okavango from a different perspective, although some of the wildlife may occasionally be scared off by sound of the motor. The boats are also be used to get you to other camps, or to specific destinations such as a visit the Gcodikwe heronry near Xakanaka.
Try your hand at catching the fierce Tiger Fish, or Tilapia on your Botswana safari in the Okavango. Not all water based camps in the Okavango allow fishing, but some camps do allow fishing on a catch and release basis. Most of the fishing however takes place in the Panhandle region where the Okavango River enters the Delta. Deeper into the Delta, the camps may offer fishing seasonally such as at Gunn’s camp and Xugana and Moremi Crossing.
The spectacle of the Okavango Delta is probably best viewed from the air. Scenic helicopter flights are a wonderful way to see the beautiful Palm fringed Islands and myriad of water ways that form the Okavango Delta. You may see some of the Delta on scheduled flight to and from your Lodge, but to truly see the Delta and gaze down at the many animals below, you should go on a scenic helicopter flight. Many of these flights leave from Maun and are a great option when going to or returning from your camp.
Generally, access into the Okavango delta and the private safari camps is by flying in. There are several airstrips usually situated a few minutes drive and/or boat ride, from the camps. Flights into these airstrips can be from Maun or Kasane Airports, or linked from other airstrips in the different areas of Botswana, and are usually not included in the standard rates, although they may be packaged in with multi-night stays. The lodges and camps will pick up from the airstrips, sometimes at no extra cost. Flights into Maun are via Johannesburg and Cape Town, or locally from Gaborone and Kasane. Charter flights are another option, and inter-camp air transfers are available when booking with sister camps in Botswana. Flights from Maun Airport into the delta take no more than 30 to 45 minutes.
Can I Drive There?
Self-drivers who plan on camping at one of the campsites in the delta can easily drive in through one of the moremi game reserve gates. Driving from Maun to the South Gate of Moremi takes less than 2 hours. The other access point into Moremi is via the North Gate of the reserve en-route from chobe national park. Self-drivers do require a 4 x 4 vehicle into the delta.
The northern-most part of the Delta is near the border with Namibia, and self-drivers can take a turn south in Divundu and make their way down, driving along the road parallel to Okavango/Kavango River. The Mohembo Border Post is about 35kms from the town of Divundu. From there, it’s a drive down to places such as Nxamaseri, Sepupa and Guma Lagoon. If staying on the eastern side of the Kavango, a ferry can take you across the river to access areas such as Seronga. There are also some smaller airports close to these areas for those who prefer to fly in. Generally, a boat transfer and a drive will take you to where you need to go.
The Delta & Chief’s Island
The general interior of the delta does not have a road network. Camps in this area are accessed by air. Each of the camps will have a nearby airstrip, and depending on the location of the camp and the water levels, a transfer can be a combination of a drive and boat transfer, or one or the other. Chief’s Island has a few airstrips near the safari camps – up to a 50-minute drive or boat ride.
The Eastern Dry Region
This area is probably the most easily accessible for the self-drivers and tour groups. The drive from Maun to the South Gate entrance is just 30kms, and 90kms to the North Gate. Kasane to Maun is about 7 hours by road, via Nata.
What is the Climate Like?
botswana’s climate is generally sunny and hot, but in the dry winter months, it is much more comfortable and it is when larger concentrations of game are seen as they search for water sources.
Overall Best Time to Visit Okavango
Although it really is a year-round safari area, the best time to visit the Okavango delta is during the cool dry season of May to August. Seasonal flooding happens when the water from Angola reaches the delta between March and June, peaking in July. During this time, the plains game migrate from the dry outer areas to the delta in search of water. Daytime temperatures are usually below 30°C (86°F), but it does get cold after dark, sometimes very close to freezing. This is also the best time for boat cruises and makoro (canoe) trips.
When Is It Hottest?
The hot and dry months of September to November are still great for game viewing as the animals still prefer the inner delta because it is where they find water. At this time, there are huge concentrations of wildlife, particularly around the Moremi game reserve.
When Does it Rain?
The months of November to February are the wet and hot season where it is hot during the day with temperatures reaching 35°C (95°F), and sometimes even 40°C (104°F). Rain comes in the form of afternoon thunderstorms, and the nights are generally warm. The humidity levels fluctuate between 50 and 80%. These summer months are the best time for birding, when the migrant species arrive, many of which breed within the Okavango Delta. The scenery is beautiful as the plants are in bloom and the plains game drop their young.
The Comfortable Months
The temperatures start to get more comfortable in March to around May when the land gets drier and nights get cooler (though not as cold as in the winter months). In March, the rains start to decrease, April has much fewer rain days and daily temperatures range from about 12°C and 28°C, and May is the start of the dry season where temperatures (especially night time) really start to drop.Great Adventure Safaris offers safaris to Okavango Delta in Botswana