The Okavango Delta


  13 reviews
Aerial view of Okavango Delta
Aerial view of Okavango Delta
About The Okavango Delta
Country found in:
Parks total area:
15,540 km² (6,000 mile²)
Anti-malarial:
Recommended
Park wildlife:
  • One of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife
  • Perfect for viewing Africa’s big five
  • Large herds of buffalo and elephant
  • One of the largest packs of the endangered African wild dog
  • Best time to visit is between June and October.

The Okavango: The river which never finds the sea

The Okavango Delta, unlike so much of the surrounding Kalahari desert which covers most of Botswana, is a vast interconnected web of 15,540 km² (6,000 mile²) of marshland, lagoons, channels and islands formed by seasonal flooding. The Angola highlands to the northwest of Botswana receive three times the rainfall that Botswana does. Starting in January, this life-sustaining nourishment drains down the Okavango River, filling the fan-shaped delta throughout the months that follow. This welcome flood peaks between June and August, during which time the delta swells to three times its usual size.

The Okavango Delta is part of the vast Makgadikgadi Basin, the remnants of the great Makgadikgadi Lake that dried up 10,000 years ago. Although other parts of the basin consist of dry, barren salt pans, the Okavango Delta is a large inland river mouth that is incomparable for its lush, green beauty and unrivaled as an inviting home to one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.

The Okavango Delta is called "the river which never finds the sea.” The majority of its waters are sucked up by plants or evaporated into the air, and only 2% of the floodwaters ever make it to the river’s destination, emptying into nearby Lake Ngami.

The resulting marshes are the playground of a huge variety of species including hippopotamus, blue wildebeest, giraffe, Nile crocodile, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, plains zebra, warthog and Chacma baboon. Large herds of elephant refresh themselves in water sometimes deep enough for them to swim through. Buffalo crowd together in the safety of the swamp. The lions which pad silently through soft sand make a ruckus in the shallow water and the noise sends the wary buffalo crashing through the marsh churning its water to white foam as they escape their predator.

The Okavango Delta is also home to a large variety of antelope including lechwe, tsessebe, sitatunga, roan antelope, reedbuck, greater kudu, sable antelope, springbok and impala. The lechwe antelope is the most common large mammal, with more than 60,000 inhabiting the delta.  These swamp-dwelling antelopes, slightly larger than an impala, bound effortlessly through the swamp due to the natural water repellent quality of the fur on their legs. They frolic freely in the water, seeming lighter than air as their dancing leaps provide not just forward movement but raise them to heights from which they can spy danger. The rarest aquatic antelope found in the Okavango is the demure sitatunga, which hides from predators by sinking into the water with just its nostrils showing. It can even sleep under water like this!

A completely unique experience of the Okavango Delta is a mokoro safari. Mokoro are traditional dugout canoes, and although the modern incarnations are made of fiberglass, the experience of gliding soundlessly through the swamp is as old as the waters themselves. Canoe trips through this Venice of Africa bring you face to face with wildlife. As the rhythmic poling sends the boat skimming across the tranquil surface, your awareness shifts, slows and settles as silence and stillness give way to the bustling activity of life in the marsh. Over 400 species of birds, including African fish eagle, Pel's fishing owl, ducks, geese, heron, crested crane, lilac-breasted roller, hammerkop, ostrich and sacred ibis, fly above or wade through the delta. Fish flit through the waters of the lagoons darting in between reeds and papyrus.

Surrounding the swamps is a forest that provides shade for herds of larger game, and extending beyond the forests is open savanna where the greatest numbers of game exist, stalked by lion, leopard, cheetah, brown hyena, spotted hyena, and wild dog. Leopards can be seen lazing in trees during the day. The endangered African wild dog still survives in the Okavango Delta, which is home to one of the largest packs in Africa.

One of the best places to view wildlife is Moremi Game Reserve at the eastern end of the delta. It was named after Chief Moremi of the BaTawana tribe. The delta’s largest island, Chief’s Island, is an area of slightly higher ground lifted up by a fault line. Originally dedicated as the chief’s personal hunting grounds, it is now a wildlife sanctuary considered to be the most beautiful location for viewing the abundance of African flora and fauna. This is a significant protected area for African wild dog, making it a great place for viewing this endangered species. White rhinos have been re-introduced to Moremi Game Reserve, the only place to see them in the delta.

When to visit The Okavango Delta

Dry season: The best time to visit is in the dry season where game viewing is at its peak from June to October.

Rainy season: December to March. Because the delta is created from flood water not rain, the rainy season is the time that the delta is smallest. Animals tend to move away from the delta as other areas of the desert become green and lush. But with such an embarrassment of riches, fewer animals than usual still means many animals, migrating species arrive, and the birds love the rainy season.

 

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Reviewed by:

(5/5 stars) Written on: Feb 01, 2017   |   Visited: May 2016.
I have been to the Okavango Delta a number of times and I must be honest, each time I return, I am blown away. The closeness of nature, the sounds of the bush, the little surprises (elephant in camp), encountering a leopard on the way to the airstrip (when you think that the game viewing is over and nothing more exciting could happen) and the surprise bush dinner u... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Jul 16, 2015   |   Visited: Aug 2014.
The Okavango Delta has to be one of the most beautiful places myself and my husband have ever visited.

We stayed in 3 lodges which gave a good level of service and a mixed idea of activities from floating gently on the water to nights drives in game drive vehicles.

The area is of outstanding beauty but the highlight was being able to watch the wonderful wild ... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Feb 13, 2015   |   Visited: Dec 2014.
I had the luxury of five nights in Botswana in December and discovered who the big boys of this country really are! I also smashed a lot of my own safari misconceptions...

First stop, Kalahari Plains Camp and the endless desert that I thought may not be that exciting for a safari old hat like me. Misconception number one... of many to come. It's true that you w... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Nov 20, 2014   |   Visited: Aug 2014.
The Okavango Delta offers on elf the most pristine wilderness areas in Africa to explore. This unique ecosystem with the annual flood pouring into one of the driest regions creates a water wonderland in from April-October. The onset of the summer rains attract a plethora of birdlife and the lambing of many herbivores. The predators here are in abundance and the pro... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Oct 03, 2014   |   Visited: Jun 2010.
The Okavango Delta is one of my most vivid and memorable African experiences. The feeling of slowly meandering around the waterways of the delta in a mokoro as wild elephant and giraffe wander by, crocodiles peer out over the water's surface and hippos play while the sun sets will stay with me forever. I took a scenic flight over the delta to put this immense lands... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Jul 30, 2014   |   Visited: Feb 2014.
I think the Okavango Delta was my favorite part of my time in Botswana. There's something so rejuvenating about silently gliding down a river in a dug-out, wooden canoe slipping gently by hippos and crocodiles as if you were one of them.
It can seem a bit scary, getting in one of these canoes, but don't miss this opportunity to get so close to wildlife.
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Mar 17, 2014   |   Visited: Oct 2010.
If I had to sum up the Okavango Delta in one word, it would be stirring. If you love the feeling of isolation, in the midst of the some of the most untouched wilderness in the world, Botswana's Okavango Delta ticks all the boxes.

I was traveling on an overland safari, and the Delta was offered as a 5 day side trip. I leaped at the chance! Beginning our trip at ... read more
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(4/5 stars) Written on: Nov 14, 2013   |   Visited: May 2013.
I was there at the end of the rainy season and there was plenty of game and incredible sightings. If you are out in the remoter lodges you don't see anyone else and it has that air of exclusivity. Make sure you take a mekoro boat trip and let yourself relax as you glide through the waters brushing by water lilies and reeds. Truly magical. read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Sep 23, 2013   |   Visited: Mar 2012.
Magical light, water, birds and incredible colors, all that is the Okavango Delta in Botswana. As an inland delta in the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta is a fabulous safari destination, famous for:

Birding
Big 5 sightings and especially Big Cats
Water activities for great wildlife photography
High wildlife density
Fabulous light
Great variety of camps... read more

I saw

Hippopotamus
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Sep 19, 2013   |   Visited: Jan 2013.
The Okavango Delta is stunning. Amazing wildlife sightings and a mix between African bush and Okavango Delta waterways. You are able to do boat trips and mokoro (wooden canoe) trips with professional guides at some of the lodges. The Game Reserves in Botswana are low impact, which means that unlike other countries - when you game drive, you dont have many other ... read more

I saw

Hippopotamus
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Showing the 10 most recent reviews See all reviews
Safari suitability: 10 / 10
All five of the Big Five can be seen here, including the very rare white rhinos, which have been reintroduced to the Moremi Game Reserve. A large number and variety of accommodations from luxury lodges to tented camps are available.
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Articles about the Okavango Delta

Nearby parks and game reserves

Animals you can find

Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros
Cheetah
Cheetah
Leopard
Leopard
Lion
Lion
Wild dog
Wild dog
Elephant
Elephant
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Getting to Okavango Delta

Activities you can do

Horseback riding
Horseback riding
Bird watching
Bird watching
Boating / canoeing
Boating / canoeing
Bush walks
Bush walks
Cultural / Tribal visits
Cultural / Tribal visits
Fishing
Fishing
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