The Okavango Delta is one of the biggest inland Deltas in the world. It is in fact so big that it is visible from outer space. The Okavango Delta is similar in size to Belgium or Switzerland, but incredibly this huge area is mostly uninhabited by humans. This magnificent place comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. The Delta boasts an incredible variety of African wildlife and is formed where the Okavango River flows into the vast Kalahari Desert in the north of Botswana. The rains that lead to this annual flood fall mainly in the Eastern Highlands of Angola.
Flying in a small charter plane into the Okavango Delta for the first time, is an experience never to be forgotten. The last human settlements are left behind within a minute. From that moment all that can be seen is a glittering expanse of water and African bush, extending to the distant horizon. From your charter plane it is quite normal to see the larger African wildlife below, en route to your first Okavango Delta Camp! Elephants at and Hippos in the water holes, large herds of Cape Buffalo, and if you’re lucky, the odd Rhinoceros trotting below too.
Because large parts of the Okavango Delta are under water for much of the year, access to the Delta is predominantly via charter flight, usually from Maun (but also from Kasane). Maun is a small frontier town on the fringes of the Delta also known as “The Gateway to the Okavango Delta”, which seems to have more donkeys, goats and cattle than human inhabitants!
The Okavango Delta, is a conserved and protected UNESCO World Heritage site, one of only two in Botswana. It is divided into the Moremi which is a designated Game Reserve or National Park, and a patchwork of private and community owned ‘Concessions’. The Moremi Game Reserve is open to the public and self-drivers and as a result it has a higher number of visitors. There are also various rules that apply in the Moremi: driving off-road, night drives and guided walking are not permitted there. In comparison, all these activities are permitted in the private concessions within the Okavango Delta. Many of these concessions are well over 100 000 hectares (247 000 acres) in size but will only have one or two camps of 8 tents/16 guests each and only they will have access to this area. This allows for the ultimate in exclusivity and privacy during your safari and even in peak season these exclusive private concessions will never be crowded. For this reason, we generally prefer to recommend the private concession areas in the Delta to our clients rather than the Moremi Game Reserve
One the great things about the Okavango Delta is that it offers a fantastic safari experience all year round. There are however three main seasons to consider when visiting the Okavango Delta, those being Green, Mid, and High Season. Green Season usually runs from November to March. During this time, rain is to be expected and the wildlife tends to disperse more as some migrate to the Central Kalahari. However, Botswana’s desert climate means it often does not rain that much and there is still plentiful wildlife to be seen in the best areas of the Delta. The time from April to the end of June is considered Mid Season. During this time rain is rare, although the bush tends to be quite thick. However, most of the migratory species start to return to the Okavango Delta during Mid Season. By the time High Season starts (July to October) the rains have totally stopped, the thick green bush has thinned out, and the animals tend to stay around the permanent waterholes. Consequently, this is also the time when game viewing is generally considered to be at its best, but it is also when prices are highest.
The Okavango Delta is considered globally as one of the most expensive safari destinations in Africa. Premium prices mainly apply during High Season, especially in the private concessions. Visit during Mid Season and travelers can find prices similar to other top safari destinations. When travelling during Green Season, travelers can enjoy special offers which means safaris in the Okavango Delta can be fantastic value compared to other places.
It is however important to mention that Botswana practices a “high cost/low impact” form of tourism, motivated by the need to intensely preserve, and manage the extremely delicate habitat of the Okavango Delta. This approach ensures minimal human impact through only allowing camps/lodges to host a maximum of around 24 guests at a time and limiting available campsites for mobile and self drivers throughout the Moremi, Savuti, and Chobe.
Activities at each camp depend on the various terrains in which these are located. We generally distinguish between “water”,“dry”, and ‘mixed’ camps. Pure water camps don’t offer game drives, due to the swampy areas they are located in. Here the focus is on mokoro excursions (traditional dug-out canoes) and boat rides, as well as guided walks. These camps offer a very scenic Delta experience and tend to be cheaper - but it should be remembered that the game viewing is limited at such camps. Dry Camps just offer games drives and possibly walking but no water-based activities but the game viewing will be superb at these camps. The mixed camps offer both game drives and water based activities and we generally try to recommend these as they offer an all round Delta experience and fantastic game viewing. Typically, game activities in the Okavango Delta revolve around wildlifesightings and take place during the early morning and the late afternoon. Private concessions also offer night drives, in search of nocturnal species of wildlife.
Some camps offer water activities and guided walks all year around due to their position, whereas in other camps water activities depend on water levels in the Delta and other seasonal factors. Other activities include game viewing by helicopter and seasonal catch and release fishing.
The Okavango Delta has no fences between the Moremi or any of the private concessions, so the wildlife can roam freely over this vast wilderness. Nonetheless some areas of the Okavango Delta are favored by certain wildlife species over others. We know where these areas are and during what time of year these areas are best visited.
It remains to be said that the Okavango Delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammals, such as the Cheetah, Rhinoceros, African Wild Dog and Lion. Birdlife here is prolific. The Okavango Delta is an absolute paradise for avid birders and an absolute must on the bucket list of every serious safari enthusiast!