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Streaming southwards from the western highlands of Angola, coursing through the arid landscape of Namibia and pooling in a great network of lakes, streams and marshes in Botswana is the world’s largest inland delta – the Okavango. As its Angolan headwaters meet the Cubango River, flow into the Kavango and, finally, enter Botswana as the Okavango Delta, this immense body of water supports and sustains some of the world’s most magnificent creatures.
The Okavango – an oasis among the arid, caked plains of the Kalahari Desert – is the ultimate Botswana safari highlight. As the seasons change, the delta swells and shrinks in turn, yet it always boasts a great abundance of fauna, flora and birdlife to delight avid game watchers. Streams, lagoons and islands are all linked by subtle channels, infusing the dry landscape with bursts of pure, unpolluted water. As the Okavango Delta floods during the rainy season, whole islands are known to disappear beneath the water, re-emerging months later as the water cycle takes its course and moisture levels recede.
Certainly, the delta’s most impressive feature is its exotic concentration of wildlife. Regardless of which time of year you choose for your Botswana safari, you’re bound to enjoy breathtaking game-viewing opportunities and a safari experience that is beyond compare.
Creatures of the Okavango Delta
As a lush, saturated expanse ensconced in an otherwise desiccated landscape, Botswana’s Okavango Delta attracts birds and wild animals in their droves. Within the forests and floodplains of the delta reside more than 400 species of birds, whilst the mainland and surrounding islands support a wealth of fearsome predators and smaller marshland animals.
Be sure to carry your binoculars for the best views of elephants, lions, giraffes, hyenas, wild dogs and buffalo. Glimpse wily crocodiles lying in wait for their prey, and great, lumbering hippos cooling off in the lakes of the delta. Keen-eyed game-watchers may even spot mongooses, monkeys and bush babies darting among the foliage.
During a Botswana safari to the Okavango Delta, some of the best ways to spot wildlife are via air excursions in light aircrafts and helicopters, or on the back of an elephant! Elephant-back safaris are exceptionally popular in Botswana, and literally afford travellers a bird’s eye view of the impressive landscape and wildlife. Also not to be missed is a ride in a mokoro – a traditional dugout canoe – through the streams and channels of the delta. A once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience, this unique opportunity will bring you face-to-face with some of Botswana’s most beautiful creatures.
When is the ideal time of year to visit the Okavango Delta on a Botswana safari?
Fantastic game-viewing opportunities exist throughout the year at the Okavango Delta. However, wildlife enthusiasts are advised to visit this Botswana oasis between June and October, when the annual floods bring the largest concentration of game to the region. During this period, you’ll also stand a greater chance of spotting some of the rare creatures found in the Okavango – such as red lechwes, wattled cranes, and Africa’s only true amphibious antelope, the sitatunga.
Also keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Pel’s fishing owl, a rust-coloured nocturnal bird that is distinguishable by its lack of ears and indiscernible facial disc. Many travellers hope to catch sight of this rare creature, but few actually do – so keep those binoculars handy and prepare to be patient!