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Written by
Jody van Merode, Iain McConachie & Angela Thomas

Flooding to over 15,000 square kilometres, the Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland Delta. Unlike most Deltas, the flood waters span out onto land and not water, making it an unquestionably unique destination. It’s a stunning location for water safaris, birdwatching and much more.

We’ve rounded up a few reasons why the Okavango is so special – and why you should start planning a trip to experience this awe-inspiring environment in person.

It’s wonderfully wild and undiscovered

There are plenty of places to experience an authentic African safari, but the Okavango Delta is undoubtedly among the best. Here you can have a truly unique and exclusive experience, far from the crowds of more densely populated destinations. In fact, Botswana has one of the lowest population densities in Africa with just 3 people per square kilometre (9 people per square mile) compared to its neighbour South Africa where the population density is nearly 50 people per square kilometre.

wild and undiscovered okavango delta

The country’s government has also imposed limits on tourism and development in an effort to protect this area. They have restricted the construction of camps built within the countries private reserves and concessions – and it’s working. For example the mighty Abu concession, home to the elephant focused Abu Camp,  is a massive 1750 square kilometres but the limited number of camps means only around 36 people can be on safari in the concession at one time. Compare this to the Sabi Sands private reserve in South Africa which is 650 square kilometres in size with the possibility of around 500 people on safari each day.

These conservation efforts have kept the Okavango Delta largely untouched, preserving both its beauty and biodiversity. This is beneficial for everyone; animals’ habitats are kept intact, local residents are able to maintain and nurture their land, and travellers are treated to a rare glimpse of raw natural splendour. There aren’t many places in the world that feel truly wild, but this is certainly one of them.

Aerial view of wildlife congregating in Botswana's Delta Okavango

It’s full of fascinating wildlife

One of the things that makes the Okavango Delta so unique is the seasonal flooding that fills its lagoons and waterways, attracting all kinds of interesting animals. Because this happens during the dry season, local species flock to the abundant sources of water and nutrients. This creates an intense concentration of wildlife, making it the perfect place for a Botswana safari.

A leopard takes a break from hunting to drink some water in the Okavango Delta.

In the peak season of March to August, around 260,000 mammals congregate in the delta. You’re likely to see elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, hyenas, giraffes, antelope and endless other species, you might also encounter cheetahs and wild dogs. This rich concentration of many of Africa’s rarest and most iconic species makes the Okavango one of a kind – and a dream come true for any animal lover.

Lion cub at Mombo Camp Okavango Delta

It has hundreds of bird species

In addition to hundreds of thousands of mammals, the Okavango Delta is full of distinctive flying creatures. More than 400 bird species call this area home, making it a fantastic destination for birdwatching. Here you can spot the beautiful lilac-breasted roller, with its brightly colored feathers of blue, purple, gold and green. The hamerkop – a less flamboyant but equally interesting type of wading bird – is another common sighting. 

The delta also hosts herons, storks and some rarer species like the endangered slaty egret, with its elegant dark feathers and bright yellow legs. You might even get to witness a Pel’s fishing owl – one of the world’s largest owl species – swooping down from the trees to snatch a fish from the water.

Botswana Selinda Camp

It’s an ideal place to explore by boat

You’ve probably heard of Jeep tours and walking safaris, but how about exploring the African wilderness by boat? One of the best ways to experience the Okavango Delta is by cruising through its infinite waterways, allowing you to get up close and personal with its abundant waterfowl and wildlife. 

Mokoro - Okavango Delta

To see as much as possible in one trip, step aboard a powerboat that will whisk you across the enormous expanse of the delta. But if you’re okay with a slower pace, we highly recommend opting for a mokoro: a traditional canoe that locals have used to navigate these waters for generations. The mokoro is stealthy and silent, allowing your guide to get you incredibly close to animals that would otherwise be scared away.

Boat ride in Okavango Delta

It has over 150,000 islands

When most people picture the landlocked country of Botswana, they probably don’t imagine islands – but the Okavango Delta features more than 150,000 of them. These islands range in size from just a few metres to several kilometres wide. They’re constantly changing; as animals and floodwaters reshape the terrain every season, some islands disappear while new ones emerge elsewhere.

 

Little Vumbura on an Island in the Okavango Delta

The largest of them all is known as Chief’s Island. Located in the Moremi Game Reserve, it includes the highly fertile Mombo Concession, which is a treasure trove of wildlife. You can stay right in the middle of the action at Mombo Camp, which is one of the most renowned camps on the continent. There’s nothing quite like looking out over the floodplains from your own private luxury suite.

It’s home to five different indigenous groups

Beyond the natural wonders that the Okavango is known for, it’s also rich in culture. Five different indigenous groups reside here: the Hambukushu, Dxeriku, Wayeyi, Bugakwe and Xanekwe. Each one has its own distinct identity, language and lifestyle, and learning about them is essential to understanding this part of Botswana.

Basket weavers at Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta

During your trip to the delta, you’ll notice the strong ties between local people; their culture, traditions, heritage and the camps you stay at and activities you take part in. Whether that be trips in a mokoro with your local mokoro ‘driver’, enjoying a traditional meal or learning about the flower and fauna of the Delta with your expert guide from a village close to camp. 

Part of the reason that these groups have managed to maintain their traditions is the controlled development of tourism in the region. The Okavango is the perfect example of a place where traditional ways of life and modern luxury coexist in harmony.

traditional dancing at Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta

It has global claims to fame

Although the Okavango Delta still feels like a closely guarded secret, it has its share of international fame. Most notably, it was named the 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, based on its unique combination of climatic, hydrological and biological factors. It’s also been recognised as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, a list that was created by popular vote and also includes iconic sites like the Sahara and Mount Kilimanjaro.

evening sunset at mombo camp, delta

With all of this recognition the Delta still maintains its sense of wonder and mystery, it’s quite simply unique and we’re betting the Okavango Delta will earn a place on the bucket list of nature lovers and adventurers across the globe.

sunset-okavango-delta

Where to stay in the Okavango Delta

Here are some of our favourite places to stay in the Okavango Delta

Get in touch to start building your adventure to the Okavango Delta

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