JEWEL OF THE KALAHARI
One of the most sought after wilderness destinations in the world, the Okavango Delta is the entrance to the spectacle of wild Africa - the set of dreams. From the heart-stopping excitement of big game viewing, to the supreme tranquility and serenity of an untouched delta, these evocative scenes of extraordinary natural beauty will touch your soul, and create memories you'll cherish forever.
A journey to the Okavango Delta – deep into Africa’s untouched interior – is like no other. Moving from wetland to dryland – traversing the meandering palm and papyrus fringed waterways, passing palm-fringed islands, and thick woodland, resplendent with lush vegetation, and rich in wildlife – reveals the many facets of this unique ecosystem, the largest intact inland delta in the world.
The Okavango Delta is situated deep within the Kalahari Basin, and is often referred to as the ‘jewel’ of the Kalahari. That the Okavango exists at all – deep within this thirstland – seems remarkable. Shaped like a fan, the Delta is fed by the Okavango River, the third largest in southern Africa. It has been steadily developed over the millennia by millions of tonnes of sand carried down the river from Angola. Swollen with floodwaters from the summer rains, the Okavango River travels from the Angolan highlands, crosses into Botswana at Mohembo in the Caprivi, then later spills over the vast, fan-shaped Delta. The timing of the floods is uncanny. Just as the waters from Botswana’s summer rains disappear (in April & May), so the floodwaters begin their journey – 1300 kilometres of which is through Kalahari sands – revitalising a vast and remarkably diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life.
The water’s flow, distribution and drainage patterns are continually changing, principally due to tectonic underground activity. As an extension of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, the Okavango is set within a geographi-cally unstable area of faults, and regularly experiences land movements, tremors and minor quakes. By the time the water reaches Maun, at the Delta’s southern fringes, its volume is a fraction of what it was. As little as two to three percent of the water reaches the Thamalakane River in Maun, over 95 percent lost to evapo-transpiration. But the flow doesn’t stop in Maun. It may continue east to the Boteti River, to fill Lake Xau or the Makgadikgadi Pans, or drain west to Lake River to fill Lake Ngami.
In 1962 the local BaTawana people set aside a third of the Okavango Delta to protect it for the future. They called this the Moremi Game Reserve and it encompasses a large area of the Delta's wetlands and the main dry peninsula that juts into the Delta, known as the Mopane Tongue. Moremi is lush and varied – a patchwork of lagoons, shallow flooded pans, plains and forests. It is one of Africa's finest areas for wildlife, with particularly high game densities. The abundance of wildlife found here are generally very relaxed, often allowing vehicles to approach closely.
Moremi's finest area is probably Chief's Island, where you'll find several of Botswana's top safari camps. However, there are several prime areas on the edge of the Mopane Tongue, where the land meets the Okavango's permanent waters, which can also be accessed with a mobile safari, including the Khwai River (or North Gate) area, Xakanaxa Lagoon and Third Bridge.
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OKAVANGO DELTA GALLERY
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