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The seasonal floodplains of Botswana’s Okavango Delta serve as an ideal setting for an African safari. Here you’ll find a selection of luxurious camps and the option to wild camp, both of which allow you to explore the surroundings on land, foot, and via dugout canoe, making this one of the world’s most remarkable wildlife experiences. Culture Trip has teamed up with On The Go Tours to bring you 11 reasons why you should visit the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
The Okavango Delta is home to some of the world’s most remarkable – and endangered – mammals. They move between the fertile plains and the fringes of the marshland, making for incredible game viewing. Although some areas offer seasonal game viewing, others like Mombo Camp offer year-round sighting opportunities. Throughout the Okavango, it’s possible to spot rare predators like cheetahs, lions, leopards, and African wild dogs, as well as endangered black and white rhinoceros. Zebra, various species of antelope, giraffes, buffaloes and elephants also thrive in the delta and surrounding plains.
The Okavango is an ecological marvel. It’s made up of marshlands and seasonally flooded plains, and is one of the few delta systems totally cut off from the ocean. That a place exists where seasonal rains can sustain such verdant plant and wildlife is a wonder in itself. The area also changes drastically depending on the time of year, resulting in incredible landscapes that change with the seasons.
Given the sprawling nature of the complex waterways and the remote camps that dot the region, most camps require you to fly in on small bush planes to simple airstrips. Though in some cases this is a necessity rather than a luxury, it’s an adventure for which you’ll be instantly grateful, as the experience will allow you to take in a breathtaking aerial view.
Although bird densities in Okavango Delta are relatively low, the area is home to bird species so unique that many visitors consider it a significant ornithological hub. Some 450 birds have been recorded in the delta, including a large variety of rare wetland species, and twitchers will tell you it’s the most important breeding site in the world for the vulnerable slaty egret.
You’ll find an array of snakes and lizards across the delta, and closer to the water you’re sure to encounter sightings of terrapins and Nile crocodiles – some of the most beautifully prehistoric-looking creatures still living. The waters are also full of fascinating aquatic species, including bream and tiger fish.
There are few places in the world that can offer boat-based safaris, and a trip in a mokoro is perhaps one of the principal reasons to visit the delta. The flooded plains create a labyrinthine network of waterways, and on a mokoro safari an experienced guide will lead you down these just inches above the water. Game viewing from these simple dugout canoes is a tranquil yet thrilling experience, and one that’ll get you closer to a variety of wildlife.
Although there are few safari experiences that rival those aboard a mokoro, there are several alternate activities for those who prefer to stick to solid ground, the most popular of which are walking trails and horseback safaris. Both will take you into the drier reaches without the need for a motor vehicle. Although these safari options don’t necessarily deliver the best wildlife sightings, they will get you closer to nature. And the added adrenaline of being out in the wild without the protection of the vehicle makes it a truly memorable way to explore the Okavango.
There’s nothing quite like the sense of peace and isolation you’ll experience in the heart of the Okavango Delta. The Botswana government has adopted a low-impact tourism model in order to reduce the number of tourists who filter through the reserve. Although this means prices are on the high side, it also results in some of the most tranquil safari experiences you could ever dream of, free from the madding crowds that characterise many other areas.
Aside from wild camping, there’s very little roughing it in the Okavango Delta. The private camps dotted across the region offer exclusive comfort, and they range from tented camps all the way through to luxurious five-star lodges. Some, like Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, offer large suites with plunge pools, outdoor terraces, private housekeepers, and seasonal mokoro experiences. Although budget accommodation is rare, the total luxury you’ll experience in the private lodges and camps make this more than just your average safari.
The people of Botswana are warm and welcoming, and there are dozens of unique cultures to learn about. Many safari experiences make an effort to teach guests about the country’s history. Although Botswana’s first inhabitants, the San, now only make up a small percentage of the population, many lodges use their supreme hunter-gatherer skills to track animals and add fascinating insight into the bush experience.
There are few experiences that rival cool early mornings, and warm nightfalls, in the Okavango. You’ll greet spectacular sunrises with a warm cup of coffee and glowing sunsets with a cold gin and tonic.
To get more out of your trip, visit On The Go Tours.