Famously known as the world’s largest inland delta spreading over 15,000 square km, the Okavango Delta is large wetland comprising of enticing lagoons, vast islands, lakes and sublime water channels. Often cited as the river that never finds the sea, Okavango delta is formed by the Okavango River that flows into the Kalahari Desert creating this beautiful delta in the northern Botswana.
Coming from Angolan highlands, the Okavango river delta forms lush ecosystem where the huge concentration of wildlife sustains. Given the rich ecosystem and one of the Africa’s greatest wildlife, Okavango delta is adopted by the UNESCO under World Heritage site.
As a part of the Great East African Rift Valley system, the landscape is set at semi-arid region comprising of permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded grasslands. The seasonal rain that showers the region along with the river water from the Angolan highlands flooding the desert sands of Kalahari basin give rise to the Okavango Delta. The water evaporates here before reaching to the sea leaving behind the minerals carried by river. This leads to the increase in salinity of the water which is then reduced by the salt collecting around plant roots.
During the dry season when the water level decreases, it leads to beautiful sight number of islands, blue lagoons and waterholes around which the wildlife is seen in large number. This makes the delta an interesting system where the climate, geomorphological, hydrological, and biological processes interplay to define Okavango Delta. There are three major land masses here: the Matsebi Ridge, Chief’s Island and the Moremi tongue makes an excelling sighting of wildlife and vegetation. Since the region is predominantly a wetland for most of the year, the access to many parts of the delta is limited by land routes. However, boat rides and flight by small planes an excellent experience on the trip to Okavango Delta.
The diverse wildlife and vegetation of the region comes from the annual seasonal flooding that makes up the most of the delta. Various plant species like reeds, mokolwane palms, acacia, sycamore fig, sausage trees, raintrees and African mangosteen are found across the delta. The vegetation is predominantly papyrus, mopane, acacia and scrub bush and scattered with pan trees. When the water level is high perineal swamps give way to seasonal swamps and flooded grasslands along with water lilies and other aquatic plants flourishing in the shallow waters.
The large wetland area is both permanent and seasonal home to various animal species of the region. During the wet season wildlife moves away from the delta in to the lush green surrounding it and returns when the grazing begins to fade away. Okavango Delta is unique pulsing land where the wildlife are found in abundant numbers of which there are about 160 mammal species, 155 reptiles, 35 amphibians and nearly 530 species of birds. It is one of the few places where all the African big five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo) animals are found. The large delta with many inland islands, lagoons, waterholes, lush graze is home to many other species like giraffe, zebra, hippo, crocodile, rhino, waterbuck, cheetah, sable, reedbuck and impala along with the endangered wild dogs. Fish species like tigerfish, catfish and tilapia are found in the water bodies. The delta is also habitat to the variety of land, water and migratory birds like African fish eagle, African green pigeon, Bateleur, Hamerkop, Saddle-billed stork and many more.
Okavango Delta is usually dry for two third of the year. The wet summer which runs from November to March are usually hot days with the occasional afternoon thunderstorm over the delta. During this period, the temperature goes as high as 40°C/104°F on a hot day and around 18°C/64°F on a cool night.
The dry winter season from April to October begins with bright sun and dry days followed by cooler days during the month of June and July. The days gets hotter towards the end of season in September and October with temperature averaging around 35°C/95°F.
Best time to visit
The wet season is characterised by lush graze and vast water channels concocting stunning landscape with the wildlife spread all around the delta. However, as the dry season starts the graze fades making way for wildlife to concentrate around the water channels, lagoons and inland islands where at times amazing predator action can be seen. This makes up the best time for wildlife viewing and canoeing in the water channels.
Enlisted to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, Okavango Delta is a must see destination with its enticing wildlife game found around the lush green oasis, inland islands and fertile floodplains. The dynamic landscape changing and adapting to the water flow into the Kalahari basin makes a beautiful water world in the desert.