Memories of the Okavango Delta

One of the masterpieces of Mother Nature is the Okavango Delta, in northern Botswana. Few places on earth can give you the same understanding of the power nature, the long work performed by geology and the sense of quiet, peace and relax, that this place can offer to visitors.

 Just go give you an idea of this outstanding place, which is listed among the UNESCO world natural heritage, I’ll give you some figures:

2 Rivers sourcing out in the Angolan Plateau (the Cuito and the Cubango) merge in Angolan territory forming one only stream named Okavango that meanders through Namibia and Botswana. The delta was formed approximately 40.000 years ago by tectonic movements.

Swamps in the Okavango Delta – Photo by Gabriele Merlo, 2016.

There’s a dry and a wet season in Botswana. During rainy season, the sources are fed, thus increasing the volume of water transported by the river. It takes approximately 4 months for the water to reach the Panhandle in northern Botswana and the lower numerous streams heading to the Thamalakane and Khwai rivers. The annual flood creates a wet area of approximately 6 000km² of permanent swamps and seasonal ones covering 4 to 20 thousands km² that are home to more than 1000 plant species, 200 aquatic fauna, 130 mammal species, almost 500 bird species, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies.

Water streams in the Okavango Delta – Photo by Gabriele Merlo, 2016

To explore this very unique place, the main gate is Maun, a small city along the Thamalakane river, You can get there by plane with good connections from Johannesburg and from Gaborone – the capital city of Botswana – or by car. You have a choice of 3 routes: from Gaborone, from Namibia, from Zimbabwe.

From Gaborone it’s 8 hours drive, from Zimbabwe it’s 6 hours entering Botswana from the Kazungule border, from Namibia it span from 5 to 8 hours depending on the gate you use: Mohembo or Ngoma  (in this last case make sure you have a 4 wheel drive and your expertise as a driver are good as the road is sandy).

The three sisters, Okavango Delta – Photo by Gabriele Merlo, 2016

Once in Maun you can accommodate at a plethora of lodges spanning from very simple backpackers’ camps, to 3 and 4 stars lodges, especially those along the Thamalakane river (which also offer a welcome sunset cruise), to very luxurious lodges, run internationally, and located inside the Delta, that provide a magic atmosphere for quite a very high price.

All pictures in this article were taken by myslef and my travelmate Gabriele Merlo during our trip in 2016. We have been there several times, although 2016 was the best year for the volume of water that flooded the Delta.

The Delta offers a set of activities: Boat safari, Jeep safari or scenic flights. All these are in my opinion are must.

The boat safari is among the most relaxing and peaceful experiences you will do in your traveller’s career. In fact these small boats that meanders along the numerous canals of the delta offers an immense variety of landscapes and close encounters with aquatic and land species from crocodiles, hippos, elephants to colourful birds and fish eagles. I do highly recommend to do a sunset cruise for the most incredibly coloured sky you can imagine. Nowhere else in Africa you’ll get the same colour range on a sunset.

Close encounters during boat safari in the Okavango Delta – Photo by Matteo Gazzarata, 2016

The jeep Safari is mostly done inside the Moremi game reserve: it takes a 2 hours drive from Maun to the reserve gate, which is where you find mammals, predators, zebras, giraffes, and yet a wide range of aquatic species. It’s a full day excursion and the most traditional safari.

However the most fascinating activity one can do is a scenic view. Just outside the airport of Maun you’ll find several companies offering scenic flights by air or by helicopter. The one I recommend is called Mack Air which offers 45 minutes scenic flights over the Delta. You will board a small 5 to 7 seats plane and will fly at an average altitude of 120 meters. The view is simply unparalleled. It is in fact only from the sky that you can actually understand the magnitude of this hydrogeological formation. (if you book a luxury lodge inside the delta you get a sample of this scenic view as guests are usually taken to there by plane).

Elephants in the Okavango Delta – Photo by Gabriele Merlo, 2016

You’ll find tips and information about choosing the right accommodation and some practical info in the “travel tips” section of my blog, in the next days.

The 2020 floods has started, the delta is getting wet again… it’s a pity that few of us will make it to visit this next summer as travel limitations and restriction will probably still be into force. Thus, take you time to study a bit about the area and plan your trip maybe next summer.

If you find this article useful, don’t forget to rate it and to follow yourtravelrecipe for more travel tips.

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