Botswana’s Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s most famous wildlife areas. This phenomenal park is an area of outstanding natural beauty that is home to some of the continent’s most famous camps and superb concentrations of big game. The Okavango’s flood waters come from the highlands in Angola, with the main deluge hitting the north-west of the Delta usually in April and transforming this dry landscape into a wetland paradise full of Africa’s Big Game. The game really does move about! Game volumes in this region differ throughout the year, and accommodation that appeals to you may well be in the wrong area for the time of your trip.
We recommend that clients book more than one Okavango camp. The Delta is vast and the habitat is varied – as a result, limiting your stay to only one Delta camp will restrict your overall experience. Combine a wet area with a dry area. There are some seriously good dry camps which offer a completely different experience to the wet camps. Combining the two different styles will really make your trip. And if Botswana’s high prices scare you, then travel in April, May or November – certain camps still offer ridiculously good game-viewing and are much better value.
The variety of activities is one of the big drawing cards of the Okavango Delta. Anyone who has been on a jeep safari will understand how great it is to have the choice of spending an afternoon on the river or a morning fishing instead of heading out in a vehicle every day. Boating safaris allow you to get close (but not too close) to hippos and elephants crossing the Delta, as well as to an incredible amount of birdlife. If you are lucky, you will see the birds fishing, and then any other animals that decide to come down to drink.
Staying on the water, you have the traditional mokoro safari, where you are taken in a traditional dugout canoe. A ‘poler’ will stand behind you on the mokoro and will steer you through the winding Okavango. Mokoro trips are all about the smaller things that you never get to see on a drive, like a jacana’s nest floating on the water, or the reed frog just minding his own business as you glide past his home. Fishing is also on offer, on a catch-and-release basis. Lastly, there is walking – what better way to break your car journey than to hop out of the vehicle and track animals on foot, or set out on an early morning walk to learn more about those smaller things on safari and the local uses for the different plants.
Time of year to travel
The Delta is an incredibly complex region. There are parts that are better to experience at specific times of the year, so care must be taken in choosing the area or areas to visit during your vacation. July through to October is Botswana’s winter and historically the finest time of year to be in the Okavango. At the beginning of this period, migrational game moves from areas outside the Okavango, focussing on the flood water and good grazing to be found in the Delta proper. As a result, the game viewing is absolutely outstanding, comparable in quality to anywhere else in Africa in its peak game-viewing season. October then sees the highest temperatures and a noticeable rise in humidity before the first good rains break in November and December. As soon as these rains set in, the game migrates out of the Okavango to areas of better grazing – the Pans and Kalahari in particular.
The green season, which is from December to March, is when Botswana receives its rains for the year. They usually come in afternoon thunder showers, which last an hour or so and then disappear. You will find that some of the animals will migrate into the areas that offer better grazing, like the Kalahari Game Reserve and the Pans. This is a fantastic time of year to visit. The premium camps’ rates are reduced dramatically, so you can stay in some of the most luxurious properties at a fraction of the price. Game viewing-wise, it is much greener, and the bush will be thicker. This means it can be harder to spot the wildlife, which is why you need to select your area very carefully indeed. Even though this is the rainy season, the Delta itself can be dry in areas and too shallow to do any water activities, so if you want to enjoy the full range of activities then I would suggest staying along one of the deep water channels.
April and May see the floodwaters arriving in the Delta. This is what we like to call the Miracle season – there is nowhere in Africa more beautiful than the Delta in its first flood, as you see the vast Kalahari sands turning into a wetlands paradise with scatterings of waterlillies throughout the floodplains. The animals that have migrated in the green season will all start to make their way back to this paradise.