Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta

A Unique, Pristine Wildlife Paradise

The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta, flooding the environment for 15 000 square kilometers. In 2014, it was announced as the world’s 1 000th UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Uniquely, the waters of this alluvial fan reach out across the Kalahari Desert instead of the ocean, after making their way from the Angolan highlands through Namibia’s Caprivi strip via the Kavango (or Okavango) River and finally dwindling into Lake Ngami.

There are over 150 000 ever-changing islands located among these shifting waters, with the largest being Chief’s Island in the Moremi Game Reserve, formed on a tectonic fault line.

Five distinct local cultures exist side by side with the many wild species of the Okavango Delta. They are the:

  • Bugakwe
  • Dxeriku
  • Hambukushu
  • Wayeyi
  • Xanekwe

These people are as integral to the essence of the Okavango Delta as the land and animals are and add a unique vibrancy to every experience you enjoy here.


The Delta is located in Northwest Botswana close to Chobe National Park. The closest major city is Maun in Botswana.

Brief History of the Okavango Delta

When compared to things like the Namib Desert, the Okavango Delta is relatively young. It came about around 50 000 years ago when a massive earthquake disrupted the Kavango River’s journey toward a large lake that used to be near Makgadikgadi Pans.

As a result, the river diverged toward the Kalahari Desert, spewing millions of liters of water over the semi-arid landscapes and turning large termite mounds into islands. Hippos soon carved channels across the lands and vegetation began to thrive on the higher elevations, creating the wildlife paradise as we know it today.

The lie of the land makes it difficult to access the Delta and so it has remained undisturbed for centuries, apart from a few local inhabitants who’ve adapted to live in the Delta alongside many other life forms.

David Livingstone discovered the area in 1851, and after that, European hunters did much to degrade the natural environment.

In 1963, the people of Botswana, led by the Chief’s wife, put an end to the hunting by proclaiming a protected area around the central and eastern reaches of the Delta, Moremi Game Reserve. In 1970, the Chief’s private hunting grounds, Chief’s Island, were added to the reserve.

The governments of Botswana, Namibia, and Angola work closely together to preserve the integrity and purity of the water flowing into the Delta.

To preserve the fragile beauty of this place, the Botswana government has imposed limits on tourism and development in the area to help protect habitats and allow local people to maintain their traditional lands and keep their traditions intact.

Thanks to these efforts, the Okavango Delta is one of the few remaining truly wild spaces on earth.


Due to the severe restrictions on tourism in the Okavango Delta, those who travel here are assured of exclusive experiences wherever they choose to stay.

There are almost 40 private camps dotted around the area, many of them based in private concessions run by local communities.

These include:

  • The Mombo Concession on Chief’s Island
  • Chitabe Concession
  • Kwara Concession
  • Shinde Concession
  • Jaso Concession
  • Abu Concession
  • Kwedie East and West Concessions
  • Gunn’s Concession
  • Stanley’s Concession
  • Pom Pom, Kanana, and Nxabega Concessions

Moremi Game Reserve comprises about 40% of the Okavango Delta, and the concessions take up the rest.

Most camps in the Okavango Delta focus on specialized activities such as game viewing, birding, or photography, but some might offer one or more of these activities. All the camps have the potential to deliver once-in-a-lifetime experiences offering fine dining, luxury stays, and excellent guided activities.

Premier lodges like Mombo Camp, Vumbura Camp, Abu Camp, Sandibe Camp, Duba Plains Camp, and Xigera Camp help place Botswana among the prime destinations for safaris in Africa.

Most lodges allow children over the age of six, but there may be additional age limits on certain activities.


Many of the more luxurious camps in the Okavango Delta offer swimming pools and day spas where you can relax in between game viewing experiences, but the main activities around here center on the natural world.

Game Drives

Apart from the vast watercourses that traverse the Okavango Delta, it’s also home to many open floodplains and woodlands that you can explore in guided 4×4 game drives or guided walking safaris. These excursions take place at dusk and dawn as well as during the day, to provide safari-goers with the best chances of experiencing everything the Delta has to offer.

Boat Safaris

Mokoro game viewing is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the best of Okavango safaris. These silent craft allow you to approach game species closely without disturbing their routine and offer abundant opportunities to explore the delta fully.

Each mokoro is piloted by an experienced, local game guide adept at finding and showcasing the Okavango Delta’s most sought-after species.


During the rainy season, the Okavango Delta is a birder’s paradise filled with migratory species who come here to nest. The best way to enjoy birding in this area is on a specialized birding safari with expert guides to help you seek out the most beautiful and rare terrestrial and water-loving bird species.


Like birding tours, photographic tours help you make the most of this memorable activity in the Okavango Delta. Glowing sunsets, vast watery landscapes, stunning birds, and incredible wildlife make this one of the world’s best photography destinations.

You’ll enjoy the best light for photographs when you visit Botswana between June and September when the air is crisp and clear.

Fauna and Flora

Like Etosha Pan, the seasonal flooding of the Okavango Delta is what makes it irresistible to many species of animals and birds. These channels, flooded with water from the Angolan highlands, are among the only water sources available during the dry season, which creates an intense concentration of wildlife in this area.

During the peak season between March and August about 260,000 animals occupy the Okavango Delta.

The grasslands, water, and trees bring vast herds of zebra and wildebeest, but travelers will likely also enjoy sightings of:

  • Elephant
  • Hippo
  • Giraffe
  • Lion
  • Buffaloe

More elusive species, like leopard, wild dog, spotted hyena, cheetah, sable antelope, sitatunga, eland and roan antelope may also be seen, while sightings of roan antelope and white rhino are also possible.

Some of the less often seen animals in this area include black rhino, aardvark, and pangolin.

Papyrus, reeds, and grasses flourish here among the channels and islands are awash with jackalberry and fig trees. Overall, there are 1 061 different plant species in the Okavango Delta making up riparian forests, flooded grasslands, island communities, and dry deciduous woodlands.

These diverse habitats are home to 130 species of mammal, 482 bird species, 89 types of fish, and 64 diverse kinds of reptiles.

It is an exceptionally important birding area harboring globally threatened species like wattled crane, slaty egret, southern ground hornbill, and six vulture species.

When to Visit

Like many African countries, Botswana’s primary seasons are the rainy season and the dry season.

In the Delta, the rains peak in January and consist mainly of brief but heavy downpours in the evening after long, hot days. At this time, birdlife is at its most spectacular although the wildlife is dispersed far and wide and the zebra and wildebeest migration is in full swing.

The rains start to subside in March, although short afternoon thunderstorms can be a daily occurrence.

In April and May the rains have all but stopped and temperatures start to cool.

The dry season between June and October is the best time for big game viewing in the Okavango Delta. There’s no rain, the days are cool and game species are gathered around dwindling water sources.

In November, the first rains come from the Okavango and these increase in frequency and intensity, starting the cycle over again.

Packing List

The standard safari packing list applies for your trip to the Okavango Delta. You should be sure to pack:

  • A waterproof jacket
  • Insect repellent
  • Anti-malarial medication
  • A camera with spare SD cards
  • Sunglasses, lip balm, moisturizing lotion, and sunblock
  • Swimming costume and towels
  • Guidebooks and bird books
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Binoculars, preferably one pair for each person
  • Torch
  • Chargers for your devices if you’re visiting a camp with electricity

Getting There

The best way to get to the Okavango Delta is via chartered aircraft from Maun International Airport.

Explore More With Us

Browse our travel guide for more information about destinations like the Okavango Delta and more. We feature all the best activities, sites, and travel tips to help you plan your southern African excursions.

If you’re looking for a gentle introduction to safaris in Africa, book your accommodation at Arebbusch Travel Lodge today.

Please Note: The details shared herein around products and services, are correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.


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