​Expert Reviews – Okavango Delta

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Lucy Corne   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: July

Lucy is travel writer for a range of publications, including Lonely Planet's guides to Africa, Southern Africa and South Africa.

2 people found this review helpful.

Punting in the Panhandle
Overall rating

Most visitors to the Delta opt for the Moremi Game Reserve or one of the private concessions bordering it, where the Big Five roam (though you’re highly unlikely to spot rhinos) and luxury lodges abound. On a recent trip I had the opportunity to head north to the Panhandle. The wildlife watching here isn’t as abundant, but neither are the wildlife-watchers, making it a quiet and unpeopled place for birding. There are two main ways to experience the Okavango Delta – by plane or in one of the iconic dugout canoes known as mokoros. I opted for the latter, although as someone who gets nervous around wildlife, I perhaps should have gone for the aerial view. Gliding through the papyrus reeds in a mokoro brings you very close to nature. Clichés abound when describing the experience – wonderful, magical, once in a lifetime – and they’re all true. The lack of an engine makes the mokoro an extremely peaceful way to experience the Delta, the only soundtrack the flapping of wings, the birdsong of some of the 400-plus avian species that call the Delta home, and the unmistakable grunting of a pod of wallowing hippos. And you will see hippos, their bodies hidden beneath the waters, their eyes and twitching ears visible. Suddenly the whole head disappears under the water and you wait, unbreathing, to see where the hippo will emerge, hoping it’s not too close to your slightly wobbly canoe. You’ll see crocodiles basking on the riverbanks, red lechwe wading through the waters and herds of elephant bathing, drinking or browsing on the banks. Sit back on your African gondola as an experienced poler punts you through the Delta – truly the most magnificent way to watch wildlife on the continent.

Kim Wildman   –  
Australia AU
Visited: September

Kim is a travel writer who authored and updated over 15 guidebooks, including Lonely Planet's South Africa and Bradt's Tanzania guides.

4 people found this review helpful.

Oasis in the desert
Overall rating

After the dirt and dust of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, the Delta is a welcoming green oasis. Stretching over 18,000 square kilometres and encompassing floodplains, lagoons, forest glades and savannah grasslands, this fertile inland wetland is as breathtaking as it is beautiful. Gliding through the reeds in a mokoro (dug-out canoe), may seem a little like a tourist cliché, but it really is a must. Sitting low in the dug-out you really do feel at one with your surrounds. The silence is only broken by the soft plonk of your guide’s oar as it breaks the water’s surface, the gentle rustle of the reeds as you slowly push your way through and the distant grunts of hippos happily wallowing in the shallows. While the rewards are plentiful if you choose either a foot or dug-out safari – particularly for birders with more than 400 species recorded in the region – it’s only by air that you get a true sense of the full magnitude of the Delta’s expanse. It’s also the best way to see the vast herds that roam its wilds.

Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Dry season

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

5 people found this review helpful.

A natural labyrinth of waterways teeming with wildlife
Overall rating

I first arrived in the delta by light aircraft. From the air is the only way you’ll be able to get a real feeling of size and complexity of this enormous delta. The scenic beauty of it struck me immediately and I got excited when I managed to pick up some elephant backs wading through the water.

I got a completely different perspective when we set out by mokoro. Pushing through water lilies, making our way slowly through this vast labyrinth of channels that seemed to close behind us was an unforgettable experience. Back on land, the more conventional safari began and the Okavanga is up there with all the great parks of Africa offering fantastic wildlife viewing.

Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: June/July

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

14 people found this review helpful.

Africa’s Ultimate Water Wilderness
Overall rating

The scenic delta, comprising large expanses of water and a myriad shallow channels snaking their way between innumerable little islands, is not only home to astounding concentrations of wildlife, but is also a twitcher’s paradise with around 500 bird species. It is, however, the huge diversity of plentiful wildlife that wows most visitors. Safari activities primarily revolve around game-drives and escorted mokoro trips – where you sit in the front of a canoe and your personal guide stands in the back poling you through the channels of the shallow delta – but outside the official park areas there is scope for walking safaris on the mainland, boat cruises and fishing trips in the permanent swamp areas, especially towards the pan handle. One of the reasons that the Okavango has developed into such a rich wildlife area is that the floodwaters (which swell the delta) arrive in July and August during the height of the dry season. A wildlife safari to the Okavango Delta will be a memorable at any time of the year, but to watch the life-giving waters spread across a parched landscape, drawing animals from far and wide, is a very special sight indeed.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.8/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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