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Okavango Delta Safari Tours & Holidays

The Okavango Delta is an African classic, a vast network of waterways that changes with the seasons, but always hosts memorable wildlife populations. The diversity here is endless, from with islands there one year but gone the next. This world in motion should be drama enough for most visitors, but it is here that Botswana’s wildlife reputation was born and so many wildlife documentaries were filmed. To put it another way, the Delta is one of the best places on the planet to see wildlife.

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8 Questions About Okavango Delta Safaris

Answered by Anthony Ham

When is the best time to visit Okavango?

“As with so much of southern Africa, the high season for an Okavango safari runs from July to September or October. This is when you can expect high water levels but clear skies, making it easier both to see wildlife and to get around. From November to March or April, rain is always possible making trails muddy and rendering inaccessible some areas, especially in the Moremi Game Reserve. Not surprisingly, many lodges close at this time, especially from January to March. The flipside of this is that birding in these months can be exceptional, with migrating species in residence in their millions. May and June are certainly worth considering – the rains have come and gone, high season prices are yet to begin, and crowds are fewer. But as always with the Delta, this isn’t always true – a particularly heavy rainy season can mean that trails remain muddy, for example.”

1

What are the most accessible areas of the Okavango Delta?

“Moremi Game Reserve is the most accessible corner of the Delta, especially for those who plan to arrive and explore in a 4WD as part of their Okavango tour. Except for during the January–March rainy season, when many trails become boggy and impassable, you can simply drive into and around the reserve, provided you have a high-clearance 4WD. Then again, it all depends on your definition of ‘inaccessible’. You can’t drive into some parts of the Delta at any time of the year, but you can fly, which makes the Delta actually easy to reach and explore. All you have to do is board a small plane in Maun or Kasane airport and fly to your lodge or tented camp. On most Okavango tours, once there, you’ll be driven around in a 4WD along trails that are open, or get around in a mokoro (wooden dugout canoe). Visiting in this way is obviously expensive, but is certainly easy to arrange if you have the funds.”

2

When does the Okavango Delta flooding take place?

“If you visit the Okavango Delta from November to April, you may wonder what all the fuss is about – water levels are generally low. That’s because the region has an extremely high evaporation rate and it’s not until May or June, six to eight months after rains have fallen hundreds of kilometers away in the Angolan Highlands, that the Delta again begins to fill. From May or June, the Delta’s waterways start to take shape, making it an ideal time to begin your Okavango safari. By July, water levels are at their highest, although they sometimes peak as late as September. In October, with punishingly hot temperatures and high evaporation rates, waters again begin to fall.”

3

What animals can you expect to see in the Okavango Delta?

“The Okavango Delta is home to all three of the Big Cats, although cheetahs tend to be more localized and generally are rarer. Large mammals such as elephants, buffalos, hippos, Nile crocodiles and, increasingly, rhinos, thrive out here, as do African wild dogs (almost a third of the continent’s African wild dogs are found in Moremi), spotted hyenas and all manner of weird-and-wonderful antelope species. Across the Delta, a staggering 200,000 large mammals roam; it is considered an important stronghold for the continent’s lions and elephants in particular. Throw in more than 450 bird species, around 2000 different types of plants and 65 species of fish and the Delta’s position as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet becomes even clearer.”

4

How do you get to and around the Okavango Delta?

“Apart from the Inner Delta, which has water year-round, many of the southern, northern and eastern sections of the Delta can be reached in a 4WD vehicle on any Okavango safari. That, of course, comes with an important caveat: water levels vary and accessibility can be different from one year to the next, and sometimes even from one month to the next. For the Inner Delta (and elsewhere in high-water years), the only access is by plane, and this is usually arranged as part of your Botswana tour – air routes using small planes connect the remote lodges and camps across the Delta, with most starting in Maun, although Kasane is also a possibility. Once there, mokoros (wooden dugout canoes) are a classic Okavango means of transport, enabling you to navigate the waterways that would otherwise be inaccessible. Most lodges and camps also offer safari drives in 4WD vehicles along trails close to your accommodation, although, again, their range can vary from year to year.”

5

What condition are the roads in within the Okavango Delta?

“I can’t think of a single paved road that lies within the boundaries of the Delta. Some of the main access roads, such as the one that runs from Shorobe (40km north of Maun) into the Moremi Game Reserve, are graded but are also sometimes deeply corrugated, and driving here will have you longing for the sandy or dirt roads that dominate the Delta proper. The condition of these ‘roads’ varies greatly, even to the extent that a track that was firm last year can become hard work and perilous the next. Either way, you always need a 4WD, preferably one with a high clearance, to travel by vehicle in the Delta. It is also worth remembering that some trails may, in some years, require you to cross waterways with your vehicle. Knowing which ones are safe to cross comes with experience, but first-timers should rely on local advice and a GPS unit with Tracks4Africa installed.”

6

Are mokoro (canoe) safaris offered year-round?

“As long as there’s water in the Delta, travelling by mokoro (wooden dugout canoe) will most likely be possible somewhere. Even when water levels are low, the Delta is not entirely dry land, so if there is access to a launching place close to where you’re staying, some form of mokoro trip should be possible. Of course, the distance you can travel and the likelihood of getting out on the water is far greater when water levels are high, possibly as early as May, but always from July through to September and possibly in October. One final comment about traveling by mokoro. It can be a wonderful experience, drifting slowly through the Delta with no noise but the slap of a paddle on the water and safe in the knowledge that your carbon footprint is close to zero. Birdwatching can be excellent from a mokoro, and you’ll often see hippos and elephants. But for any other wildlife, you’ll probably need to explore in a safari 4WD vehicle as it’s difficult to see anything else if you’re restricted to where the water can take you.”

7

What lodges or camps would you recommend in Okavango?

“There are countless fabulous places to stay as part of Okavango safari packages and staying in a magnificent lodge in the Delta’s remote reaches is sure to be a highlight of any Botswana safari. Choosing one above the rest is fraught with peril – so many fine places to choose from! – but choose you must. The lodges operated by &Beyond are very high on my list of favorites, partly because friendly staff and personal service are something of a company trademark, but also because their lodges and tented camps make architectural statements. Wilderness Safaris, too, have an even larger portfolio of Delta camps, all high quality, well sited and professionally run. And then there’s Great Plains Conservation, with their world-class guides, uber-luxurious camps and astonishing attention to detail. Where these three companies also rise above the pack is in their commitment to social responsibility – all aim for high levels of sustainability, support numerous important conservation projects, and have planted deep roots in the lives of local communities.”

8

Okavango Delta Safari Reviews

4.8/5 140 Reviews
Expert
Mark Eveleigh  –  
United Kingdom UK

Mark is a travel writer who grew up in Africa and has written over 700 titles for CNN Traveller, Travel Africa, BBC Wildlife and others.

Africa's greatest waterborne safari venue!
5/5

I spent two weeks living on the Okavango Panhandle, near the point where the Okavango flows into Botswana from Namibia's Zambezi Region. I was working on a scientific study, collecting data on the Okavango's outrageous crocodiles. We would...

Full Review

Expert
Gemma Pitcher  –  
Australia AU

Gemma is a travel writer and author of several Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

One for the bucket list
5/5

The Okavango Delta thoroughly deserves its legendary status amongst safari destinations. The Okavango river, flowing in from Namibia, spreads out once across the border into Botswana into a labyrinth of channels, floodplains and islands....

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cynthia_rusbridge  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Sep 24, 2018
A unique habitat
4/5

Really good boat trips, and meeting a bull Elephant in must, while in Mokoro dugout canoe was very exciting. Ranger guides on land less interesting. Excellent accommodation at Nguma lodge, in perfect setting. However a torrential downpour...

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schtain  –  
South Korea KR
Reviewed: Aug 7, 2018
A river which fails to meet the sea
5/5

The Okabango Delta, called the jewel of Kalahari in Africa, changes the shape of the waterway and plants grow to block it. Hippos living in lakes and swamps here can pass through the blocked waterways or expand their channels. The swamps...

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Lawrence and Julie  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Jul 23, 2018
5/5

This was the first part of our trip and was perhaps the best start we could have asked for. The tranquil trip down the delta was very soothing and relaxing. We camped out overnight and experienced the beautiful night sky and morning views....

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Roger  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Jul 14, 2018
A very different ecperience from any that I've had before in a very good way!
5/5

We stayed at Moremi Crossing, which was excellent, having flown in by light aircraft from Maun. The weather was very good for us -sunny but not too hot. The clear skies were magnificent at night - coming from a relatively light polluted...

Full Review