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In the heart of the Kalahari Basin, in the north of Botswana lies a natural phenomenon of outstanding beauty – the Okavango Delta. It is Africa’s third largest inland river delta with an area covering between 6,000 and 15,000 km2. Because the Okavango is seasonally flooded during the dry season and the plants and animals have adjusted their movements and biological cycles with the rains and flooding, it has been described by (UNESCO) “an exceptional example of the interaction between climate, hydrological and biological processes”. The delta became the 1000th site to be inscribed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
The Okavango Delta can vary in size from 15 000 square kilometres during drier periods to a staggering 22 000 sq. km during wetter periods. Dominant plant species include reeds, real fan palm, acacia, sycamore fig, sausage trees, rain trees and African mangosteen.
Perennial swamps give way to seasonal marshes and flooded grasslands at the Delta’s lower reaches. To the southeast, the third vegetation region of true drylands become evident. There are three significant landmasses here: the Matsebi Ridge, Chief’s Island and the Moremi Tongue. Here the vegetation is predominantly Mophane, acacia and scrub bush, in an area dotted with salt pans. Large numbers of mammals retreat during the drier winter months to this region.
Major tourist attractions in the Delta and the dryland areas are game viewing, birdwatching and boating in the many waterways, often in the traditional mokoro dug-out canoe. The diversity and numbers of animals and birds are staggering. A recent overview of the Okavango region recorded 122 species of mammals, 71 species of fish, 444 species of bird, 64 species of reptiles and 1,300 species of flowering plants. A successful rhino reintroduction programme in the Okavango now puts White Rhino’s population at approximately 35 and Black Rhino at 4.
The Okavango Delta provides some of the best safari experiences in Africa with first-rate wildlife, accommodation and guiding. It also boasts some of the most varied safaris in Africa with a great range of safari activities on offer including walking safaris, riding safaris, mokoro safaris, boating safaris, balloon safaris, helicopter safaris and more.
The Okavango Delta supports large concentrations of animals and birds. Through careful wildlife management it is one of the best places to see wildlife in their natural habitat in Africa.
Associations between people and the Delta started long before it came to the attention of the wider outside world during the second half of the 19th century.
The Okavango Delta is a vast ecosystem created as the Okavango River flows into the parched Kalahari Desert, a sanctuary for a myriad of species.