Okavango Delta safari in 2019

posted 4th April 2019 by Danica Wilson in Travel Advice

An update on the Okavango Delta safari experience in 2019

We have received word from several of our partners who own camps and lodges in the region that unless there’s a heavy last-minute downpour of rain in Angola or the Delta really soon, the flood levels will be low. This means some camps that offer seasonal water activities may have a shorter ‘season’. On the plus side, when conditions are like this game viewing is often more spectacular and abundant as the wildlife congregates around the remaining water sources. With this news, we thought it timely to remind you about the beauty and uniqueness of an Okavango Delta safari.
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What is unique about the Okavango Delta? 

The Okavango delta in Botswana is one of the world’s largest inland delta systems. While most river deltas usually lead out to an ocean, the Okavango River empties onto an extensive, open expanse of land. This floods the savanna and creates an ever-changing inland delta. This unique wetland system survives on the sands of the Kalahari Desert.
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What is the source of the Okavango Delta?

The source of the Delta flood actually comes from wet highlands in Angola to the north of Botswana. As rains fall, the Cubango River flows south and swells as it travels through Namibia, away from the sea. It gathers more water until it finally arrives at Botswana and the river becomes known as the Okavango.
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What creates the Okavango Delta and its uniqueness?

The fate of the river is determined by a series of fault lines deep below the surface of the desert. The river passes over the first fault line and thus splits into several channels. This is the image of the vast, fan-shaped waterway you so often see depicting the Delta. Among the waterways are forests, streams and lagoons ideal for wildlife to survive and even thrive. When the water meets the final two fault lines, it is literally trapped and cannot go any further.
Naturalists say before the fault lines occurred, the river flowed from Angola into the Delta, across Makgadikgadi pans and all the way to the Indian Ocean when it met up with the Limpopo river.
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When does the Okavango Delta flood?

There is a summer rainfall, yet the flood only happens in the dry winter months. It takes months for the rain to fall during the summer and seep into the parched ground before it then fills and the river starts to flow. Then, it takes more time to flow down to the Okavango Delta.
The speed of the flood is around a kilometre a day. It starts to come into the northern part of the Okavango Delta in late April, making its way steadily down to many of the camps around June or early July. The peak of the flood is historically August. This is also dry season, so the flood waters slowly evaporate over the next few months and leave behind valuable river salts and minerals.
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Where can I stay during an Okavango Delta safari?

The camps and lodges in the greater Okavango Delta region are scattered in the north, southeast and west. Camps located in the northern and western stretches are often referred to as ‘permanent water camps’. These camps offer boating and walking safaris throughout the year. The waterways are deep, so safaris on a mokoro (traditional dugout canoe with a guide who poles through the waterways) are not possible as the poles are simply not long enough.
In the southeastern part of the Delta lies slightly higher land, especially Chief’s Island. This higher ground means the waters never flood the area. So these camps are considered ‘land camps’ offering game drives rather than water activities.
If they are on the edges of the Moremi Game Reserve, one of the primary wilderness areas of the Delta, they may offer some water-based activities during the flood season of roughly July to September. These camps are described as ‘seasonal water’ camps – one that has water only during the flood period.
Finally, you have camps to the north of the Moremi and some are located deep in the river channels that are fed throughout the summer rains and then by the Delta. These properties are ‘mixed activity’ camps offering water and land-based game-viewing activities throughout the year, simply because they are close to deep river channels.
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What do I need to consider for an Okavango Delta safari?

You simply need to understand that change creates the magic of the Delta. It alters its path and varies the experience each year and that is all dependent on the rains and flood levels – which are outside the control of any human being!
Watercourses change, wildlife species move and camps are positioned in different locations with unique offerings. For the best experience, we love recommending an Okavango Delta safari that combines two properties in different habitats.
Does the delta float your boat?