Sitting at the geographical heart of southern Africa, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is the closest thing to Eden left on the planet. Gazetted as UNESCO’s thousandth World Heritage Site in 2014…
This World Heritage Day, we celebrate one of the most untouched and ecologically diverse places in Africa – Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
“A river rises in mountains and dies in sand and in its dying gives birth to a jewel at the edge of the Kalahari: the Okavango Delta.” So described this African landscape by famed nature photographer Frans Lanting in a 1990 photographic essay for National Geographic magazine.
If you’re thinking of hitting up this watery, wildlife wonderworld , here’s the best time to visit Okavango Delta and my other top tips.
Conservationists are racing to protect the UNESCO world heritage site’s two main source rivers in Angola…
Located in the heart of Botswana, the Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta that forms each year by seasonal flooding. Rains in the Angola Highlands flow down the Okavango River, but rather than be deposited in a lake or ocean, they simply spread out across the plains, covering an area of about 8500 square miles (22,014 sq. km) for several months of the year. This results in a large ecosystem where a variety of plant life grows, attracting large numbers of animals to the otherwise dry and desolate region.
This amazing place is the largest intact watershed in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But, it has also come increasingly under threat from a variety of sources, including poaching, ongoing conflicts across the region, industrialization, irrigation, and climate change. But a dedicated group of conservationists is looking to protect the Delta and have undertaken an impressively massive expedition to explore its vast expanse.
Dubbed the Okavango Wilderness Project, the team is supported by National Geographic and have spent years charting the Delta from “source to sand.”
The word safari tends to evoke images of expansive savanna landscapes; roaming giraffes, lions, and zebras; and minibuses, trucks, and all-terrain vehicles. These classic safaris, however memorable and necessary to complete the African experience, tend to skip the continent’s many rivers, lagoons, and lakes.
If hippos are more your thing than giraffes, consider going on an African water safari to best see the semi-aquatic mammals in their natural element.
One of the most popular ways to see hippos up close is to take a mokoro safari through Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the seventh wonder of Africa.
Similar to a canoe, the mokoro is streamlined to maneuver through narrow waterways and is motor-less so as not to scare the wildlife. It is steered by a tour guide who uses a ngashi, a long pole, to propel two passengers across deep lakes and shallow channels through the reeds and marshlands of the world’s largest inland delta.
Relaxing and peaceful, a ride in a mokoro provides safari-goers a unique vantage point to see the hippos, as well as the frogs, birds, and elephants common to the areas.