This month, South Africa’s oldest travel magazine, Getaway celebrated its 30th birthday and honoured the Okavango Delta by naming it Africa’s Best Safari. We are, of course, of the strong opinion that Botswana is the best African safari destination and the Okavango Delta is definitely one of the brightest jewels in its crown of diverse wildlife and pristine natural beauty. For those that have been to the delta, you will most likely agree that this is a well-deserved title, and for those that haven’t visited, what are you waiting for?
Here are our top five highlights that make the Okavango Delta Africa’s best safari destination:
1. Complex ecosystem The Okavango Delta is a glorious mix of marshlands, wooded forests and seasonally flooded plains, particularly unique in that it is one of just a handful of delta systems totally cut off from the ocean. The seasonal rains and annual flooding of the delta support thriving populations of animal, bird and plant species. Safaris in the delta over the dry season and green season are equally rewarding for different reasons and the transformation of the landscape between these two seasons attests to this extraordinarily dynamic ecosystem.
2. Incredible game-viewing – The abundant wildlife that calls the Okavango Delta home make for fantastic and plentiful sightings. Excitingly, these may include some of the world’s most endangered animals, like African wild dogs and white rhinos along with Africa’s big cats, the cheetah, lion and leopard. In some areas, game viewing is seasonally dependent and changes according to the rains and floods, whilst other locales offer great sighting opportunities throughout the year.
3. Diverse birdlife – For birders and twitchers alike, the Okavango Delta is the ultimate birding safari destination as about 450 different bird species have been recorded here. It is of particular significance for twitchers keen on glimpsing the slaty egret, as the delta is a well-known breeding site for this vulnerable water bird species. Other birding ‘specials’ in the delta are the lesser jacana, martial eagle, Pel’s fishing owl, and fulvous whistling duck, which can be encountered by boat or foot. The skies often resound with the call of the African fish eagle – a sound that epitomises Africa.
4. Safari by water – Possibly one of the most iconic ways to experience the Okavango Delta, a mokoro ride is often a major reason for safari-enthusiasts to visit the delta. Being poled through the delta on a mokoro is a special experience, as it is the traditional mode of transport for local people and is unique to Botswana. It is the perfect way to explore the maze of interconnected water channels whilst learning first-hand about the surrounding landscape and resident wildlife from a knowledgeable guide.
5. Local insights – The people of Botswana are genuinely friendly and welcoming to visitors, and their expertise of the country’s history, various local cultures and natural treasures make for a well-rounded safari experience.
For visitors eager to learn the language of the bush, well-trained and highly experienced guides offer fascinating insights into the natural surrounds and the creatures that move within it. Tracking animals by foot is exhilarating and part of a complete wilderness experience.