Dazzling sunsets, swimming elephants, singing frogs and leopards brushing through papyrus reeds - the Okavango Delta is one of the most extraordinary places on the planet. Located in northern Botswana, it’s one of the largest inland river deltas in the world with over 150,000 islands, some spanning over 10km.
The vast grassy plains experience annual flooding, becoming a life force for thousands of animals. When the waters stream in from Angola in the dry winter months between March to August, the Delta can expand to around 15,000km2, before receding to an area of 6,000km2 during the wet summer season.
This attracts massive herds of animals, as they flock to soak up these nutrient-rich grounds. It’s one of Africa’s premier wildlife habitats, and more than 260,000 mammals can be spotted during the dry season including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, giraffe, rhino, buffalo, hyena, antelope, hippos, crocodile and even the rare African wild dog.
While classic game drives are available in the Delta, the best way to experience the region is through a water-based safari. Head out on a boat, or glide through the lush waterways on a mokoro (dugout canoe traditionally used in Botswana), as your guide points out tiny water creatures and larger mammals lapping at the water’s edge.
It’s also a paradise for birders, with over 400 species of birds living in the Delta. Venture out on foot or in a mokoro to spot the African fish eagle, hamerkop, herons, storks and the lilac-breasted roller, and pack your binoculars to spot rarer species such as the slaty egret and the Pel’s fishing owl.
As the 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders, the Delta is a fiercely protected area and a fantastic conservation success story.
With a ban on hunting and only a few camps allowed within the Delta, the Botswana government controls the threat of over-tourism. Animals are free to roam without being harassed by vehicles, and the Okavango Delta remains a pristine wilderness area.