10 January 2013

Guest post: Okavango Delta Dreams…

By Michelle Lewis, Acacia Africa
The Okavango Delta is a breathtakingly beautiful wilderness where the safari never stops. Africa’s last remaining wetland, the ebb and flow of the seasons causes it to vary dramatically in size, the fan shaped delta ranging from 15,000 to around 22,000-sq/km on an annual basis. The labyrinth of lagoons expands as the yearly floods surge downwards from the Angola highlands, quenching the delta’s thirst for survival.
An oasis in what is a very arid country it’s almost paradoxical to find that this is the world’s largest inland delta, but it’s not the only reason to add this awe inspiring location to your list of "must sees" in Africa.

© Stephanie Millar

Elephant, buffalo, rhino, zebra, warthog, baboon, lechwe, and even the endangered wild dog reside here, but for the majority of the region’s estimated 200,000 large mammals this is not their year round hang out. They depart with the summer rains (November to March) in search of land to graze upon, and revisit the region as winter approaches once more. However, for birders the summer is undoubtedly one of the best times to visit, the numerous migrants filling the skies with a mass of colour.
For those who have opted for an overland itinerary, this is a great location in which to forgo the truck for a while and head into the real wilds of Africa, as travelling to any bush camp will be strictly native. Hop in a mokoro (a traditional dug out canoe) and you can traverse the reed filled haven with your own poler and guide, a two to three hour ride taking you into the heart of the delta itself.
A truly laid back way to safari, you may be lucky enough to spot the wildlife over the tall grasses, the elephant, and often the graceful zebra, a national representative of the Jewel of Africa coming into view.
Bush camping is primitive so it’s best to be prepared for long drop toilets, the absence of shower facilities and a couple of days of die hard endurance - but what you don’t have in creature comforts the surroundings and wildlife make up for in abundance.
You’ll normally start your safari in the early hours, your wake up call the piercing trill of the kettle over the campfire as the dawn light slowly breaking through the tall island palms. Chilly in the mornings you should pack a fleece to keep you warm, but come midday and the temperatures can soar in the high 40’s – all the more reason to get up an’ at ‘em first thing when it comes to viewing the delta’s wildlife. You’ll also need boots made for bush walking (a comfortable worn in pair is a necessity), and while there are no guarantees when it comes to the natural wonders of Africa, the absence of the usual 4X4 only adds to the excitement.

© Stephanie Millar
While it’s said to visible from space, you’ll also get a great birds eye view of the delta on a short plane ride. At this point movie making technology comes into its own, the wildlife spied from up above. And for this activity it’s wise to club together as greater numbers of people will lessen the cost per person. Either way, think carefully, as this is without a doubt a once in a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed.
You can also swim safely in the delta at various points, your adrenaline surged laps (these waters also shared by Botswana’s wildlife) followed by a late afternoon safari.  Sunsets over the delta are particularly impressive if only for the lack of light pollution, the sky above the mosaic of watery filled channels slowing turning from amber to darker shades of red. Done and dusted for the day, the cacophony of sounds once the campfire goes out is food for the soul, a whole orchestra of frogs serenading you across the floodwaters and lulling you into a peaceful slumber.

The Okavango Delta features in Acacia Africa’s 18th birthday "Free Seat" giveaway. For more information visit http://bit.ly/UcLhit

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