The watery tendrils of the Okavango Delta snake out, weaving a watery web filled to the brim with exciting game-viewing opportunities in this wildlife-rich pocket of biodiversity. Home to the Big 5 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Delta consists of endless floodplains, patches of higher ground, riverine woodland as well as forest, and the cloud-strewn Botswana sky reflecting in the still waters of the Delta below.
Known as “the river that never finds the sea”, this wetland of winding oxbow waterways is a bucket-list expedition for anyone fuelled by a love of Africa and its striking array of wildlife. Like most countries across Africa, Botswana is a vast, largely undiscovered portion of land.
Many of the safari activities in the Okavango centre around the water, and travellers will find themselves exploring marshy waterways by boat and even traditional mokoro (a dugout canoe). Visitors aren’t only limited to the water, however, and they can explore higher ground in traditional game-viewing vehicles and on foot – or even take to the skies to get a bird’s-eye view of the passing game from the heights of a helicopter.
Marvel at the seasonal ebb and flow of mother nature as she inundates the plains and grassland, supporting a myriad of wildlife from birds and large herds of elephant to numerous antelope species such as roan and sable. Predator sightings can include lion, leopard, spotted hyena, and the African wild dog. The Delta is an astounding safari destination due to its fascinating and ever-changing landscape and the array of wildlife that it supports.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting the Okavango Delta.
The Okavango Delta's ever-changing landscape means that it will look vastly different at various times of the year. The peak time to visit the Okavango Delta is during the dry winter season, from May to September. This is when the skies are clear, although, ironically, it's the wettest season with the Delta fully flooded. The vegetation is also sparse for better wildlife sightings, and there will be fewer mosquitoes bugging you.
September – October
Referred to as the "green season", September to October is outside of peak season. During this time, the water recedes (and with it, the lodges' rates decrease). Moremi Game Reserve usually thrives during this time.
November – April
During this time, it's the dry and hot “rainy season”. Keen birders, or twitchers, will enjoy visiting during this period as the Okavango Delta transforms from an excellent bird watching destination to a spectacular one!
Okavango Delta safaris are special for many reasons. As the world's largest inland delta, home to the Big 5, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's a truly special destination. The Okavango Delta is a water wonderland when the Delta is flooded, making for some truly unique sights. Here are just some of the things that make Okavango Delta safaris special.
Big 5 safaris
The Okavango Delta is well-known for its Big 5, including one of the largest elephant populations globally. Other wildlife includes giraffe, Nile crocodile, hippo, lion, cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, various antelope, plains zebra, warthog, chacma baboon, and rare species like the black and white rhino, African wild dog, and more.
Land- and water-based activities
You can enjoy so many different activities, from your traditional game drives and photo safaris to the more adventurous walking, hot air balloon, and horseback safaris. The water-based activities you can partake in include boat cruises and the mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) safari Botswana is known for, offering a unique perspective of the wildlife.
Remote and untouched
One of the Okavango Delta's biggest allures is its remoteness. You'll feel like you've travelled back to a simpler time, embraced by the sounds of nature, untouched landscapes, and a high density of wildlife as your neighbours.
The birdlife is out of this world with over 500 different species, and you'll keep your binoculars nearby throughout your stay.
The Okavango Delta has a high density of predator species, particularly big cats like lion, cheetah and leopard. Others include wild dog and hyena. Of course, as you can imagine, with predators comes lots of action and drama!
Flora and Fauna
One of the richest and most complex ecosystems in the world, the Okavango Delta has puzzled and fascinated even some of the greatest scientific minds. From the Papyrus-lined channels to the wide-open plains with ancient baobab trees, acacia, leadwood, Marula, and many more distinct trees.
Islands in high water season
The islands, which usually start as termite mounds, frequently have white areas in the middle where the salt collects, causing trees to die off. The biggest island in the Delta is Chief's Island, which was once reserved for the chief's hunting, but today it's a wildlife sanctuary for when the flood arrives.
Look, we're not going to beat around the bush here (get it?). An Okavango Delta safari is more expensive than in South Africa, Zambia or Namibia. But there's a very good reason for that. Because it’s in such a remote location, it’s logistically more difficult and therefore expensive to reach the Okavango Delta.
As a high value, low-volume and unique destination, lodges also charge higher prices to help preserve the wilderness area. Often, you can only reach your lodge by helicopter, small aircraft or boat, which adds to the cost. However, the value of this experience is priceless and is unique in so many ways that it cannot really be compared to other safari destinations.
Our Botswana tours including the Okavango Delta start at $8000 for 7 nights, starting in the Moremi and Okavango Region, continuing to the Okavango Delta, and ending in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve. However, we usually suggest that you stay for at least ten days, giving you enough time to experience the area.
Remember that all our tours are merely suggestions and are tailor-made to suit your specific needs and wants.
Accessing the Okavango Delta and its private safari lodges is relatively simple, and most often, guests will fly in. There are private airstrips near most lodges to fly via light aircraft straight from either Maun or Kasane airport. From there, someone will collect and transport you to your lodges either by vehicle or boat.
Direct flights to Maun are possible from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kasane. However, direct flights to Kasane are only possible from Johannesburg. The eastern part of the Delta can also be accessed directly from Maun by 4x4 without a chartered flight.
Based on your lodge of choice, time and cost, our Travel Experts will gladly advise you on the best way to get to the Okavango Delta or the surrounding reserves
No, the Okavango Delta is located in a malaria area. However, these days, it's entirely possible to enjoy a safe, malaria-free holiday in a malaria area by using prophylactic drugs and taking other preventative measures. It’s also important to always consult your doctor and inform them that you're travelling to a malaria area.
Tip 1: Repel the Mosquitoes
Although they're most active at dusk and dawn, the mosquito can strike at any time of day. Therefore, you should always wear mosquito repellent sprayed on your skin and clothes. Opt for long sleeves and pants in the evenings and mornings.
Tip 2: ALWAYS Take Anti-Malaria Tablets
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against malaria is taking prophylactic tablets. Please note that you MUST finish the course even when you're already back home.
Tip 3: Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms
Finish all your tablets as prescribed. If you start to notice any flu-like symptoms, you must get a malaria test to be safe and catch it early because malaria reacts well to early treatment.
Although it’s not generally considered the best time to visit the Okavango Delta, you should not overlook the off-season outside of peak season. During this time, you can often get great deals and discounts at the lodges, and it will be much easier to find availability.
September – October
September and October is a period we refer to as “green season”. As the water recedes, so do the animals and the lodge rates, but choosing where to stay during these “green season” months will either add or detract from your experience. Moremi Game Reserve is particularly rewarding at this time of year, as animals are concentrated in large numbers in and around the reserve.
November – April
Keen birders, or twitchers as we like to call them, will enjoy the dry and hot summer months from November to April. This period represents “the rainy season” and sees the Okavango Delta transform from an excellent bird watching destination to a sensational one!
Given limited availability due to Botswana's overarching tourism strategy, we highly recommend that you start planning and booking your Okavango Delta Safari some 12 to 18 months in advance.
Botswana is one of the few African countries that have adopted a high-value, low-volume tourism strategy to minimise the negative environmental impact on its pristine wildlife areas while maximising socioeconomic benefits for its population. This has resulted in a highly sustainable tourism development model, as the Okavango Delta remains undoubtedly the premier wildlife destination on the planet.
Botswana's high-value, low-volume tourism strategy means there's limited availability, as lodges are small and intimate with little accommodation. Much like any big city, the ebb and flow of the Okavango Delta flood waters mean "real estate" or lodge positions are a key consideration when booking your Okavango Delta safari. Add seasonality to the mix, and front row seats, which generally imply the ability to enjoy both land- and water-based activities, sell out first, and long in advance.
With years of experience as Africa's Leading Safari company, Rhino Africa is an African-based specialist tour operator arranging tailor-made wildlife safaris and holidays throughout Africa, including Botswana. Our understanding of the guest experience, combined with extensive first-hand knowledge of the lodges, makes us experts in creating magical and memorable African holidays.