The Okavango Delta is top on my list of must see places.
For those of you who don’t know anything about Okavango, it is the worlds largest inland delta at 15 000 km2, and is located in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.
The water flowing into the Delta first falls in Angola, and travels through Namibia before reaching the delta, and forming an enormous wetland.
The amazing thing about the delta is the seasonal flood from the Okavango River, which increases the delta to three times its usual area, and leads to a wildlife explosion.
This usually occurs between the months of March and June, and is driven by summer rainfall in the Angola highlands.
Eventually the floodwater is lost to transpiration (by plants), and evaporation, with a small amount percolating through the soil, and flowing into Lake Ngami. None of the water reaches the sea.
Animals of Okavango
The Okavango comes alive with migratory animals when the river floods.
An estimated 200,000 large mammals live seasonally in the delta, made up of 32 different species. These include the African bush elephant, African buffalo, hippopotamus, wildebeest, giraffe, Nile crocodile, lion, cheetah, leopard, hyenas, both black and white rhinoceros, zebras, warthogs, and the endangered African wild dog.
Additionally, the Okavango delta is home to 71 fish species, including the 1.4 m Sharptooth catfish, and 650 species of bird.
In 1994, Botswana, Angola and Namibia signed the OKACOM Agreement, which commits them to promote environmentally sustainable water resource developments, while addressing their national social and economic needs.
Fortunately, the near pristine environment draws many eco tourists, with tourism being the second largest economic input for Botswana. These tourist dollars rely on the protection of the wetlands.
Okavango delta is a RAMSAR site (a recognized wetland of international significance), and this has been ratified by both Namibia and Botswana.
Threats to the Okavango
Unfortunately, the Okavango River is the only “exploitable perennial” river which flows through Namibia and Botswana, and over one million people live in the Okavango Basin. This has led to the extraction of water by the Namibian government to support the growing population, and plans for construction of a hydropower station upstream of the delta
Other threats include the intrusion of fishing further into the Delta region, poaching, and as the National Geographic tells us, there are even suggestions of extracting oil from the underlying rock formations.
And, on a slightly less serious note…
So, I hope this opened your eyes to one of the lesser discussed, yet totally incomparable places in our world. Who knows, maybe you’l put it on your bucket list too…