Botswana’s Okavango Delta is a maze of secret channels, floodplains and forested islands. Known as the ‘jewel of the Kalahari’, this extraordinary wilderness is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries: hippos wallow in reed-fringed lagoons, herds of red lechwe splash through the shallows, and the grasslands are the hunting grounds of big cats and wild dogs.
There are unexpected, magical moments on any safari - but the Okavango Delta has a special place in our hearts. If you haven’t been yet, you have so much to look forward to!
Here’s a small taste of our favourite things to do on an Okavango Delta safari.
Glide Through Channels on a Mokoro Safari
A sunny morning on a mokoro safari at Camp Okavango, a water-based camp in the delta
A mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) is the perfect mode of transport for the Okavango Delta: travel as the animals do, nosing your way through reed beds and along narrow channels. It’s incredibly peaceful as you go with the flow, the only sounds the swirling of water and twittering of birds.
Mokoros are poled punt-style rather than paddled. Sit back and unwind, while your local guide points out the smaller details of the delta from beautiful water lilies to the jewel-like colours of a malachite kingfisher or a tiny painted reed frog. And who knows what may lie around the next bend? An elephant up to its belly in water, a Nile crocodile basking on a sunny riverbank ...
Go on Thrilling Game Drives on the Delta Islands
Sanctuary Chief’s Camp in Moremi Game Reserve, crowned the "Predator Capital of Africa"
The Okavango’s water levels are at their highest during Botswana’s dry season (June to October). This, together with the rich mix of woodlands, grasslands, floodplains and lagoons; makes for the delta’s famously good game viewing.
Most camps offer game drives (if you're unsure of which then take a look at this post on land- vs water-based camps). Set off in an open-sided 4x4 vehicle, keeping an eye out for lion, elephant and buffalo - there are plenty! The islands are also known for their leopard sightings, as well as packs of the endangered wild dog.
Take to the Skies for a New Perspective
Belmond Eagle Island Lodge offers its guests an exhilarating helicopter flight followed by a picnic
From the air you can really appreciate the size of the Okavango Delta. Most visitors fly from Maun to their lodge or camp, the small plane skimming low over a horizon-hugging carpet of floodplains and waterways.
Some properties also offer scenic flights in light aircraft or helicopters. Spotting animals from the air puts a totally different angle on game viewing: columns of elephant on criss-crossing paths and herds of antelope bounding across the plains. A must for keen photographers!
Set Off on Foot on a Guided Walking Safari
A guide and guests crouch to watch an elephant while on a walking safari from Selinda Camp
The Okavango Delta is one of the few places in Botswana where you can walk in the wild. Set off safe in the hands of your highly qualified (and armed) ranger, who’ll reveal some of the delta’s deeper secrets such as how to identify lion spoor or the medicinal properties of plants.
Walking along wildlife pathways your pulse quickens and you feel more alive! Most lodges focus their bush walks on the delta's smaller creatures, birds and bugs. But there’s plenty of opportunities to track larger game too, and not much can get the heart racing like crouching down quietly while a curious elephant sniffs the air.
Slow Down and Relax in Africa’s Last Eden
Jacana has just five tents tucked away on a beautiful island in Moremi Game Reserve
Last, but certainly not least, an Okavango Delta safari offers the rare chance to spend a few days in one of the last truly wild places left on the planet. Disconnected from the stresses of everyday life, time seems to slow down as you wake with the sun and dine under the stars.
Between mokoro safaris and game drives, spend a few lazy hours on your private deck – a chilled drink and pair of binoculars close at hand. Gazing out at the floodplains there’s no buildings or roads, no grumble of traffic, no meeting reminders or anywhere else that you have to be. Pure bliss!