Lodges, Camps, Accommodation & General Information
The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland water systems and is Botswana's most famous and popular tourist attraction. Millions of years ago it used to flow into what is now known as the Makgadikgadi Pans. But activity in the earth's crust causing a break in the layers of rock interrupting the flow of the river, caused it to backup and reform as what is now known as the Okavango Delta. This transformation has created an unparalleled system of waterways and channels, that support a kingdom of flora and fauna that would have otherwise been a flat, dry grassy desert.
The Okavango receives water from 2 different sources at 2 different times of the year. The first is the Delta's wetland systems, whose journey begins in Angola’s western highlands, with several tributaries joining in en-route to form the Cubango River. It then flows through Namibia, and is called the Kavango, before entering Botswana, where it is now known as the Okavango. It finally becomes an inland delta in the Kalahari desert.
The Delta would also not survive if not fed from the Angolan rains, (the 2nd source of water) which start in October and finish in April. The floods cross between the border of Botswana and Namibia in December and reach the bottom end of the delta (Maun) sometime in July. This 9 month trickle from source to bottom, is due to a lack of elevation change; it drops a little more than 60m in 450km. The delta’s water come to a dead-end in the Kalahari Desert - via the Botetle River, and over 95% of the water eventually evaporates.
As water travels through the Delta, the peak of the flooding expands to some 16,000km², diminishing to under 9,000km² in the low period. Not surprisingly, animal life returns to the region.
As the rains in Botswana occur approximately the same time as Angola, the areas surrounding the Delta begin to dry out simultaneously, and as a result wildlife congregates on the edge of the recently flooded areas around May – October, the best time for game viewing.
The Botswana Government have been aware for decades of the consequences of mass tourism and they are anxious to protect the fragile eco-system that is the Okavango Delta. It is a very expensive and difficult place to visit and therefore this deliberate policy does not cater for, and the Delta is not, a 'budget traveller' destination. This is reflected in the rates of most of the Okavango Delta lodges & camps. The benefits are obvious though, the environment of The Okavango Delta remains unspoiled, a safe haven for its protected wildlife and extensive plant life.
The Okavango Delta peoples consist of 5 ethnic groups, each with its own ethnic identity and language. They are Hambukushu, Dceriku, Wayeyi, Bugakhwe and ||anikhwe. They have common mixed economies of millet/sorghum agriculture, fishing, hunting, and the collection of wild plant foods. Small numbers of people from other ethnic groups such as Ovaherero and Ovambanderu live in parts of the Okavango Delta, but are not considered as part of the Okavango Delta peoples.
The Okavango Delta supports a diversity of wildlife including:
- 164 species of mammal
- 400 species of bird
- 157 types of reptile
- 84 species of fish
- And over 5,000 different insects.
It is mostly the larger mammals that tourists prefer to see, and 4 of the 'Big 5' are evident and are sought after in the Delta. (Lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo). The 'Big 5 was originally a hunting term used to describe Africa's most dangerous animals, but is now used as a term for the main attractions for the visiting safari game-viewer.
Unfortunately the rhino has been poached to the brink of extinction, mainly for its horn, but in 2002, the Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks began the process of reintroducing white rhinos on Chief's Island at Mombo Camp. Some 15 white rhino have been released and are seen regularly around the accommodation establishments at Mombo and Chief's Camps. Apart from crocs and a host of other reptiles, you can find:
Aardvark, lion, cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, spotted hyena, giraffe, hippo, elephant, Burchell's zebra, African wild dog, warthog and white rhino.
Duiker, steenbok, kudu, bushbuck, impala, reedbuck, waterbuck, gemsbok, springbok, sable, roan, eland, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest and tsessebe. Specialities of the Okavango include the red lechwe and sitatunga (both water dependent antelopes).
Black-backed jackal, side-striped jackal, bat-eared fox, Cape fox, caracal, African wild cat, serval, black-footed cat, Cape clawless otter, spotted-necked otter, striped polecat, honey badger, small-spotted genet, large-spotted genet, African civet, Selous' mongoose, large grey mongoose, water mongoose, slender mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, banded mongoose and dwarf mongoose. Crested porcupine, springhare, ground and tree squirrels, a large selection of mice, rats and gerbil, elephant, dwarf and musk shrew, African hedgehog, 28 types of bat, pangolin, Cape hare and finally scrub hare!
Chacma baboon, vervet monkey and lesser bush-baby.
Babbler, barbet, bateleur, 6 types of bee-eater, golden bishop, dwarf bitterns, swamp bou-bou. Kori bustard, buzzards, canaries, ant-eating chats, fan-tailed cisticolas, cormorants, coucals and cuckoos. Darters, doves and ducks, eagles, egrets and falcons, finches, flamingo's and flycatchers.
Francolin, geese, goshawk, hawks, herons, honeyguides and hornbills. Kestrels, kingfishers, kites, larks, lowries and nightjars. Ostrich, owls, parrots, pipits, plovers, quelea and rollers. Sandpipers, shrikes, secretarybirds, snipe, sparrow and starling. Storks, sunbirds, swallows, teals, terns and titbabblers. Vultures, warblers, waxbills, weavers, whydahs and widows, and not forgetting woodpeckers to name but a lot!
Where to go:
On the north-western side of the Delta, is an area known as 'The Panhandle'. There are a number of older, more established camps here that are considered fishing camps; the tiger-fishing is excellent and the bird-watching is outstanding, with unusual sightings such as skimmers, egrets, storks, kingfishers and warblers.
As it is possible to drive the entire west side of the Delta, from the Caprivi Strip in Namibia in the north and right down to Lake Ngami at the south of the Delta, camps in the panhandle can offer a different Okavango experience for those self-driving around the region. The panhandle is also the gateway to the fascinating Tsodilo Hills, a great site for bushman art, best visited on a mobile safari.
Moremi Game Reserve – See the Moremi Game Reserve Section
There are a number of areas known as concessions, all teeming with wildlife which can only be reached by light aircraft followed by a road or boat transfer to a luxury tented camp or lodge. They include:
- Abu concession
- Chitabe Concession
- Jao Consecion
- Kwedi Concession
- Mombo Concession (within the Moremi Reserve)
- NG 24
- NG 27a
- NG 27b
- NG 29
- NG 32
- Xigera Concession (within Moremi)
Advantages of using accommodation in private concession areas:
The Okavango Delta's astounding environment is preserved by the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, surrounded by a grid system of concessions that offer accommodation in a few small, luxury private camps & lodges. Visitors are transferred by air, with outstanding safari activities on offer.
In contrast to National Game Parks, these private reserves:
- Allow off-road guided safaris when searching for and following game.
- Organize night-drives that otherwise would not give visitors the chance to view nocturnal animals; leopard are more frequently seen around dusk and at night.
- Offer walking safaris in the Okavango Delta which are not permitted in the National Parks.
- Are private. You'll see few other people on safari, which enhances your own game viewing opportunities.
When to go:
During late November and early December the first rains arrive and the Okavango is transformed. Many parts of the concession are now almost unrecognisable; dry, sandy areas have turned green overnight, and countless small plants have sprouted. Waterholes fill up and many species start the birthing season; new born impala, zebra and tsessebe are everywhere, an it's an incredible time to visit to see day-old calves taking their first steps. It is the time of year to see predators: this sudden profusion of new life is something of a bonanza for mainly lion, leopard and cheetah. Birdlife also comes to life as many species begin breeding and nesting.
Much game migrates from the open floodplains to the areas between the woodlands and the floodplains, and towards April on into the woodlands itself, in search of new shoots and sweet grass. Many migrant species of birds gather to gorge themselves on insects before their long flight North. Pel's fishing owl breed and begin to nurture the new born chicks in this period.
Localised downpours of rainfall peter our towards the end of April. The vegetation continues to grow, thus creating a lush undergrowth that provides perfect ambush territory for the big cats. As the rains end, the land starts to look parched, as grasses slowly turn brown and the overall lush of the landscape starts to deteriorate. At the same time, however, the Okavango's water starts to flood the plains for the first time, and a totally new look appears.
May guarantees the arrival of the Okavango’s flood waters peaking around June. It is actually possible to see the flood waters encroach and cover the surrounding floodplains until there is nothing left but water and palm fringed islands. Animals spring to life, as the new water flushes out rodents from their hibernation, making them easy meals for all kinds of predators!
Plains game, especially red lechwe, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest wade into the water, seeking out new shoots. Thousands of water-lilies emerge for the first time, covering the water in blankets of stunning blue and white flowers. Jacana's follow the rising waters by moving on floating vegetation on lily-covered pans, seemingly walking on water.
Bream and other fish swim up the new channels awaking the attention of kingfishers, cormorants and the African fish eagle. Bird life is prolific throughout the period as the water is packed with nutrients, providing a welcome source of food.
It is also the start of the rutting season of many species of antelope. Rams battle for control of the best grasses, that will subsequently invite the highest number of females in time for breeding.
June-Aug: It is a stunning time of year for birders and safari lovers alike as the Okavango is the only place in Botswana where there is a second wet season. Many animals migrate to the area, congregating around the flood waters. This big push of water comes down the Delta reaching its peak in July.
Most days are clear with beautiful blue skies and game tends to stay out in the open for longer; basking in the sunlight to take away the chill form the night before. It is the middle of the dry season and the grasses have all become light brown, dry and lack the nutrients game needs. Coupled with the fact that the watering holes in the woodlands have also dried up, the game starts to leave the woodlands in search of water and the sources of good grass that surround the floodplains.
As the grasses dry out they drop their seeds provide yet another food source for thousands of birds. Huge, flying flocks of red – billed quelea's, resemble columns of smoke and their breeding colonies fill the grasslands in their millions.
The flood recedes as the water evaporates and yet another change in the scenery takes place. New grasses shoot up and start to cover the dry floodplains and large herds feed on the new sweet grasses.
The migratory birds flock back in their thousands, signalling the beginning of summer and the end of spring. Many of the Okavango’s plants and trees start to flower and huge herds of elephants start to gather in the area.
As October comes to a close, temperatures reach their peak and much of the flood water has dried up. The game follows the withdrawing waters, seeking out the new shoots that continue to be exposed. In the remaining pools, large concentrations of catfish and bream remain cut off, easy prey to the large flocks of fish-eating birds. This is one of the best time of the year for birders.
Explore the Okavango Delta from atop an elephant. This has to be the top safari experience ever!
A small camp, with the emphasis firmly placed on quality acitivites and accommodation
One of the most established camps in Botswana, still offers the excellent facilities, location & service which made it popular in the first place
In the permanent wetland area of the delta, this camp can all but guarentee excellent wildlife & game viewing
Very small camp (maximum of 10 guests) in an area known for excellent African wild dog viewing
Small & friendly camp. Ideal for small groups who want exclusive use of the entire lodge
Lions hunting buffalo form the iconic images of this camp. A brilliant camp for those with the desire to view two of the big five going hoof to claw!
Offers accommodation at the Main & Bush Camps which are linked by a lantern lit causeway
A very well established luxury lodge with lots of facilities & activities designed to make for an exciting and pleasant stay
A small and exclusive camp!
A small and extremly popular camp situated on a concession area in the northern reaches of the Delta
A horse is the perfect way to explore this remote area of Botswana. Riding safaris are offered in small groups & last for about 7 days
Set on Chief's Island, within the Moremi Game Reserve of the Okavango Delta - the camp offers brilliant game-viewing opportunities
One of the few child friendly lodges in the Delta
One of the cheapest establisments in the area, offers basic accommodation in permanently errected dome tents
8 spacious stone cottages built alongside the Santantadibe River which is characterised by several and beautiful lagoons
An excellent child friendly camp!
On the far northern edges of the Delta the camp offers a cross over between the dry grass plains & waterways of the Okavango.
A luxury camp in the heart of the Delta. The focus here is on the waterways of the area rather than big game
Boasting the highest density of sitatunga anywhere in the Delta
A small remote lodge in one of the most spectacular wetland areas
A luxury camp in the heart of the Delta. The focus here is on the waterways of the area rather than big game