Seen from above, the Okavango appears like a claw, a vast body of water fanning out across, and clutching at, the Kalahari in a vain search for the sea.

Every year, rain that fell months ago in the Angolan Highlands filters down through the narrow Okavango Panhandle, then spreads out across the world’s largest inland delta. With each cycle, the Delta is a world made new, and the ratio of water to dry land changes. At its greatest extent, the Delta covers 18,000 square kilometres and is made up of a patchwork of community and private concessions, as well as the Moremi Game Reserve.

This is a world without fences and, because of the water levels, human settlements are mostly restricted to the Delta’s perimeter, leaving the rest to wildlife.

Okavango Delta Botswana

Canoeing by traditional mokoro in the Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta safari highlights

In the southern part of the Delta, including in Moremi Game Reserve and Khwai Community Concession, expect a mix of luxury tented camps and budget campsites catering mostly to those on self-drive safaris. The deeper you go into the Delta, the more the crowds thin, with entire concessions given over to the exclusive lodges and tented camps that are such a feature of a safari in Botswana. For most of the tourist season, many of these camps and lodges can only be reached by small plane. Out here, I’ve had the wildlife entirely to myself.

In most areas of the Okavango Delta – Moremi Game Reserve is an exception – night driving, off-road driving and walking safaris are permitted; most campsites are unfenced, making you truly a part of the African wild.

Another classic Delta activity is to take to the watery channels in a mokoro (traditional wooden dugout canoe). A scenic flight out over the Delta from Maun – either in a helicopter or a small, fixed-wing plane – is also a must.

Okavango Delta wildlife

The Okavango Delta is one of the best places in southern Africa to see animals, including big cats and elephants. There are rhinos here, primarily in the Moremi Game Reserve, but they can be difficult to find. Other commonly seen species include giraffe, zebra, buffalo, crocodiles and hippos. Watch also for aquatic specials, such red lechwe, one of the Delta’s many antelope species and one that loves the water. And some of my best sightings of African wild dogs have been here in the Delta.

The birding in the Delta is amazing, with over 400 species recorded and possible. Although many of these are residents, from November to March there are also many migrants in the area to escape the European and North African winters.

Okavango Delta safari lodges & camps

With almost 100 lodges and camps (the two terms are used interchangeably) in the Delta, you are spoilt for choice – almost all are of a high standard. Here are a few of note.

Delta Camp: specialising in walking and mokoro safaris (non-motorised activities only), this eco-conscious camp offers a back-to-nature experience without sacrificing creature comforts.

Shinde: a fantastic all-round mid-range option with some of the Delta’s most beautiful scenery combined with a well-earned reputation for wildlife.

Mombo: for predators galore, it is difficult to beat this legendary camp, which has deservedly earned its moniker as ‘the place of plenty’, although it does come with a hefty price-tag.

About the authors

Safari in the Okavango Delta

Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned travel journalist and guidebook author and is one of the world's leading authorities on Africa safari, wildlife and conservation. He has been travelling to Africa for more than two decades to research Africa safari guidebooks for Lonely Planet. He is widely published in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Monthly, Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), National Geographic Traveler, BBC Wildlife, Lonely Planet Traveller, Africa Geographic, The Independent, Travel Africa, among many others.

Safari in the Okavango Delta

James Gifford

James is an award-winning photographer and journalist based in Botswana. His work on Botswana's wildlife, landscapes and culture has been published in numerous publications including The Times, The Guardian, BBC Wildlife, Lonely Planet, CNN Traveller, amongst many others.

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