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Up to 15000km2 of the kalahari is transformed into one of the miracles of nature and one of Africa's prime wildlife regions. Rain water falling 1000km away in the central Angolan highlands flows southwards down the Okavango river into the flat kalahari desert of Botswana and never finds it way to the sea. The water turns the hostile, dry kalahari into one of nature's paradises. This fast flowing river transforms the desert into lush waterways, lagoons, floodplains, and fast and slow flowing rivers to create a wonderful haven for all forms of wildlife.

Bird life is stunning with the peak during the spring and summer months from October through to March when the intra-african and european migrants are resident.

The Okavango can be divided into a number of key habitats, the Main Okavango river (t he "Pan Handle"), the Permanent Waters of the Okavango Delta (The northern Region), and the Drylands of the Okavango.


The Main Okavango River - the "Pan Handle".

This is one of the biggest rivers in Southern Africa when the "floods" are at their peak (January to April - depending on rainfall pattern in angola). From the moment the Okavango river enters Botswana, after crossing Namibia's Caprivi, till it reaches the Okavango Delta proper, 100kms away, a wonderful world awaits keen birding enthusiasts. This part of the Okavango offers some of Botswana's best birding. The nutrients have not been leached out of the wide and fast flowing river and birds concentrate along this stretch of the Okavango. Lush riverine forests line the riverbanks when the river touches "dry land". Otherwise papyrus and phragmites are the dominant features.

Birding Specials Pel's Fishing-Owl (often common in some areas), African Skimmer, White-backed Night-Heron, Bat Hawk, African Wood-Owl, Narina Trogon (summer only), Southern Carmine Bee-eater colonies (especially during breeding season - late August to October when they nest communally in the steep river banks). Some of the best birding is to be enjoyed if you are lucky enough to come across a barbel run. This happens intermittently between mid-August and late October depending on the year and local flood levels. Barbels congregate in large numbers and swim upstream to breed. They are in turn followed by all the predatory fish - especially tiger fish. They are in turn followed by vast numbers of birds of all descriptions. Following a barbel run is one of southern Africa's finest birding experiences as hundreds of egret, herons, storks, African Fish-Eagle etc feast on the fish. But you have to be at the right place at the right time and there are no guarantees. The only confirmed record of a Ross's Turaco in Southern Africa was from this area.


The Permanent Waters of the Okavango Delta - The Northern Region

The main Okavango river has started to split up into smaller rivers e.g. the Boro, Nqoga, Thaoge. The islands are larger than found in the floodplains in the pan handle - but not large enough to sustain large numbers of wildlife, so the animal populations within the Delta are generally restricted to crocodiles, hippos, sitatunga antelope, red lechwe, buffalo, elephant, lion and leopard in some areas and other antelope.

Habitats There is ample papyrus and phragmites which line the waterways and lagoons. The islands have palms (both Phoenix and Hyphaene), Garcinia livingstonia, Diospyros mispiliformis, acacia sp. amongst others.

Birding Specials Pel's Fishing-Owl, Pink-backed Pelican (one breeding site), Swamp Boubou, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Brown Firefinch, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Chirping Cisticola, Greater Swamp-Warbler, African Pygmy-Goose, African Skimmer, Rock Pratincole, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Long-crested Eagle.


The Drylands of the Okavango

There are many areas that have large amounts of arid country either within the Okavango - or around its boundaries. Chiefs Island is a large arid island in the centre of the Okavango. The Moremi mopane "tongues" are others. These areas plus many of the surrounding countryside on the edge of the Okavango proper offer superb birding. As water is never too far away many of these areas can offer great birding, with both wetland and dryland species as well as superb game viewing. Some of the areas are accessible through the eastern Moremi Game Reserve - and others are in the private concessions - or private reserves, set aside by the Government and leased to private companies for considerable amounts of money for their guests exclusive use.

Habitats The vegetation varies from area to area but often there is a combination between open grasslands that can be seasonally flooded, palm fringed islands with rich forests and tall stands of mature woodland.

Birding Specials There are a number of specials to be found in these areas; Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Brown Firefinch, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Collared Pratincole, Chirping Cisticola, Long-toed Lapwing.



Accommodation is available in the area.

Okavango Delta Website

Guy Gibbon 2002.
Colin Bell 1997

Letaka Safaris
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