It’s a year round destination with game at its most prolific during the dry season (July to October). Small luxury camps are dotted amongst the intricate network of waterways interspersed with fertile floodplains and riverine forest. Many of the camps can only be accessed by light aircraft landing at the camps closest bush airstrip.
Some camps are in true wetland areas where water based activities of mokoro and motorboat are perfect for bird watching or fishing and others are set in a mix of habitats suitable for both land and water based activities. Serious predator action can be witnessed here when buffalo herds are effectively marooned on delta islands and powerful lions see their chance and go in for the kill in broad daylight! Duba Expedition Camp is where this all happens, sitting in the heart of classic Okavango Delta habitat. A matrix of palm-dotted islands, flood plains and woodland, the 77,000-acre private concession typifies the region’s unique landscape.
The Okavango Delta is the most popular destination in Botswana due to its pristine unique environment and excellent game viewing throughout the year. Considered to be one of Africa’s last great wildlife sanctuaries, the Okavango Delta is rich in biodiversity. Being the largest inland delta system in the world, this semi-arid wetland within a desert houses a wide range of habitats on both land and sea, most famously its papyrus fringed islands amidst serene waterways. As a result, a wide range of activities are available to enable travellers to witness all walks of life, including game drives, boat trips, makoro canoeing, elephant and horse backed safaris and guided walks. The Okavango Delta is divided into vast private concessions, where visitor numbers are strictly regulated and the camps commonly only accessible by light aircraft. Each concession is home to a range of lodges and safari experiences on offer.
The Okavango Delta’s Concessions
Mapula and Gudigwa
Situated in the northwest of the Okavango, this concession offers a range of scenic environments. The southern mopane woodlands provide a suitable habitat for big mammals including giraffe, zebra and numerous species of antelope. Predators are commonly spotted, with leopard, lion and wild dog being the dominant species. Throughout the year buffalo and elephants reside in the area. The birdlife is varied and diverse; from the endangered wattled crane to the carmine bee eaters, all of which can be viewed during a range of activities including day and night drives and guided walks. The concession offers close up viewing of the local wildlife such as Mapula lodge which overlooks a lagoon inhabited with hippos. In addition, Gudigwa lodge gives visitors a cultural opportunity to interact with the local village.
Khwai Community Concession
Covering 18,000 hectares of the north eastern corner of the Okavango, riparian forests, floodplains, wetlands and grasslands provide a home to rich biodiversity. The Kwai channel is home to hippo and crocodile, with red lechwe grazing nearby and migratory buffalo herds every year. The riverine and acacia woodlands are a sanctuary to birds and primates, and leopards are common as a result of broken woodland and open areas. The area is famous for its roan antelope which are infrequently found outside the Khwai concession. Lion, wild dog and hyena are the dominant predators. The vast expanse of water systems attracts elephants during the dry season and birdlife is diverse in such areas; being home to the relatively rare Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. Towards the end of the dry season, the density of raptors, such as the martial eagle, soar. A range of activities are offered at the various lodges, with game drives being the dominant form of excursion. Several camps offer trips to local villages where tourists can see examples of basket weaving, jewellery making, and the local cultures.
Established as a safari park in the 1990’s, Kwara is a highly praised concession on the northern side of the Okavango. With a wide range of landscapes, the area has shallow floodplains and deep water areas on the north side of the Delta, and vast dry game viewing to the north, enabling a variety of safari experiences. Between July and September, the southern end of the concession gets flooded, so the camps can offer a range of wet and dry safaris. Despite the receding floods from October to June, deep water channels still enable water safaris to occur year round. In the drier areas, the dominant antelope are tsessebe and impala; however reedbuck and kudu are also common. All the big cats are present and frequently sighted, and there is a relatively large population of wild dog which is most frequently seen in February. Lion and cheetah feature heavily from June to October. Birdlife is as diverse as the game and the Gcodikwe Lagoon’ boat rides offers opportunities to view colonies of breeding storks, egrets, herons and spoon bills during the winter months. Elsewhere, giant kingfishers, fish eagles and white backed night herons reside and are most often seen between September and November. The area offers the full range of activities throughout the year; however, excursions on offer will be lodge dependent.
Shinde is a relatively small private concession in the northeast of the Okavango consisting of a range of ecosystems. Mopane woodlands, dry savannah, seasonally flooded grasslands and deep-water channels all ensure a sufficient breadth of game opportunities annually. Between July and September, the seasonal floods enable mokoro safaris to take place where hippo, spotted-necked otters and other water-based mammals are commonly spotted. Lone bull elephants are around for most of the year, but migrate in large herds towards the end of the dry season. The area is home to a wide range of predators, with lion, hyena, leopard and wild dog being the most dominant. A range of water and land based activities are on offer, including walking and night safaris, however it is very much lodge dependant.
Vumbura and the Duba Plains
The Vumbura Plains is home to a wide range of habitats, attracting a variety of predator and prey species, however sighting are not as reliable as other areas so the plains are better for experienced safari people who will appreciate the honey badgers, porcupines and sable antelope. Relatively few predators reside in the Vumbura; however the Duba plains are home to a greater variety of big cats. Cheetah is best seen in the dry season on the open floodplains and leopards are occasionally seen on night drives. The Duba plains are arguably the best location to view lions, so the main attraction is watching them hunting buffalo in broad daylight. Birdlife is varied as a result of the complex accumulation of wet and dryland environments, with pelicans and flamingos being a highlight. Both land and water based activities are on offer; however they are flood level dependent, with mokoro trips most commonly offered in the dry season (May-August).
Covering 600km² of the upper Okavango Delta, the Jao flats are considered one of the best private concessions in the Okavango. The flats receive early and reliable floods so from late May, the open plains attract huge herds of lechwe and consequently, prides of lion in pursuit. Lone male buffalo and elephants can be spotted from June onwards, which later accumulate in large herds in the late dry season. By October, dry game viewing is the dominant form of activity as the lack of deep-water channels hinders mokoro and motorboat safaris. Game viewing is less intense as the wet season approaches in November, however, birdlife flourishes. The Jao flats are famous for housing less common water-based bird species such as pink throated longclaws, and in drier areas, flocks of Meyer’s parrots and kestrels.
Located to the southwest of the Okavango, the drier Abu Concession covers an area of 1,730km². Covering a range of different habitats from permanent channels and palm islands to seasonal floodplains and patches of Kalahari savannah in the west, the concession’s landscapes do not fail to disappoint. The Abu concession is most famous for its unique elephant backed safaris; the only place in the delta to offer such excursions, based out of the Abu Camp. Additionally, Macatoo camp is one of the delta’s two camps to offer horse-riding. The area attracts the big game including elephants, buffalo, giraffe and baboons, with lion and spotted hyena being the dominant predators. The birdlife is also rich, with around 380 species residing in the Abu concession. A combination of Kalahari appleleaf trees with silver terminalia adds contrast to the area. To get the maximum experience, the drier months of May to October are best.
Situated to the heart of the Okavango, the Nxabega is one of the wetter parts of the delta, so is highly seasonal. Towards the north-west of the concession, acacia thickets and broadleaf forests attract giraffe and elephants whereas mixed woodlands are perfect for leopard sightings. A unique addition to the area is evident in September, when the thick coverings of hippo grass on the floodplains turn the landscape orange/red. Baobabs are common to the Nxabega along with wild date palms which grow on tiny islands within the flood plains. All main game is present with lion and spotted hyena being the most common predators. Birdlife is particularly good in this area, with the Kanana camp offering motorboat excursions to witness Squacco herons and kingfisher activities. There are a handful of lodges within the Nxabega concession which between them cover a full range of activities; both land and water based.
Gunn’s is a small private concession located in the southeast of the delta. In contrast to other concessions, the main forms of excursion are water based, by mokoro on the Boro River, which is regarded as the perfect way to absorb the ambiance of the delta whilst spotting big game near the river. Hippos, crocodiles and elephants are common amongst a wide range of bird species including knob-billed ducks and saddle-billed storks. When water levels are higher, red winged pratincoles accumulate in large flocks and woodland kingfishers can been seen hunting insects in riverine forests towards the end of October. A highlight activity of the area is offered by the Eagle Island Camp, when game viewing can be conducted by helicopter; offering staggering views of the vast delta region.
Xigera and Mombo Concession
Spread of 6,000 hectares, this picturesque area is comprised of papyrus swamps and wooded islands. Mammal sightings in the Xigera Concession range from red lechwe, spotted neck otter and elephants, to the highest density of sitatunga antelope in the Okavango Delta. Predators are numerous and the birdlife is dominated by swamp dwellers including the Brown Fire finch and African Pygmy Goose. The wildlife is mostly viewed by boat or mokoro excursions; however game drives do occur during the dry season.
Within the Mombo Concession on Chief’s Camp island, great diversity of habitats exist; from mopane woodland and Kalahari sands, to palm islands and riverine forests. Resultantly, the area is excellent for big game viewing by land. Giraffe, zebra, warthog, elephant and buffalo are all widespread; however, the area is unique in the presence of the only white and black rhino found in the Okavango Delta. The area is famous for its large population of vultures, which are attracted to the game densities, such as the white backed, hooded and lappet-faced vultures. In addition, honey badgers, springhares and porcupines are often sighted around the camps at night.
Most well-known for its horse riding safaris, this 2,500km² region of the Okavango allows visitors to ride among the wildlife. The Xudum Concession has become steadily drier over the last century, resulting in the majority of the habitats being savannah plains and small areas of floodplain. Categorised by an abundance of wild sage, the landscape is also dotted with sausage trees, Leadwood thickets and huge termite mounds. Towards the north of the concession, near where the Boro River borders Moremi, riparian forests are dominant. There is extensive wildlife in this concession, with lions being the dominant predator and tsessebe their central prey. Roan antelope, Gemsbok, Zebra and Wildebeest are often sighted and small groups of elephant may be seen throughout the year. During the dry winter, large herds of buffalo and elephant migrate through the region in search for permanent water sources. The Boro River is home to an abundance of hippo’s and crocodiles and numerous aquatic bird species. Xudum’s varied habitat explains the breadth of bird species present in the area, with some of the biggest colonies of Pratincoles arriving in May. Opportunities to witness yellow-billed kites and steppe eagles arrive in late August.
Renowned for having a broad range of game, the Chitabe area offers an assortment of habitats which attract a wide range of species. Situated in the south east of the Okavango, the reserve is considered to be seasonal flood plains rather than permanent delta, and is characterised by open flood plains, deep water channels and mixed forests including Fever trees, Sausage Trees and Jackal-berry trees. Chitabe’s diverse habitats support numerous animals. The area has experienced good sightings of leopard and other predators including wild dogs and lions, along with cheetah in the drier areas. Large grazing herds of impala and zebra are not uncommon on the floodplains and there are several permanent herds of elephant and buffalo, whose populations soar between June and October when herds can exceed 1000. The area has an unusually high incidence of pangolin sightings foraging in the open, along with aardvarks, aardwolves and porcupines frequently seen on night game drives in their nocturnal habitats. The mix of tranquil waterways, woodlands and palm-island floodplains creates the ideal habitats for a broad range of over 386 species of bird. Eagles are the most common bird, along with hooded vultures and a wide variety of waterbirds. The main forms of excursion are day and night game drives; however, the Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge offers seasonal boat trips.
Spread over an area of 1,500km² and covered by open savannah grasslands that are rarely flooded, this area is much drier than other regions of the Okavango. Grasslands are dominated by atomic grey-green wild sage and Cradle Pod Acacia shrubs whilst along the Delta channels, riverine forests house vegetation associated with wetter areas including Jackalberries, Leadwoods and Sausage Trees. The concession however does not hold the same sense of remoteness as other regions of the Okavango, being only a five minute hopper flight away from Maun.
Impala and Tsessebe is the most common antelope, however Red Lechwe and Reedbuck are common in wetter areas in contrast to Kudu, Giraffe and Warthog in the drier regions. Elephant and buffalo are mostly sighted during the dry season in large herds. The area’s top predator are lion, however the area is one of the better areas in the Delta to witness Cheetahs hunting on open grasslands. Birdlife is good, with a mix of water bird species, and in open areas, larger birds such as kori bustards and ostriches. Access to permanent water from the Boro River enables the camps to claim a full range of wet and dry safaris throughout the year. In addition, two camps offer opportunities for guests to participate with the Grey Matters project, enabling them to interact closely and walk with a small population of rescued elephants.
Located in the far south of the Delta over 900km², most of the reserve is covered by open floodplains, small islands and thick Mopane woodlands which attract a range of animals throughout the year. Near the Gomoti River, riparian woodlands on the western side of the reserve are home to a wide variety of tree species including Marulas, African Mangosteens and Sycamore figs. Giraffe, Impala and Elephant are not uncommon, and on a good day, a small group of Sable Antelope may be spotted. Lion and Wild Dogs are the most common predator; however, cheetah and leopard do reside in the area, but are rarely seen as many parts of the concession are relatively inaccessible. One highlight of the area is the seasonal migration of Buffalo and Elephants that pass through during the dry season. 208 species of bird reside in the Sankuyo which consist of a range of species; from doves to bateleur to ostrich. The area is well-known for its walking safaris led by expert guides; however, day and night game drives are one of the best ways to view the diverse variety of wildlife.
Tucked between Chobe and Okavango, Mababe is a private concession consisting largely of open savannah scattered with large camelthorn trees. The concession is home to two lodges which offer day and night drives and guided bush walks throughout the year. During the dry season, the plains witness herds migrating out of Linyanti, however, the concession remains rather peripheral so delivers a second class experience for Botswana standards.
The dry season (May to October) is regarded to be the best time of year to view game, once the floodwaters have extended the size and habitat diversity of the Delta. Towards the end of the dry season, extensive numbers of animals migrate towards the floods, particularly buffalo, elephant and zebra, which concentrate their populations around water sources. Resultantly, a wide range of predators are present, with lion and hyena being the dominant top carnivores. A further advantage of travelling during the dry season is notably the absence of mosquitoes which are abundant during the wetter months.
The wet season generally lasts from November to April. During the height of the wet season (December to February), intensive rainfall can affect accessibility and road quality, resultantly hindering the overall experience. However, the rains enable boat trips and mokoro excursions to commence which are dependent on deep river levels. The rains prompt some animals to migrate away from the delta region, so game viewing in the rainy season can be relatively less eventful in comparison to the dry season. Despite of this, birdlife is at its peak during the rainy months so a birdwatcher will have a greater opportunity to view a larger variety of species during the rainy months of December to March.
One of the most beautiful places on earth – its scale is best appreciated from the air as you ...read more
One of the most beautiful places on earth – its scale is best appreciated from the air as you take in the expanses of reed beds, water lilies punctuated with palm tree islands and first glimpses of Africa’s Big 5.
Photo credit: Mike Myers
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Photo Credit: andbeyond
By July and August the floods have reached the delta and make this the best time to explore the ...read more
By July and August the floods have reached the delta and make this the best time to explore the Okavango by mokoro – the traditional Delta dugout canoe.
Photo credit: andbeyond
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The Sitatunga is a water adapted species and the most elusive antelope to spot on a in the permanent waters of the Okavango Delta. A definite highlight for the safari oficionado.
Photo credit: Dana Allen
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Photo credit: andbeyond
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Viewing wildlife on horse back is exhilarating enabling close encounters with the game. An Okavango Delta experience can be arranged as a multi day trip or a half day adventure.
Photo credit: Okavango Horse Back Safaris
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The Big 5 Safari company is a supporter of the The Zambezi Society and support its vital conservation work and anti-poaching patrols.Discover