Safari Destinations – Delta Excitement

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Andrea Reumerman

The Okavango Delta – Who Turned Off the Tap?
Perhaps you’ve been hearing talk that the Okavango Delta has dried up; that there’s no water; that the drought is real. Maybe you’ve been wondering what to advise clients. Should they go? What will they find there? Certainly not the typical wetlands and animal-filled floodplains that the Okavango is famed for?

Well, that’s where you’d be wrong.
For those of you wanting to understand the Okavango, the first thing you’ll learn is that change is its one constant. From November to March, Botswana goes through its green season, and at this time, water levels in the Okavango Delta are at their lowest. From April onwards (sometimes a bit earlier and often later) water starts hitting the upper delta and, over the following months, slowly trickles its way south.

Right now, thanks to local rainfall, things are still nice and green, but there’s less water for boating and mokoro excursions. Narrow waterways and shrinking pools left over from last winter’s floodwater are dominated by hippos and not suitable for water excursions. Currently, there’s more dry land in the Okavango Delta’s floodplains than water, meaning that game viewing in traditionally water-surrounded camps is actually better than ever right now.

So, should I send my clients?
Definitely. Low water levels most affect the Okavango Delta’s water activities during the green season, which is also the quietest time for travel to Botswana. The lack of rain has led to better-than-normal-for-green-season game viewing, everywhere from the Chobe Riverfront to the southwest Delta. Our Okavango Delta fills and empties annually. This constant change is what’s normal and unique about it. Already, we’ve got reports of water rising by as much as 7 cms a day on the Kavango River in Namibia, which will feed the Okavango Delta over the coming months.

A Miracle of Nature – the Okavango Delta and its changing water levels
At Safari Destinations we get around! Here’s what we’re excited about at the moment… Thursday 21 January 2016.

As you may be aware the water levels in the Delta are dropping fast and furiously this season. Boating and mekoro activities are being stopped in most areas as either there is no more water left, or it’s packed with crocodiles and hippos who are holding on to the last bit of wet that is available out there, which means: we really don’t want to place our guests in the middle of it all on a boat or mokoro.

The Okavango has gone through wet and dry spells as long as time. Local rainfall, Angolan rainfall, small seismic shifts in the underlying tectonics, it all makes for a rather involved and very unpredictable miracle of nature. For the past years, we could all lean back, almost guarantee water activities for most of the year in lots of areas and have our clients looking forward to gliding across the delta on a mokoro and zooming through the papyrus lined channels.

Currently we are looking at a totally different scenario, the Okavango is at its driest since a long time. I’m sure some clients will be a bit disappointed about missing out on their water experience. Did the Okavango cheat us? Maybe we have to change our approach in how we present it? The Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s last wildernesses. There is no regulating its flows, it’s left to nature, the water comes and goes and the animals adjust to whatever comes along. The delta has hundreds of different faces. Wetter ones, drier ones, and lots and lots in between. Every single season has its very unique upsides. Sure the bush is thick and rather impenetrable in the rains, but it also makes for wonderful lush background, for happy and relaxed animals, lots of babies everywhere, for dramatic skies, and it is all dotted by the summer migrants who come visit.

The dry months are more dramatic, the animals are bound to being close to water, there is high competition for food and the air vibrates around the hot spots. The lines between dry and wet months have started becoming rather blurry, climate definitely has changed. So maybe we should wave good bye to trying to predict the next season as clearly as possible and prepare our travellers as meticulously as we can on what exactly to expect. Let’s rather convey a message of being open minded for anything that nature and the Okavango have up their sleeves for us. In average years it might be this and that, but we cannot know exactly, we can only guarantee that it will be wild, untamed, untampered with, that it will be “the real thing”.

We need to focus on that Miracle of Nature and understand that change brings new opportunities in the Delta. The game is more concentrated as the water levels drop, and the sightings can be more varied and exclusive. This is the reality of our “Backyard” and rather than missing a water experience, you are part of one of Wildest Africa’s greatest natural events.