An aerial view of a small fraction of the 15,000 square kilometer expanse of the Okavago Delta. Photo from National geographic news report on the aerial survey of elephants.
The Okavango delta is produced by seasonal flooding of this very flat expanse. Summer rainfall in the Angolan highlands flows 1200 kilometers to spread over this area a month later, keeping water levels high during March through June. Resident as well as migratory birds and mammals move into the delta in huge numbers, exploiting the vast richness the delta offers.
We reached our tent camp by macoro (dugout) canoe.
Lechwe are the most populous antelope in the delta. This pair was spotted across the small tributary from our tent. Lechwe fur is somewhat water repellant, and they often escape predators by fleeing toward water.
Water birds of all kinds converge on the shores of the delta’s tributaries. The African white pelicans swarmed around our boat and landed on a small sand spit.
The diversity and density of bird life is astounding. You feel immersed in wildlife as you coast through the quiet water. Three species of storks (tall saddle-billed, gray Maribou with its back to the camera, and white Yellow-billed storks) and two species of egrets (great white and the little egret) crowded together on part of this reed and grass island.
Crocodiles basked on shore within arm’s reach of our boat, but could move very quickly into the water. This was not a good place to wade or go swimming.
Sometimes the hippos were a little too close for my comfort. This is not a telephoto shot! Our guide gunned the motor of our boat to get away from this one that surfaced right next to us at a blind cornr of the delta.
So at home in the water where they can submerge for as much as 5-6 minutes, they can also move quite quickly on land when they come out of the water in the evening. Hippos might cover 10-20 miles a night foraging on the grasses in the delta, and will even do a bit of sunbathing out of the water in the early morning hours.
For its unique, rich diversity and density of life, the Okavango delta has been declared the 1000th World Heritage site, and now enjoys greater protection by the government of Botswana in cooperation with Namibia, Angola, and Zimbabwe.