Okavango Delta & PanhandleThe Okavango Delta in Botswana, is one of the major attractions of the country and has been added to many a person's Bucket List. It is one of the largest inland deltas in the world and receives approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water on an annual basis, arriving from the highlands of Angola. The water fans out in the shape of an open hand, and is slowed down by the Okavango Fault Lines, which form an invisible border. Dependent on the rains, the flood traditionally starts arriving from March onwards, with water levels in the central Okavango at their peak between May and August, and it is at it's driest around October. The rain received in Botswana during the wet season (November/December - April), usually supplies sufficient water until the next flood arrives.
Although the Okavango is the broader term for most of northeastern Botswana, it can be subdivided into smaller categories, each with its own special attributes. Encompassed within the Okavango delta, you will find the Okavango Panhandle, Moremi Game Reserve, Chief's IsIand, Khwai as well as Maun, the latter acting as the administrative hub.
Things to do in the Okavango Delta & Panhandle:
In the Okavango Panhandle your activities will revolve mostly around mokoro, guided walks and boat cruises. There is little game in this area, since it's located on the wrong end of the fenceline, which keeps wildlife from entering and you will find few lodges that offer game drives. Most activities concentrate on birding or fishing, as well as experiencing the beauty of the Okavango Delta. This is one of the top regions for birding and the place to be if you want to witness the Carmine Bee eater colonies. Other special interests are the Barbel Run for Tiger Fishing.
When staying southeast of the Okavango Panhandle (the other side of the fence), the chances of seeing wildlife are significantly higher and a large number of lodges also offer game drives, in addition to the above mentioned activities. If you are thinking of doing something more out of the ordinary, Hot Air Ballooning is available when staying at Vumbura Plains Camp, Little Vumbura and Kedizora camps. Heliflips and Scenic flights over the Okavango Delta can also be arranged at certain locations.
How to get to the Okavango Delta & Panhandle:
In contrast to the Okavango Delta, the Okavango Panhandle is best for self-drivers, who can either drive with their own vehicle to the lodge, or if the roads don't permit, a short road transfer can be arranged from a safe parking space to their accommodation (enquire with your accommodation before arrival). The Okavango Panhandle is accessible by air to Shakawe Airport, or a lodge that owns their own airstrip, such as Nxamaseri Island Lodge and Nguma Island Lodge.
The heart of the Okavango Delta is mainly accessible by aircraft, and the only parts that can be driven into are the Moremi Game Reserve and Khwai. The best way of experiencing the Delta, is nevertheless by flying to a camp located in the midst of the floodplains, and is the closest you will get to the natural waterways. If you are completely opposed to flying, Moremi Crossing and Gunn's Camp offer boat transfers from Maun on a special request basis, although it will take roughly 4 hours by boat, versus 20 minutes by air. Boat transfers are also dependent on water levels and least likely to take place in October.
Where to Stay in the Okavango Delta & Panhandle:
There are very many answers to this question and would suggest you choose a place according to your special interests. The Okavango Panhandle and the depths of the Okavango Delta are one of the best choices if you are an avid birder. Suggested accommodation in the Panhandle would be Nxamaseri Island Lodge and in the Delta Camp Okavango. If wildlife watching is your preference, a lodge that offers game drives will be your best bet, as you can cover much more ground. Any lodge based in or around Moremi Game Reserve, usually has good sightings of both predators and herbivores.
Click the blue link for a full list of accommodation.