The Okavango Delta in Botswana has to be one of earths' most unique wilderness regions and many visitors are drawn to this pristine wilderness that is the heart of Botswana's incredible northern wilderness.
Okavango. Swamp or Delta?
Apart from the wildlife and vegetation the Okavango Delta moves to rhythms that are not experienced anywhere else in Africa. Known by some as a swamp the Okavango has a range of ecosystems aside from the permanent waters. In the wilderness areas of southern Africa there are two seasons - the dry season and the wet season. Winter is generally the dry season and mid to late summer the wet season - and so it is in the vast wilderness of northern Botswana.
In the Okavango Delta the rains begin in earnest well into the hot summer months and may last into April. This then is logically when the waters in the delta should be at their highest - but not everything works according to human logic in the Okavango.
Wilderness high and dry
The waters of the Okavango are at their highest when the dry season is taking its toll on the wilderness. In fact it is during the rainy season that the delta is at its lowest levels for the year. This strange phenomenon is due to the rainfall patterns in the delta region and the catchment area of the rivers that provide the delta with water.
The Okavango basin receives, on average, less than 500mm of rain per annum, a relatively low rainfall figure when looking at the lush oasis that is the delta itself. In general the rainfall comprises less than a third of the annual water intake in the delta and is only enough to raise the water table. Only in exceptional rainfall years will the delta flood from the local rainfall.
A river's journey
Most of the water that floods the Okavango comes from 1700km away in the catchment area of the Angolan Highlands, a process that can take up to six months before the water reaches the delta itself. By the time the water reaches the delta the dry season is well advanced leading to the unique situation of flooded plains surrounding dry dusty islands.
The story of the Okavango is unique in Africa, but it is in the seasonal changes of the different regions of the delta where the true wonder lies.