by David Ryan on May 7, 2020
10 min read

Did you know that Botswana’s Okavango Delta an 18,000 square kilometre wetland wilderness bustling with wildlife in a vast desert sand basin in landlocked northern Botswana shouldn’t really exist?

Considering that most deltas are sprawling wetlands that form at the mouth of rivers as they empty into the sea; the Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta, and the second-largest delta in the world after the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta in the Bay of Bengal, in India.

Clearly visible from space, the entire wetland is born from a trickle in the remote highlands of Angola, the humble beginning of an epic 1,000-kilometre-long river that spans three countries and culminates into the mighty Okavango River.

Water in a desert is always fascinating, an unusual phenomenon. Add in 150,000 islands, over 500 species of birds, nearly 200 species of mammals, and over 150 species of reptiles and you have the world’s premier wildlife destination! Home to the Big 5 and the largest herds of Giraffe, Buffalo and Elephant on the planet, you’re probably beginning to understand why the Okavango Delta should be on everyone’s bucket list.

When is the best time to visit the Okavango Delta?

cute lion cubs sunset Mombo Camp Okavango Delta Botswana

An Okavango Delta Safari is the crème de la crème of safari experiences.

The Okavango Delta is a seasonal destination. Prime game-viewing time is between May and August, when many animals migrate to the delta for the “high-waters” of the winter months. This is the perfect time to enjoy the unique opportunity of game-viewing by boat or mokoro, a local dugout canoe. The weather during this time of year is mild, dry and largely mosquito-free, making it the most popular time for an Okavango Delta safari.

September and October is a period we refer to as “green season”. As the water recedes, so do the animals and the lodge rates, but choosing where to stay during these “green season” months will either add or detract from your experience. Moremi Game Reserve is particularly rewarding at this time of year, as animals are concentrated in large numbers in and around the reserve.

Keen birders, or twitchers as we like to call them, will enjoy the dry and hot summer months from November to April. This period represents “the rainy season” and sees the Okavango Delta transform from an excellent bird watching destination to a sensational one.

When should I book my Okavango Delta holiday?

A beautiful sunset at Vumbura Plains Okavango Delta Botswana

A typically gorgeous sunset in the Okavango Delta.

Botswana is one of the few African countries that have adopted a high-value, low-volume tourism strategy in an effort to minimise the negative environmental impact people have on its pristine wildlife areas, while maximising socioeconomic benefits for its population. This has resulted in a highly sustainable tourism development model, as the Okavango Delta remains undoubtedly the premier wildlife destination on the planet. 

Botswana’s high-value, low-volume tourism strategy, simply translated, means there is limited availability, as lodges are small and intimate with little accommodation. Much like any big city, the ebb and flow of the Okavango Delta floodwaters means “real estate” or lodge positions are a key consideration when booking your Okavango Delta safari. Add seasonality to the mix, and front row seats, which generally imply the ability to enjoy both land and water-based activities, sell out first, and long in advance. 

Given limited availability due to Botswana’s overarching tourism strategy, it is highly recommended that when adding the Okavango to your bucket list, it is imperative you start planning and booking your Okavango Delta Safari some 12 to 18 months in advance.

The consequences of Covid-19 means that all guests destined to travel to the Okavango Delta for this year’s peak season have had to either postpone to 2021 or cancel. Given a trip to the Okavango Delta is a “once in a lifetime” experience shows us that the vast majority of guests have opted to postpone, meaning availability for 2021 is harder to find as ever.

With over 16 years experience, as Africa’s Leading Safari company, Rhino Africa is an African-based specialist tour operator arranging tailor-made wildlife safaris and holidays throughout Africa, including Botswana. Our understanding of the guest experience, combined with extensive first-hand knowledge of the lodges, makes us experts in creating magical and memorable African holidays. Whether you are travelling alone or with family and friends, or wish to celebrate a special birthday, honeymoon or anniversary, we look forward to discussing your African safari plans with you. Contact us, and let one of our Botswana Experts start planning your 2021 Botswana Safari today.

How much does an Okavango Delta safari cost?

A mokoro glides across the Okavango Delta

This is one of the last untouched wildlife sanctuaries in the world.

The Okavango Delta is an expensive holiday destination relative to its neighbouring countries like South Africa, Zambia or Namibia. The nature of high-value, low-volume tourism requires lodges to charge high prices, as a smaller number of beds are required to preserve an exponentially larger wilderness area. Domestic, and regional flights, in addition to the required lodge hops and national park fees, will further add to the cost.  

That being all said, the value of the experience you will receive on your Okavango Delta Safari is exponentially superior given the pristine wilderness that the Okavango possesses and the level of luxury and expertise with which the lodges operate.

In our 16 year experience, an epic holiday to Botswana, that includes the Okavango Delta would last about 10 days, providing enough time to experience at least two of the country’s prime wilderness areas; the Okavango Delta, the Savuti Marsh, Makgadikgadi Pans or the Chobe River. If time allows one would highly recommend adding on the incredible Victoria Falls, which provides a great entry or exit point for your Botswana holiday.

Booking to visit during peak Okavango Delta flood season will ensure the best wildlife experience, with the most comfortable weather conditions possible. One could expect a 10-day safari holiday, visiting three destinations across Botswana during the peak season will cost about US$ 11,500 per person, excluding international and regional flights.

Our favourite places to stay in the Okavango Delta

A lion stands in the Delta in Botswana

A male lion emerges from the bushes

The simplest way to explain Okavango Delta lodges is: here luxury and wilderness collide. Excellent accommodation, friendly staff, spectacular designs, warm hospitality and the most unique locations on the planet, ensure that these Luxury Okavango Delta Lodges set themselves apart from the rest.

Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta

Photo credit: Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp

Nxabega is a skilful combination of luxury and integration with the environment. The heart of Nxabega consists of sophisticated living and dining areas, made from local timber overlooking a magnificent floodplain. From this springboard of comfort, you are able to appreciate the exquisite beauty of the Okavango Delta. Enjoy exciting bush picnics in surprising settings, breakfast in bed, lamplit cocktails on a river island, or a walking safari with a tasty picnic – all provided with pleasure by Nxabega’s warm and friendly staff.

Sanctuary Chief's Camp in the Okavango Delta

Photo credit: Sanctuary Chief’s Camp

Chiefs Camp is a luxury lodge situated on Chief’s Island in the exclusive Mombo Concession of the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta. In this “predator capital of Africa”, wild dog, lion, cheetah and leopard abound, and guests enjoy exceptional opportunities to interact with this amazing environment. White rhino has been introduced to this concession, making it the only place in Botswana where these magnificent animals can be seen in their natural habitat. Shaded from the heat of the day by a beautiful grove of jackalberry trees, Chief’s Camp is so remote you’ll feel like the only humans for miles and miles.

Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta

Photo credit: Mombo Camp

The combination of seasonal flooding and rich soils at Mombo produce a nucleus of African wildlife that makes Ngorongoro look a little tame. Predators often go about their gory business on the floodplains before your eyes and you may well see all of the wildlife heavyweights – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and hyena – without leaving your poolside lounger. The Plains game is prolific with high numbers of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffe and antelope of varying stature. Birding year-round is spectacular and in addition to the delta specials, there are plenty of waders and waterfowl right at your doorstep.

Gomoti Plains in the Okavango Delta

Photo credit: Gomoti Plains

Situated on the edge of the Gomoti River, set beneath a canopy of mature acacia trees, Gomoti Plains Camp is in the centre of the Okavango Delta. Made up of eight classic safari tents and two family tents. The ideal Okavango Delta walking safari, guests will be delighted in the smaller things in the bush that one often misses when on game drives.

Duba Plains Camp in the Okavango Delta

Photo credit: Duba Plains Camp

Duba Plains is a small camp that becomes an island during the high water period in the Okavango Delta. The location is remote, the wildlife experience is spectacular and the levels of service and luxury are excellent. Known for interesting Kalahari species like aardwolf and pangolins, Duba Plains is Africa’s Garden of Eden.

Jao Camp in the Okavango Delta

Photo credit: Jao Camp

Surrounded by water and savannah woodland, Jao offers an excellent wilderness experience including mokoro (dug-out pole canoe), water safaris, guided walks, game drives, night drives and exceptional bird watching. The wildlife is as diverse as the range of activities and the birdlife is spectacular with delta specials like Pel’s fishing owl, wattled crane, slaty egrets, pink-throated longclaws, African skimmers and jacanas. The rare lechwe and sitatunga are resident in this area and receding water levels bring the plains game: elephant, wildebeest, tsessebe, lechwe and zebra. Lions, leopards and cheetahs are often seen on the floodplains.

Our favourite Botswana tour

sunset campfire lodge vumbura plains okavango delta botswana

This is the most fantastic wilderness destination in the world.

Traverse some of the wildest regions of the planet with The African Adventure Tour. From the Okavango Delta, Moremi, Chobe, as well as the glorious Victoria Falls, this tour gives you a starting point for what your trip to Botswana could entail. It covers routes we’ve found work particularly well and feature some of our favourite places to stay. Treat it as inspiration, and let us tailor-make your 2021 Botswana trip.

Why book with us?

Okavango Delta safaris are made with peace in mind

Peace and quiet precipitate peak season in the Okavango Delta.

Covid-19 is forcing us to collectively live through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, but we at Rhino Africa are determined to rise to this generational challenge. As Africa’s Leading Safari Company, we will continue to look to tourism as the force that uplifts Africa’s poorest communities and protects her wildlife.  

Tourism not only enriches the lives of our incredible guests, but supports millions of livelihoods across the continent. As such, we at Rhino Africa are committed to redoubling our efforts, to ensure we help maintain decades of conservation built on the foundation of bringing guests to African soil.  

Booking your Botswana holiday through Rhino Africa, not only ensures you peace of mind, but allows us to keep the home fires burning, whilst continuing to uplift communities and protect Africa’s endangered wildlife. 

We cannot wait to be reunited with you in Africa, and there’s no better time than now to start planning your 2021 trip.

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