The Okavango Delta is the heart of northern Botswana and is one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine wilderness areas. During the year the landscape of the area undergoes dramatic periods of flood (May to September) through dry periods into the summer rains. An abundance of different animals has adapted to the changes in this environment, making it a top safari destination year round.
Every year, generally in early May, the Okavango Delta bursts into life as the waters from the summer rains in the Angolan Highlands reach the neck (known as the ‘panhandle’) of the delta, seeping into the papyrus swamps and over the plains, transforming the land into a wetland paradise. The annual flooding creates a network of channels creating over 150,000 islands covering just over 15,000 square kilometres – about the size of Wales!
The Okavango boasts astounding numbers and diversity of animal life with no fewer than 160 different mammal species including all the major predators, wild dogs, huge herds of elephants and some rare species such as the Sitatunga. It is also a brilliant place to birdwatch with over 530 recorded species.
As both the timing and the extent of the annual floods that cause this rebirth are highly unpredictable, this vast area of land has remained untouched – there are no roads and the land has never been farmed. Access to many parts of the Okavango during the flood is solely by light aircraft leading to a low number of low impact tourism. Although May to September spans Botswana’s late autumn and winter it is the most popular time of year offering beautiful scenery and incredible wildlife.
Conservation is very much the underlying principal of the camps in the Okavango and one of these beautiful, small camps is Pelo – which still has good availability for the coming months – and is a camp that prides itself on its eco-friendly principles with 100% solar power. To arrive at Pelo Camp, you must travel by air, and then by land and/or water in a mokoro; this may sound like it is a long journey but the journey in itself is an adventure.
Pelo Camp has just five spacious guest tents, each of which boasts en-suite facilities and wonderful views over the lagoon. Within the main area of the camp, you’ll find the tented dining area and lounge which are situated beneath the impressive wild date palms, jackal berry and Natal mahogany trees. During the low water season (October to April), Pelo offers game drives, reverting to water-based activities when the annual flood waters arrive. From the camp, you could see water-adapted sitatunga antelope, red lechwe, hippo and crocodile but a lot of the wildlife that you will see from the camp is dependent on water levels. The game drives take you further afield and widen the wildlife you might encounter.
The camp is situated on a small, heart-shaped island and is surrounded by permanent water; hence the required boat journey to reach the camp. There is an emphasis on water-based activities and is well-suited to adventurous travellers who are looking to explore the waterways of the Okavango. Equally, Pelo would be perfect for those looking to relax and unwind for a few days and connect with the idyllic surroundings here. Unusually Pelo is remaining open during the coming summer season and so is a great place to visit if you are looking to explore the Okavango Delta and don’t mind a little rain.
Taking a trip to the Okavango Delta is all about looking for the wonderful wildlife of Botswana as well as embracing the region’s natural splendour. The Okavango boasts unique lagoons, waterways and thus the unmissable experience of water safaris which are perfect for viewing the abundance of wildlife whilst gliding silently through the delta in a mokoro. If you are a keen fisherman, you can spend hours and hours casting for tilapia, bass and bream and in some areas, it is even possible that you might hook a ferocious tigerfish. However, do remember that all fishing in the Okavango is ‘catch-and-release’.
Another way for you to enjoy the magnificence of this area is from above. Of course, you will fly into the Okavango, which is a great opportunity to get some stunning footage but if you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, take a hot air balloon flight over the delta at dawn.
Although game viewing is good year round, the arrival of the floodwater makes the winter season a superb time to visit. November through to January is an outstanding time because many of the species have their calves during this time which leads to active predators. But it is HOT! April/May offers an excellent balance with warm dry days and comfortable nights.
We hope that you have enjoyed this blog about the rebirth of the fantastic Okavango Delta and that a trip to this fantastic area will be high (if not top) of your list for your next safari.