The Okavango Delta in Botswana, is the world’s largest inland delta. It is formed where the Okavango River empties onto a swamp in a closed drainage basin in the Kalahari Desert, where most of the water is lost to evaporation and transpiration instead of draining into the sea.
Each year approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water irrigate the 15.000 km² area. Some floodwaters drain into Lake Ngami. The flood peaks between June and August, during Botswana’s dry winter months, when the delta swells to three times its permanent size, attracting animals from kilometers around and creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
Sometimes called a ‘swamp’, the Okavango is anything but. Moving, mysterious, placid, gentle and beautiful, from a wide and winding channel it spreads through tiny, almost unnoticeable channels that creep away behind a wall of papyrus reed, into an ever expanding network of increasingly smaller passages. These link a succession of lagoons, islands and islets of various sizes, open grasslands and flooded plains in a mosaic of land and water.
In the lush indigenous forests of the delta and its islands, and along the floodplains spawned by this great marriage of water and sand, more than 400 species of birds flourish. On the mainland and among the islands in the delta, lions, elephants, hyenas, wild dog, buffalo, hippo and crocodiles congregate with a teeming variety of antelope and other smaller animals –
warthog, mongoose, monkeys and tree squirrels to name just a few.
The Namibian government has presented plans to build a hydropower station in the Caprivi Region, which would regulate the Okavango’s flow to some extent. Environmentalists argue that this project could destroy most of the rich wildlife and plant life in the Delta.