Botswana’s Okavango Delta remains one of southern Africa’s key destinations. Tourism Update investigates the best time for tourists to visit the Delta to maximise their experience.
According to Attorney Vasco, Wilderness Safaris’ Sales Manager in Botswana, the Delta can be visited at any time of the year. Typically, the most popular time of year is between April and November, which Chris Anagnostellis, CEO of An African Anthology, says is notable: “This is quite interesting considering that South Africa has exactly the opposite high and low season periods to Botswana, yet both countries have similar climates.”
Vasco notes that, when choosing a time to visit, it depends on what the client is interested in seeing and experiencing. For example, Anagnostellis says that travelling out of season will mean in some cases that tourists will be offered better rates. He adds that this is also ‘newborn’ season, so visitors will be able to see mammals born in the hotter summer months. Vasco agrees: “For content, fresh and new life, then visit the Delta over the summer months when the rains bring bold clouds, afternoon showers and plenty of baby animals.” Anagnostellis also notes that despite the rest of the country being noticeably warmer in summer, “being in the Delta and surrounded by so much water, temperatures are normally a few degrees lower as a result, compared with the rest of the country”.
Despite the weather and sightings differing according to the season, there are plenty of activities available year-round. Vasco notes: “The Delta has both permanent flood plains and seasonal flood plains, so properties that are located around permanent rivers have the opportunity to do water activities all year round.” An example, says Christiaan Steyn, Marketing Manager at Drifters Adventours, is when clients choose Drifters, they stay on a private island in the Delta that has water throughout the year, and can thus experience guided walks along with mokoro trips. A mokoro is a small dugout canoe propelled through the shallow water by standing in the stern of the vessel and pushing with a pole or ‘ngashi’.
Anagnostellis further explains that although activities are based on water levels, there are alternatives: “If the water levels are high then game drives are limited and mekoro are on offer. Conversely, if the water levels are low then some properties can only offer game drives. In this instance, what often happens is that the operator will offer a land-based activity at one lodge, and then clients have to move to another lodge to experience water-based activities.”
Despite this, those in the know agree that no trip to the Delta, regardless of season, would be complete without a mokoro experience. “It is an amazing activity and one is able to experience the silence and wonders of the waterways, crystal clear water and amazing game viewing from the mokoro,” says Anagnostellis.
Credit: Dana Allen, Wilderness Safaris.
Another must-do activity is a game drive, offering guests an opportunity to see the Delta’s vast wildlife, and particularly birdlife. Vasco notes that summer is an ideal time for game drives.
Credit: David Crookes, Wilderness Safaris.
Lastly, air-based activities are growing in the Delta. Vasco says: “Hot-air ballooning offers a unique way to see the Delta.” Anagnostellis elaborates: “I must say that for me the absolute highlight of anyone’s trip and a bucket list experience of note is the hot air balloon safari that An African Anthology pioneered at Kadizora Camp, in a joint initiative with Air Ventures Ballooning Safaris. This is the only hot-air balloon operating in the whole of Botswana and is based at our lodge, Kadizora Camp.”
Credit: An African Anthology.
He adds: “It is probably one of the few areas in the world where you get to experience game viewing from a game-drive vehicle, a mokoro, on foot, and then topping it off with a hot- air balloon.” Steyn further recommends a scenic flight in a light aircraft or helicopter.
Visitors to the region also have the chance year-round to experience some of the area’s rich heritage with a trip to Tsodilo Hills, a collection of over 2 000 San paintings and rock art. The site was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2001.
Finally, Steyn encourages visitors to set aside some time to enjoy the Delta views.
Air access to the region is year-round with Airlink’s daily direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Maun. Karin Murray, Head of Sales and Marketing at Airlink says: “Airlink’s direct flights will assure travelers of the opportunity to minimise time spent in transit and maximise their time at the various world-renowned tourism destinations.”
In terms of accommodation, the Delta offers both permanent camps as well as a handful of seasonal camps. Vasco says, for example, that Wilderness Safaris’ camps are all permanent – the only difference being that activity offerings might change. Anagnostellis says there is also excellent luxury accommodation in the Delta. “There are also mobile camp operators that visit the Okavango Delta at designated camp sites,” he adds.