Blog WHS Visits

WHS #700: Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta was the 1000st WHS on the List, it “… has long been considered one of the biggest gaps on the World Heritage list” and was deliberately planned to gain this milestone marker at the 2014 WHC. Almost the same amount of coordination was done by me in my 2019 travel planning to let this magnificent and truly unique site be my 700th visited WHS. I stayed there for 4 nights: 2 in a lodge near Chief’s Island and 2 nights camping in Moremi Game Reserve.

My first acquaintance however with the Delta was on the way back per helicopter from the Tsodilo hills. We flew south-eastward along the water channels. This central area of the Okavango turned out to be pretty dry as well. What you see from the air is a patchwork of coloured ‘islands’ among dried up land and trails made by animals. Animal sightings included pools full of hippo’s, slowly moving elephant trains and crocodiles sunbathing on beaches.

On the next day I was transported by one of these lovely bush planes to Oddballs’ Enclave on Chief’s Island. Oddball’s Enclave is a more recent (and even more expensive) offspring of the historic ‘hippy’ camp mentioned by Solivagant in his review of a visit in 1988. In the shoulder season of May the rack rate here is 510 USD per person per night. For that you sleep in a tent and have to use a bucket shower. Yes the tent does have a real bed and the restaurant serves three course dinners – but it certainly isn’t extravagant luxury.

Oddballs’ is marketed as a ‘water camp’ based in the heart of the delta which focuses on the traditional mokoro and walking safaris. The water level however this year is so low, that no water based activities could be done while I stayed there. So with my personal guide (his services are also included in the room rate) I hiked every morning and late afternoon. It’s a different way of getting to know the landscape but I enjoyed it. Interestingly, the Bradt Guide for Botswana does not encourage walking safaris in Botswana at all as the author believes the guides aren’t trained well enough and don’t carry guns. The 3 Oddballs’ camps near Chief’s Island however routinely do walking safaris with their guests and to me it felt safe & professional.

We mostly hiked through the high grass that covers the small island where the lodge is located and the adjacent Chief’s Island. Parts of the grass lands recently burned out, by wild fires spreading more and more now there is no water to stop them. One of the first mammals that we saw was the red lechwe – this is an antelope that only lives in northern Botswana and feels right at home with their feet in the water. Furthermore we saw large herds of elephants (2 of them went on to keep me awake during the first night, feeding and peeing and defecating all night long next to my room). The best sighting though was that of a serval, right near the airstrip.

In Moremi Game Reserve, near the Khwai River in the far north of the core zone of the WHS, we camped out in the bush. This is an area very rich in wildlife. The animals aren’t shy either. We were exceptionally lucky with lion encounters here: 4 separate sightings in 2 days, of which an early morning visit to a group of 10 including 2 males and 3 playful babies was the best. At the Khwai River we also did the obligatory mokoro safari, the trade mark traditional mode of transport in the Okavango. With so little water left, it was quite a touristy affair and the mokoro’s could not get us far.  

My view of the Okavango Delta obviously is clearly tainted by the lack of water the year 2019 has brought to it. In the coming years we will see whether this was an incidental ‘bad’ year or more of a permanent change that will affect the whole ecosystem of the Okavango Delta and its unique features.

Els - 28 May 2019

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Michael anak Kenyalang 1 June 2019

congratulations on your 700th!! It's not easy to keep the passion so long and not easy to maintain this web page. Great job! May you have more to count in the future!

Els Slots 29 May 2019

Forgot to add that they also have a special sign at the Moremi gate to point out that Okavango was no. 1000 at the WH List:

Zoƫ Sheng 29 May 2019

Congrats on your #700!