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An elephant family grazing in the Okavango delta

An elephant family grazing in the Okavango delta

Okavango scenic flight planes

Your ticket to Okavango heaven

When someone offers you a free Okavango scenic flight, what do you do? You accept the offer. So when a stranger offered me a free ticket, I could not refuse. Taking one of these popular scenic flights was one of the things I wanted to do while visiting Botswana even though I could not afford it.

The Okavango delta in Botswana is one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Africa. To truly feel the magic of the Okavango, you must go on an scenic flight, then take a trip on a mokoro (dugout canoe) and camp out in the open.

This inland delta only flows seasonally. Its water flows from the rainfall over the highlands in Angola during summer (Januray-February). Crossing borders into Namibia and into Botswana, the water level at the Okavango delta is at its highest during June-August, which is Botswana’s drier months. It is then that the delta attracts large concentrations of wildlife, making this one of Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacles.

We visited Botswana in September and the water level was still at one of its highest points. We had just spent ten days in the Central Kalahari desert, and I was thirsty for some green landscapes.

 

One of Botswana's famous baobabs

One of Botswana’s famous baobabs

 

Herd of buffalo grazing in the Okavango delta

Herd of buffalo grazing

The unique vantage point of being on a plane gives you another perspective of this amazing ecosystem. From the groups of antelope resting on little islands to the intricate network of wildlife trails, the impact of the Okavango waters is clearly visible. Animals create trails through reeds to get to the newly formed islands looking for food. One of the delta trees, the ilala palm tree (pictured below), provides food and shelter for several species. Elephants use brute force to shake the trees and then feed on the fallen fruit, while baboons feed in the tops of the palms. Baboons also roost on the ilala palms.

Ilala palm trees

Ilala palm trees and the wildlife trails in between them

 

Elephants making a new elephant highway in the Okavango reeds

Elephants making a new elephant highway in the Okavango reeds

 

Elephant trails are very visible from the air

Elephant trails are very visible from the air

 

Wildlife trails across the Okavango delta

Wildlife trails across the Okavango delta

 

Herd of Giraffes on an Okavango island

Herd of Giraffes on an Okavango island

One of the results of the arrival of the delta waters is the change in colors. You must take a Okavango scenic flight to fully comprehend the magnitude of the habitat changes that are triggered by this arrival. Where there was a dry depression now lays a river. A series of little hills are now an archipelago of tiny islands where wildlife rest.

A termite mount surrounded by the flooding waters

A termite mount (on the right) surrounded by the flooding waters

 

The Okavango delta waters reaching out

The Okavango delta waters reaching out

 

The Okavango delta changing the landscape color

The Okavango delta changing the landscape color

 

And what was grey and yellow and brown, is now a stunning array of shades of green.

With the arrival of water, life returns to the Okavango delta.