The Deltaic Biodiversity At Okavango

Posted On November 15, 2009 

Okavango River

Okavango, the fourth longest river in southern Africa drains Angola, namibia and Botswana. It is known as Cubango River in Angola where it originates and ultimately drains into the Moremi Wildlife Reserve in Botswana. The river is 1,600 kilometres long and has a basin area of 5,30,000 square kilometres. The river does not have any outlet into the sea. Instead, it empties into the Okovango Delta, a swamp in the Kalahari Desert. The river also feeds adjoining water bodies like Popa Falls, Boteti River and Lake Ngami. Okavango River’s water is a serious bone of contention between okavango river deltathe drought-hit namib ia and Botswana.

Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta (area 28,000 square kilometres). The Okavango River flows through the Kalahari till it splits itself into a maze of lagoons, channels and islands, just like any other river delta. There are also visible shallow water, flooded grasslands and ox-bow lakes. However, the river travels another 300 miles across the desert to drain into Lake Xau in Botswana. Though in this last stretch, the river assumes a much lesser size than what it is originally. A large amount of water of the river gets dried up or get diverted through other channels which means a very little water actually reaches the delta. Chief’s Island is the largest island on the delta.

Wildlife in Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is home to a wide varity of wildlife making it a major tourist attraction in the region. Some of the animal species found in this delta region are African Bush Elephant, African Buffalo, Lechwe Antelope, Hippopotamus,  Topi, Blue Wildebeest, Giraffe, Nile crocodile, Lion, Cheetah, Chacma Baboon.  Leopard, Brown, Spotted Hyena, Greater Kudu, Sable Antelope, Black, Warthog, White Rhinoceros and Plains Zebra. Even the African Wild Dog survives in the Okavango Delta.  However, not all animals are permanent inhabitants of the Okavango Delta region. In Fact a majority of these animals migtrate for greener pastures during summer and return in winter.

Birdlife in Okavango Delta

One can also find over 400 species of birds in the delta region, like the African Fish Eagle, Crested Crane, Lilac-breasted Roller, Hammerkop, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Ostrich, and Sacred Ibis.


It is believed that around 80 different species of fish also inhabit the delta.

The best way to experience the delta is in a traditional dug out canoe, but be careful, the waterways are filled with crocodiles and hippos. Alternatively try a horseback safari, you’ll get closer to the animals than you can in a car, and yet still burn a quick get away if you need to.


Jackalberry, Mangosteen, Knobthorn, and Sycamore Fig are some of the most attractive trees found in the delta region

Human beings

The Okavango Delta peoples consist of five ethnic groups, each having distinct ethnic identity and language. The ethnicokavango delta people groups are Hambukushu, Wayeyi, Dceriku, Bugakhwe and Gxanekwe.

Box Matter

Biodiversity in Okavango River: identified species include 1,300 (plants), 80 (fishes), 33 (amphibians), 64 (reptiles), 444 (birds), and 122 (mammals), 5000 (insects)

Time of visiting the Delta

The time between July and October  is the best time to see  the wildlife in the delta. As is the case with other wildlife sanctuaries, dry season is the suitable to time to witness animals as they  frequently visit water sources. Also, the predators approach these water bodies to feast upon the herbivores hence giving the viewers an opportunity to get glimpse of all the species together.

However, one should not ignore the wet season in the Okavango Delta (December till March)as this is the time when the region turns lush green with sometimes stormy skies in the background. Many of the herbivores like the Impalas also give birth to ensure that their newborn get abundant foliage to feed upon. On the flip side, the prowling predators too prey upon these babies during this time. All these add up to the visitors’ delight as they can witness  lions, leopards and cheetahs and wild dogs.

Viewing the Okavango wildlife

While going for a Okovango safari, one must take a tour of the Moremi National Park (covers almost a third of the entire okavango delta wildlifeOkavango Delta) and the Chobe Natioanl Park (second largest national park in Botswana). Both are excellent places for game viewing. Moremi is the major land area next to the Okavango where one can enjoy both the delta wildlife and the plain/savanah fauna. Chobe National Park is the best place for watching elephants. The Botswana safari may include kalahari game Reserve and Tuli Block as well.

Mode of viewing Okavango wildlife

The best way to explore the Okavango Delta is by means of dug-out canoe, although the waterways are often filled with crocodiles and hippopotamus. One can try a horse or an elephant safari whereby it would be possible to reach out to the the animals better than that can be done by car. Vehicles are available for animal viewing  including drives in gthe night. However, one advise walking safaris to be the most exciting means of animal safari. Traditional game viewing vehicles  are used on the main islands, with night drives available. Walking Safaris are perhaps the most exciting way of viewing animals. There are also opportunities to avail airtrips for game viewing. Light aircraft and helicopter are available.

Threat and remedey

The Okavango Delta ecosystem is showing signs of slow erosion in the face of gradually rising anthropogenic pressures. There is an urgent need for biodiversity conservation in this region. Consequently, the University of Botswana through the Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre (HOORC) in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) is working on a project called ‘Building Local Capacity for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in the Okavango Delta’. The aim of the project is to support the elaboration and implementation of the Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP). Particularly, it looks towards biodiversity conservation in three sectors, namely, water; tourism and fisheries. The project is mainly funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the United Nations, with co-funding from various other sources. The implementation phase of the project is scheduled in end in 2010.

Related Posts

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

CommentLuv badge