you might imagine, many areas within the Okavango Delta
are largely dry. Two of these areas (both in the heart
of the Delta) sustain permanent populations of prolific
game - and boast the Delta's best game-viewing. Camps
in these largely dry reserves concentrate on 4WD game
drives and sometimes walks, but seldom offer any water
can expect large herds of antelope, from giraffe to red
lechwe, and plenty of elephants and buffalo. All the predators
are numerous: lion are virtually guaranteed, while leopard
and cheetah are regularly seen. Together with the Kwando-Selinda-Linyanti
reserves, these two dry reserves are
probably the best area in Africa for wild dog.
is often good, too, with raptors especially common - although
obviously you won't see the range of water birds that
the wetter areas boast. (Though many birds occur throughout
the Delta, their distribution is often much localized.)
Western-banded snake eagles, Gabar goshawks and
martial eagles are just a few of the more sought-after
sightings in these drier areas.
most famous island was once the royal hunting reserve
of Chief Moremi, the traditional leader of the local tribes.
He gave it to add to Moremi Game Reserve in the 1970s,
and it's now one of the region's best areas for game.
Dry, open grasslands, dotted with tiny photogenic islands
of wild date palms and acacia trees separate the two distant
On the north
side of the island, Mombo made its name on high-profile
wildlife documentaries with the help of a huge pack of
wild dogs. It's a justified reputation for some of the
very best game in Africa. In November 2001, five white
rhino were re-released into the Mombo concession, followed
recently by another eleven. These are currently Botswana's
only free-roaming rhino.
has plenty of shady, wooded glades but few open plains,
and is almost surrounded by the Moremi Game Reserve. It's
largely forested; an interesting mosaic of mopane and
acacia woodlands, riverine forests and occasional lush
channels, in contrast with the areas further north.
a varied range of animals and birds, with numerous leopards
thriving on a prolific population of impala. Buffalo,
elephant, lion and periodic sightings of wild dog are
also highlights here - ably recorded by the camps' owners
in their excellent coffee-table book on wild dogs, Running
Wild. The two camps here offer a classic dry-land safari
experience, concentrating on 4WD game drives (day and
& water concessions
around the Okavango Delta comprise shallow, flooded plains
mixed with drier stretches of land, in proportions that
vary seasonally. Camps in these reserves usually offer
both 4WD game drives and relaxing mokoro (dugout canoe)
trips. Those with deeper channels also offer motorboat
some of the Delta's most beautiful areas, offering super
bird watching and often first-class big game. A multitude
of ibises, egrets, herons, plovers, kingfishers and darters
are found on the shallow floodplains, whilst numerous
birds of prey and woodland species are also often seen.
The game reflects the Delta's diversity - from water-loving
lechwe to dry-country eland, wild dogs and all the big
On the western
side of the Okavango, the Jao Reserve covers an extensive
area, most of which is seasonally flooded. Dotted throughout
are islands, large and small, and areas of permanent swamp
veined by deep-water channels. Hippos, crocodiles and
sitatunga are abundant here, as is the Delta's remarkable
birdlife - giant kingfishers, Goliath herons, pelicans,
slaty egrets, swamp boubous and a myriad of storks.
depend on water levels, which vary greatly. It's usually
best to explore using trips on boats and mekoro (the plural
of mokoro ), although game drives (day and night) are
also possible. Large numbers of red lechwe and lion dominate
the reserve's big game. At its driest, around September
February, you're also likely to find buffalo, elephant,
many other plains game species and the occasional cheetah.
Xigera (pronounced 'keejera') is within a private area
of Moremi in the heart of the Delta. Water is everywhere
here and there's an abundance of vegetation that makes
this seem one of the Delta's most tropical corners.
game around - including red lechwe and sitatunga - but
we view Xigera as an area where it's best to concentrate
on the more watery aspects of the Delta. Like the birdlife,
which is spectacular, with endless herons, egrets, cranes
and smaller water-birds?
protects an area of about 350km 2 on the northern edge
of Moremi. The environment is a mixture of open plains
and islands. This is a super area for really big game
sightings. Huge herds of buffalo attended by high densities
of lion are the area's main attraction. Elephant also
occur in large numbers, and lechwe are the dominant antelope,
though many species of plains game are also common.
Reserve lies just north of Moremi, and its environment
is, in many ways, a more watery version of that around
Mombo: a series of large floodplains dotted with small
palm islands and interspersed with large forested areas.
here is exceptionally varied. Wild dog thrive (denning
and raising pups here recently), lion are relatively common,
and leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena are frequently
seen. There are plenty of elephants and buffalo around,
although in smaller herds than those at Duba Plains. Zebra,
wildebeest, red lechwe, impala and tsessebe, kudu and
sable are all numerous, and the birds range from pink
pelicans to mopane specialists such as red hornbills.
offer a varied programme of activities including mokoro
trips, game drives (day and night) and sometimes short
walks. Vumbura and Little Vumbura have a deep-water channel
nearby where boating is often possible.
and Duba Plains reserves are actually administered by
and for the Okavango Community Trust, which represents
the local people who live on the fringes of the Delta.
They benefit from these camps through work and training,
as well as having a direct financial stake in the camps'
success. This is one way of ensuring that at least some
of the Okavango's exclusive camps help Botswana's poorer
Moremi Reserve, and its environment consists of a patchwork
of forests and open plains, as well as some permanent
channels and lush floodplains. Nxabega has a good variety
of game, dominated by red lechwe, tsessebe and impala.
Lion and leopard are common, as are herds of elephant
in the dry season, and several glades of tall acacia trees
encourage lots of giraffe to stay in this area.
South of Moremi, and north of Chitabe, Sandibe's environment
has lots of tall palm trees, thick riverine vegetation
and several huge old baobabs. It' s a lovely mix of forested
areas with small floodplains and permanent deep-water
here is good, with red lechwe, impala, tsessebe, kudu,
zebra, wildebeest and lots of giraffe. Buffalo and elephant
are always around. Lion and leopard are the dominant predators,
but cheetah and hyena are not uncommon.
birding is varied. Numerous water birds, including ducks,
geese and teals, are very common, whilst more unusual
specialties include long-winged falcons, slaty egrets,
black coucals, black egrets and brown fire-finches. Beside
the Kwando-Linyanti river system, three large private
reserves protect high concentrations of wildlife. Like
the exclusive reserves around the Okavango, these offer
more remote and private safaris than are possible in the
busier national parks. Walking and night drives are both
allowed, as well as off-road driving (which makes finding
predators much easier).
no fences here, so the animals move freely between these
reserves and the national parks. During the dry season,
when concentrations of elephant and buffalo are very high,
the permanent water of the Kwando-Linyanti riverfront
is a big attraction. Near the water you'll also
find plenty of red lechwe, impala and sometimes sable
antelope. Meanwhile, in the riverine forest and on the
plains, wildebeest, kudu, zebra, baboon, warthog, giraffe
and tsessebe are common. Further from water, the highlights
of the drier forests are herds of eland and roan antelope.
are numerous: lion are everywhere, whilst leopard favour
the wooded areas of more broken country and cheetah prefer
open plains. Wild dogs range throughout these reserves,
and usually have several dens in this area; they are most
easily followed when hunting on open plains.
Reserve protects 1,350km 2 of the Selinda Spillway: a
vital ancient watercourse (now usually dry) that links
the Okavango with the Linyanti. Selinda's team are old
hands in Botswana, having run excellent small camps here
for years. Their guides are some of Botswana's best: informative,
enthusiastic and dedicated.
grasslands dotted with small 'islands' of palm forest
cover the area around the camps. It's a picturesque, open
environment. Often you can spot game a long way off, and
it's perfect for following the predators on hunting sorties.
that this area offers the best walking safaris available
in Botswana (possible March to November). They're not
forced marches or endurance tests, but led by an expert
guide they offer unrivalled opportunities to get closer
to the wildlife.
North of Selinda, Kwando is another huge private reserve
covering 2,300km 2 . Most of its western side is dense
mopane forest, but along the Kwando River is a band of
lush riverine forest, interspersed with open plains. Kwando
is a wild reserve. It attracts superb big game, especially
during the dry season when elephants may seem to be everywhere.
Reserve covers 1,250km 2 , within which four private camps
operate. In the north, beside the Linyanti River, the
environment is like the Chobe riverfront: open floodplains
beside the water, an adjacent band of riverine forest,
and then dense (mostly mopane) forests stretching away
south. Here there are three camps - Linyanti Tented Camp,
King's Pool and Duma Tau - hidden beside separate stretches
of this river. Meanwhile to the south of the reserve,
Savuti Camp overlooks a remote stretch of the Savuti Channel.