Botswana is defined by two distinct yet vastly disparate landscapes – the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari Desert. The Kalahari is 900 000 km sq of undulating sands and semi-arid terrain; a seemingly inhospitable environment for communities and wildlife. However, in the resilient and adaptive manner of the wild, a thriving ecosystem exists. Through extreme temperatures and arid landscapes, nature has found a way to survive. In winter, nights can drop to as low as minus 15 degrees Celsius and rise to 45 degrees Celsius during the summer. The Kalahari covers most of Botswana, spreading into neighbouring South Africa and Namibia as well. The name ‘Kalahari’ is derived from its Tswana origin, meaning ‘waterless place’. Hence the importance of its water sources, from the Okavango Delta and beyond.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta represents and preserves the heart of Africa’s finest game viewing, richly diverse in ecology and wildlife. Its landscape is shaped by water, a vast variety of plant and animal species existing with seasonal ebbs and flows. Botswana is dry, being mostly occupied by the Kalahari desert, making the waters of the Okavango a life source for both humans and wildlife. The yearly floods are a much-anticipated key to survival, arriving from its source in Angola having flowed through Namibia and eventually settling in Botswana to form the delta. This floodwater creates a variety of habitats; islands, forests, marshes, lagoons, woodlands and floodplains. This ‘liquid gift’ is the life source for wildlife as well as human settlements along the way.
The delta is a wilderness ecosystem at its best. Such diversity attracts a wealth of life, from insects to reptiles, fish, birds and mammals. It is one of the few inland water deltas in the world, nourishing expansive wildlife populations which depend upon its tapestry of land and water. Our Jenman African Safaris suggested accommodation for this area is Delta Camp.
The Khwai River
The Khwai River is an extension of the Okavango Delta, maintaining its wild essence and biodiversity. Situated between Chobe National Park and Moremi National Park, the area is an ecological pearl; abundant in abundance. Moremi is the oldest and first protected area of the Okavango Delta, and has some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. Its area is made up of floodplains, lagoons, acacia forests, mopane woodland and islands. The biodiversity of these areas deems Moremi a safari seekers’ dreamscape, each terrain holding its own ecological wonders. It covers much of the eastern side of the delta and combines permanent water with drier areas, which creates some startling and unexpected visual contrasts, as well as diversity of species. Being on the border of such diversity as well as sharing ancient animal corridors, the Khwai supports and celebrates its ecologically distinct neighbour.
Amongst this myriad of ecosystems within the delta, the Khwai River is one of the most dramatic. As the season changes and the African heat rises, depleting water and food sources, the Khwai becomes a lifeline for wildlife. The water from the delta has pushed as far up the Khwai channel as it will go for the season, animals congregating along its river banks to quench their thirst. The Khwai is dependent on the northern overflow of the Okavango Delta’s floodwaters and continues to fill as the dry season extends. It is this natural phenomenon and reliable water deposit which attracts wildlife to the area, a literal oasis in the desert of Botswana. Our Jenman African Safaris suggested accommodation for this area is Mogotlho, Khwai River.
The Chobe River
Last but most certainly not least, located in northern Chobe National Park, the Chobe River is the life support of the area. Also known as the ‘river with many names’, Chobe’s waters sustain life beyond Botswana borders. Originating in Angola, it travels through Namibia’s Caprivi region where it is known as the Kwando, into Botswana where it is first called the Linyanti, diverting east to become the Chobe in the Kazungula area where it flows forth towards Victoria Falls, turning into the mighty Zambezi. Eventually, it reaches the sea.
The river forms a natural boundary between Botswana and Namibia, a platform for tourism, transport and trade as well as a bountiful and busy wildlife intersection. With ancient migratory routes between the Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta and Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, its presence is crucial for wildlife, especially during the dry season. The volume of animal traffic which depends on the Chobe River is nothing short of astounding. Supporting the largest elephant population in the world, the national park feeds and waters approximately 120 000 African giants, reliant on the Chobe River. Our Jenman African Safaris suggested accommodation for this area is Camp Kuzuma, Chobe.
In a national park, water is life, each ecosystem directly dependent on its availability. This truth resonates even more so in a country covered by desert. Through rainy seasons, natural springs, lakes and rivers, its presence is vital to the existence of nature. Its ebbs and flows during each season shape our landscapes, sustaining both our plants and animals. Without water, our wild spaces would cease to exist. Botswana and its landscapes are a testament to this, its rivers imperative for survival.