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OKAVANGO DELTA

One of the most sought after wilderness destinations in the world , the Okavango Delta gives entrance to the spectacle of wild Africa such as dreams are made of – the heart stopping excitement of big game viewing , the supreme tranquility and serenity of an untouched delta , and evocative scenes of extraordinary natural beauty.

A journey to the Okavango Delta – deep into Africa’s untouched interior – is like no other . Moving from wetland to dryland – traversing the meandering palm and papyrus fringed waterways, passing palm – fringed islands and thick woodland, resplendent with lush vegetation , and rich in wildlife – reveals the many facets of this unique ecosystem , the largest intact inland delta in the world.

The Okavango Delta is situated deep within the Kalahari Basin , and often referred to as the jewel of the Kalahari. That the Okavango exists at all – deep within this thirst land- seems remarkable. Shaped like a fan, the delta is fed by the Okavango River , the third largest in southern Africa . It has been steadily developed over the millennia by millions of tonnes of sand carried down the river from Angola.

Swollen with flood waters from the summer rains , the Okavango River travels from the Angola highlands crosses into Botswana at Mohembo in the kaprivi , then later spills over the vast fan – shaped Delta . The timing of the floods is uncanny. Just as the waters from Botswana’s summer rains disappear ( April , May) so the floodwaters begin their journey – 1300 kilometers of which is Kalahari Sands – revitalizing a vast and remarkably diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life.

Major tourist attractions in Delta and the dry land areas are game viewing, birding and boating, often in the traditional mokoro. The diversity and numbers of animals and birds can be staggering. A recent overview of the Okavango records 122 species of mammals, 71 species of fish , 444 species of birds , 64 species of reptiles and 1300 species of flowering planting.

Major species to be seen, include elephant , buffalo, giraffe, zebra, hippo, crocodile , rhino red lechwe , water buck, reedbuck , duicker, impala, kudu, steenbok, wildebeest , hartebeest sable , roan , tsessebe , lion leopard , cheetah , genet , serval, along with an immense variety of birds – land and water.

 

CENTRAL KALAHARI GAME RESERVE OR (CKGR)

The name “Kalahari” is driven from Tswana calling Kgalagadi. Kgalagadi means a land of thirst, because to find good fresh water without salt in Kalahari is difficult.

Nothing prepares you for the immensity of this reserve; nor its wild, mysterious beauty. There is the immediate impression of unending space and having the entire reserve to yourself.

Waist – high golden grasses seem to stretch interminably, punctuated by dwarfed trees and scrub bushes. Wide and empty pans appear as vast white stretches of saucer – flat earth, meeting a soft, blue white sky. At night the stars utterly dominate the land, their brilliance and immediacy are totally arresting.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest remotely situated reserve in southern Africa and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world, encompassing 52,800 sq km. It is larger than Denmark, Lesotho and Swaziland combined.

During and shortly after good summer rains the flat grassland of the reserves attract massive wildlife , which gather at the best grazing areas. These include large herds of springbok and gemsbok , as well as wildebeest , hartebeest, eland and giraffe. The landscape is dominated by silver terminalia sandveldt, Kalahari sand acacias , and Kalahari apple leaf, interspersed with grasslands and dotted with occasional sand dunes , pans and shallow fossil river valleys the most famous being Deception Valley and Passarge Valley.

CKGR is unique in that it was originally established in 1961 with the intention of serving as a place of sanctuary for the San, in the heart of the Kalahari (Botswana ) where they could live their traditional hunter / gatherer way of life, without intrusion, or influence from the outside world . The reserve was closed for about 30 years, until in the 1980s and 1990s both self drive and organized tours were allowed in, albeit in small, tightly controlled numbers.

The northern Deception Valley is one of the highlights, principally because of the dense concentration of herbivores its sweet grasses attract during and after the rainy season (and of course the accompanying predators). It is also the most travelled area of the reserve , with a number of public campsites and proximity to the eastern Matswere Gate . The other two gates are completely at the other side of the reserve at Xade and Tsau.

 

NXAI PAN NATIONAL PARK

Part of the great Makgadikgadi complex , Nxai Pan National Park covers an area of 2578 sq km, and comprises several larger pans – Nxai Pans , Kgama – Kgama Pan and Kudiakan Pan , which were once ancient salt lakes. These larger pans are now grassed , and are scattered with islands of acacia trees, and smaller pans that fill with water during the the rainy seasons – thus providing rich resources for wildlife.

Wildlife viewing is seasonal , and dependent on if and when the rains come and when animals migrate . There are several artificial watering points. If the rains have been good , December to April is the best time to visit.

Common species to be sighted are zebra, wildebeest , springbok, impala, gemsbok, hartebeest, giraffe, lion cheetah , wild dog, brown hyena, bat –eared fox and sometimes elephant and buffalo. In the south of the park are the famous Baines Baobabs.

 

MOREMI GAME RESERVE

This gem of a Game Reserve has garnered a number of important distinctions. In number of important distinction. In 2008 it was voted the best game reserve in Africa, by the prestigious African Travel and Tourism Association at South Africa’s Premier Tourism fair, Indaba. It is the first reserve in Africa that was established by local residents. Concerned about the rapid depletion of wildlife in their ancestral lands-due to uncontrolled hunting and cattle encroachment-the Batawana people of Ngamiland, under the leadership of the deceased Chief, Moremi III’s wife, Mrs Moremi, took the bold initiative to proclaim Moremi a game reserve in1963.

It is the only officially protected area of the Okavango Delta, and as such holds tremendous scientific, environmental and conservation importance and undoubtedly Moremi ranks s as one of the most beautiful reserves in Africa, possibly in the world.

Moremi Game Reserves is situated in the central and eastern areas of the Okavango and includes the Moremi Tongue and Chief’s Island, boasting one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent.

This makes for spectacular game viewing and birds watching, including all major naturally occurring herbivore and carnivore species in the region and over 400 species of birds, many migratory and some endangered. Both Black and White Rhino have recently been re-introduced, now making the reserve a” Big Five destination". Contained within an area of approximately 5000 sq km,here land and Delta meet to create an exceedingly pictures que preserve of floodplains –either seasonally or perennially wet, water ways ,lagoons ,pools, pans,grasslands,and riparian,riverine and mophane forests. This terrain makes driving Moremi’s many loops and trails both delightful and at times, totally inspiring.

Moremi is often combined with the Chobe National Parkto the north east. The rustic Third Bridge camp site, situated near the pretty Sekiri River, flanked with thick stands of papyrus, is favourite, creating lasting memories of resplended Okavango sunsets.

 

CHOBE NATIONAL PARK

Whether arriving by air or road, the first glimpse of the river-deep and dazzling in the sandy terrain-is always breathtaking. It appears as a swathe of brilliant, peacock blue ribbon winding its way through the tiny town of Kasane, and ensuing wilderness-the Chobe National Park.

Established in 1968, the park covers approximately 11700 kms encompassing flood plains, swamps and woodland. There are four distinct geographical areas in the park. The Chobe Riverfront, the Ngwezumba pans, Savute and Linyanti.

The most accessible and frequently visited of Botswana ‘s big game country, the Chobe riverfront is most famous for its large herds of elephant and cape buffalo ,which during the dry winter months converge upon the river to drink.

During this season, on an afternoon game drive, you may see hundreds of elephants at one time. You may be surrounded by elephants, as the main Serondella road becomes impassable and scores of family herds cross the main road to make their way to the river to drink, bathe and play.

Driving the loops that hug the river’s edge ,you may see up to 15 different species of animals on ,any one game drive, including waterbuck,lechwe,puku,giraffe, kudu, roan and sable impala,warthog bushbuck monkeys and baboons, along with the accompanying predators lion,leopard,hyena and jackal.

Take a river cruise-and you will experience the park, and the animals, from another vantage point. Here you will get up close and personal with hippo, crocodile and a mind-boggling array of water birds.

Over 460 bird species have been recorded in the park, making it one of Africa’s premier venues for bird safaris. Common species to be seen include the sacred ibis, Egyptians Gooze,the ubiquitous cormorants and darters ,spur ,winged Gooze,pel’s Fishing Owl, Carmine Bee-eaters ,most members of the king fisher family ,all the rollers ,the unmistakable Fish Eagle, the Marital Eagle ,and many members of the stork family.

 

Imagine – if you will – an area the size of Portugal largely uninhabited by humans. Its stark, flat featureless terrain stretches – it would seem – to eternity , meeting and fusing with a milky – blue horizon . This is the Makgadikgadi – an area of 1200 sq km, part of the Kalahari Basin yet unique to it- one of the largest salt pans in the world.

Africa’s most famous explorer, Dr David Livingstone , crossed these pans in the 19th century guided by a masive baobab , Chapmans tree - believed to be 300 to 400 years old, and the only landmark for hundreds of miles around. Seeing this amazing tree today , you are given entry to an era when much of the continent was uncharted and explorers often risked their lives navigating the wilderness on oxcarts through rough and grueling terrain.

Humans have inhabited areas of the pans since the Stone Age, and have adapted to geographical and climatic changes as they have occurred. Archaeological sites on the pans are rich with Early Man’s tools and the bones of the fish and animals he ate.

KHAMA RHINO SANTUARY

It is located 25 kilometers north of Serowe. The best conservation site for both White and Black rhino and was established in 1993 to reintroduce rhinos in Botswana as they were extinct due to poaching

 

TSODILO HILLS

Rising abruptly and dramatically from the Kalahari – bush the neck face turning a copper colour in the dying sun – the magnetic power of Tsodile Hills both captivates and mystifies. There is an undeniable spiritualism about the hills that immediately strikes the visitor.

Indeed per the people who live at the hills – The San , the original inhabitants and the Hambukushu who have periodically occupied the hills for the past 200 years – Tsodilo is a sacred, mystical place where ancestral spirits dwell. In earlier times, their ancestors performed religious rituals to ask for assistance, and for rain. They also put paintings on the rock, face and their meaning and symbolism remain a mystery even today. The early iron site at Tsodilo, called Divuyu dates between 700-900 AD, and revels that Bantu people have been living at the hills for over 1000 years.They were cattle farmers settled on the plateau, and traded copper jewellery from the Congo, seashells from the Atlantic, and glass beards from Asia, probably in exchange for specularite and furs. There was great deal of interception between different groups, and trade networks were extensive.

Rock paintings are nearly everywhere-representing thousands of years of human inhabilitation are amongst the regions finest and most important. There are approximately 4000 in all, comprising red finger paintings and geometrics. It is almost certain that most paintings were done by the San and some were painted by the pastoral Khoe who later settled in the area. The red paintings were done mainly in the first millennium AD.

Tsodilo was declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002 because of its tremendous historical and cultural importance.

“Thus Botswana with her vast expanses of uninhabited wilderness, prolific wildlife, breathtaking sunsets, and night skies filled with stars and heavenly bodies of inconceivable brilliance will put you in touch with your natural self.”

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