Gazetted as UNESCO’s thousandth World Heritage Site in 2014, Botswana’s Okavango Delta, with its vast and diverse wildlife species, is one of Africa’s premier safari destinations, providing a truly unique wilderness experience.
Forming part of the Kalahari Basin, situated at the southern periphery of the Great Rift Valley, it covers a staggering 22,000 square kilometres. And while the periphery is semi-arid, the Delta itself is a patchwork of cool clear streams, lagoons, floodplains and forested islands. The result is one of the world’s most diverse wildlife habitats, home to over 200,000 large mammals, 400 bird species and 70 species of fish, most spectacularly on display in the dry winter season as vast numbers of wildlife flock to where the floodwaters infiltrate the surrounding plains.
But no visit to the Okavango Delta is complete without a mokoro ride. One of the most iconic symbols of the Delta, the mokoro was originally the only form of transport for fishing or transporting people and goods around its channels. Still used by the ‘river bushmen’ or Bayei people, these canoe-like vessels offer up a unique way to explore the Delta’s waterways.
For much of each year the Okavango Delta is a labyrinth of lagoons and streams where hippos fight for bathing rights and crocodiles wait for unwary antelope to linger too long over a drink. Poling through the byways created by the floodwaters is an unforgettable, serene experience that allows passengers to get breathtakingly close to big game and to see the world from a totally different angle. It’s a chance to sit back and relax as you glide through lily ponds, seeing eye-to-eye with a buffalo as it laps water from the river, watching crocodiles sunbathe on the banks or cruising past a pod of hippos as they lie in a pool.
Specialist safari operator, Sanctuary Retreats, operates three unique luxury boutique properties in exclusive private concessions in the Okavango Delta – Sanctuary Baines Camp, Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp and Sanctuary Chief’s Camp. While the best time to venture out in a mokoro is July to October, when water levels are high and the skies are almost permanently blue, all three offer mokoro rides seasonally based on the water levels of the Delta.
For more info visit www.sanctuaryretreats.com
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