Far from the sporadically placed towns of Botswana’s wild northern grasslands lies the country’s most famous natural feature – the Okavango Delta. Accessible only by off-road vehicle via gnarled dirt tracks that weave between the feral foliage of the nation’s game reserves, it is quite literally off the beaten track. Upon approaching the extensive waterway, as your truck and the unkept paths whisk forcefully you from side to side, you may wonder where this natural phenomenon actually is. Thanks to the incredibly flat terrain, most of the land lies hidden behind the horizon. However, the treeline eventually parts to reveal a placid bed of water and dense fields of papyrus reeds that stretch as far as the eye can see. This is what to expect when visiting the Okavango Delta.
On the shores of the great river network are a collection of mokoros, lying ready to take you into the heart of the river. Traditional canoes that have been used in the region for centuries, mokoros remain the most efficient way to traverse the reed-flanked waters of the delta to this day. The traditional boats are operated by a “poler” who navigates the waters with expertise using a long pole, much like a punt.
Setting off from the water’s banks with two to a mokoro, there is a strange mixture of soothing calm and simmering excitement in the air. Gliding along blissfully at water level, your eyes are alert for any creatures hidden amongst the reeds or lurking in the water. Hippos and crocodiles swim the waters, whilst elephants are known to bath in the shallows and all manner of wildlife wander the grasslands after nightfall. Witnessing these creatures is a highlight of visiting the Okavango Delta.
Immersed in the wildest part of Botswana’s heart, the waters of the delta widen and narrow naturally, creating towering corridors of reeds that offer temporary respite from the beaming African sun. Floating fields of pearl white lilies add to the area’s serene beauty whilst dragonflies of every imaginable colour hover above the water’s gently rippling surface. The silent drifting of the mokoros means that nothing can be heard other than the rustle of reeds in the wind, the various calls of the abundant birdlife and the occasional grunt of a hidden hippo.
After making landfall in the depths of the delta, with nothing but grassy plains, placid bodies of water and towering treelines within sight, the remoteness of your location dawns on you. Exploring the wilderness completely devoid of human civilisation, fresh tracks and unclaimed carcasses act as a tangible reminder of the fact that this region unequivocally belongs to the wildlife that call it home.