A mokoro lets you explore the waterways of the Okavango Delta.

Luxury safaris in the Okavango Delta, Savute and Linyanti

If it were a musical compilation, a tour of Botswana’s greater Okavango Delta would be titled Safari: Greatest Hits. Much like a starstruck fan, I could wax lyrical about the Okavango Delta, Savute and Linyanti areas ad nauseam, but I’ll try keep it brief.

The Okavango Delta is one of the most dynamic ecosystems on earth. Each year, rainwater filters down from Angola and Namibia via the Cubango and Okavango rivers, collecting nutrients along the way. When it hits the delta, it fans out – transforming the area into a complex web of islands, channels and floodplains – before seeping into the Kalahari soil.

The sheer diversity of habitats – much of which are are protected by the Moremi Game Reserve – mean that the delta supports an incredible array of birds and animals. You can explore this watery wonderland by game drives, boat and mokoro excursions or even hot-air balloon rides.

Similarly, Angolan floodwaters trickle into the Linyanti region of Chobe National Park. After rising on the slopes on Mount Tembo, the Kwando River flows into Namibia’s Linyanti Swamp. The river that flows out the other side, on the northern border of Botswana, is the Linyanti, which ultimately joins the Zambezi. One offshoot of the Linyanti, however, is the Savute Channel, which feeds into the Savute Marsh.

Interestingly, the stretches of swamp and savannah were shaped by seismic forces, which can still cause the disappearance or reappearance of rivers and channels.

The presence of water and mopane woodlands in the Linyanti region is irresistible to concentrations of game in the dry winter season, especially vast herds of elephant and zebra. It’s also one of the last wild dog redoubts in Africa. In central Chobe, the Savute Marsh retains water throughout the dry season, attracting yet more wildlife. Boating adds an extra dimension to luxury safaris in these areas.

In the wet summer season, the Linyanti zebra migrate south to the Savute Channel, making game drives at this time particularly interesting.

When to Go

This is peak safari season – and peak flood season. The in-creeping waters, which fall as rain in Angola in the previous summer – bring new life to northern Botswana. Confusingly, you’ll see much more water in this cooler, drier season. Fresh early mornings and evenings pair with warm days for a pleasant winter climate, and the encroaching waters reduce the land available, concentrating the wildlife. Animals are also easier to spot, as the vegetation recedes due to lack of rain. Water-based activities complement the more conventional game drives and guided walks, with the water depth peaking in July.

Botswana’s summer or green season is traditionally quieter, meaning you’re even more likely to have pristine swathes of wilderness to yourself. As the heat builds up, so too do the clouds, resulting in short but sharp afternoon electric storms. The bush bursts into life almost overnight: plants grow rapidly, many baby animals are born (and many are taken by predators) and migratory birds arrive en masse. As the flood recedes, floodplains become accessible again, expanding the reach of game drives. It’s a busy time for the wildlife, and a beautiful time to visit.

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