Botswana: Okavango Delta and the Makgadikgadi Pans
South Africa's northern neighbour is a place of seemingly infinite spaces. Its world-renowned game reserves and national parks shelter some of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. For many visitors, the time to visit is following the rainy season (January to March), when animals in their tens of thousands make the annual migration to the Okavango Delta.
The delta is a magical place created by the annual flooding of the Okavango River, which originates in Angola, and empties its waters without reaching the sea. The floodwaters turn the landscape into a maze of watery lanes and channels. One of the best ways to savour this watery wonderland is by taking a ride in a mokoro, a boat made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, expertly guided by a local boatman.
Moremi Game Reserve occupies much of the eastern side of the Okavango Delta, and provides superb game viewing and birding. Antelope, zebra, buffalo and elephant flourish here, as well as lion and leopard. The reserve borders the Chobe National Park to the northeast, which also offers some of southern Africa's finest game-viewing opportunities. The town of Maun is the gateway to the Okavango region. Many visitors fly in to Maun airport, and smaller chartered planes take them deeper into the delta area.
To the east of the Okavango region, the Makgadikgadi Pans represent the dried out remnants of the extensive swamps and marshlands that once covered northern Botswana. But during the summer months, the shallow pans fill up with water and attract vast numbers of wading birds, as well as huge herds of zebra.
Much of Botswana is remote and difficult of access. Although there is network of good tarred roads linking the main centres, minor routes tend to be unsurfaced or sand tracks. For visits away from the main centres a 4x4 vehicle is recommended. Visitors considering a bush getaway should aim to be as self-sufficient as possible.