The Okavango Delta in Botswana is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The Delta, a wetland of meandering waterways fed by a river born in the mountains of Angola, passes through the vast area of the Kalahari Desert and is a bucket list journey for anyone fuelled by a love of Africa and wildlife. Our days in the Okavango Delta were magical and we had some truly incredible moments: from lions roaring across the Okavango plains to a cheetah stalking for prey, here’s 14 Okavango moments which made us fall in love with the magical Okavango Delta.
1 | Soaring over the Delta in our private plane
Getting into the Delta is as beautiful as the time spent in it: the views were incredible as our tiny plane soared over the crystal clear waters and swampy grasslands of the Delta before passing over the meandering Okavango River, an iconic Delta image. The scenic flights are high enough in the sky to appreciate the vastness, beauty and wilderness of the Delta but are still within spotting distance of the huge herds of elephants, buffalo and antelope that wander through the plains below.
2 | Sunrise in the Delta
‘Elaine, David… are you awake? Hurry, hurry, you never know what we’ll find today!’, whispers our guide K as he knocks on our door before sunrise. In the darkness of the Okavango morning we bounded out of bed ready for another day in the Delta. Each and every morning our early start was rewarded with a spectacular sunrise where the sky filled with deep shades of pinks and purples as dawn broke across the Vumbura Plain. The African wilds come alive as the sky lights up sparking a sense of adventure and intrigue that is truly unique to the African wilderness.
3 | Watching a 3 day old baby elephant stumble through one of its first journeys
With its ears still a newborn pink we watched in awe as a 3 day old elephant took tentative and unsteady steps under the watchful eye of its mother. After 22 months in gestation it was incredible to see the calf in its earliest days, its tiny legs stumbling and its trunk swinging wildly as it made awkward attempts to suckle. The moment quickly took its place as one of our Okavango favourites.
4 | Listening to hippos splash outside our bedroom as we slept
We stayed in the beautiful Little Vumbura Camp situated deep in the Vumbura Plains. The whole camp was amazing but the pièce de résistance was the incredible views of the floodplains from our room and its deck. At night, hippo splashed beneath our sun deck as we slept and, peeking out of our windows, we watched the silhouettes of a mother and baby lolling in the waters below.
5 | Sundowners in the bush while lions roared across the plain
As the sun sets over an Okavango day safari sundowners are the perfect way to mark the moment. Sipping our G&Ts in the middle of the Vumbura Plains on our first night in the Delta we heard the distinct roar of the king of the jungle. We had goosebumps listening to the two lions roar across us and sipped our gin and tonics a little faster than usual in case they got any ideas about meeting up and crossing our path!
6 | Watching a cheetah stalk for prey
The fastest land animal on the planet stood a few feet from our safari truck stalking the plains in search of her next meal. A nervous energy descended on the surrounding area: baboons scampered up trees, the birds called out frantically signalling a warning of her presence, the impalas were more skittish than ever and the antelopes assumed a defensive position on raised mounds to scan the long grass. The cheetah, her approach slow and measured, didn’t make a kill on our watch but the anticipation was thrilling.
7 | Staring into the eyes of a lion lazing in the evening sun
As our safari truck chugged along the sandy paths of the Vumbura Plains we pulled to a stop just short of three lions blocking the path ahead. Two females and a male were lazing in the evening sun: the females were playful in their interactions with each other while the male seemed more interested in resting. It was the first time we’d seen a male with a full mane and we were blown away with his beauty as we studied him intently from afar. Suddenly his eyes locked on ours and, while we lost ourselves staring into his soul, we joked about what he was thinking: us as a potential meal was the general consensus!
8 | Listening to the desperate mating calls of a female leopard
We watched silently as the agitated female leopard restlessly climbed trees, scanned the bushes and frequently called out for a mate that didn’t answer. With darkness descending on the Delta we left her for the evening hoping that the cover of night would bring her some success and, after following her prints in the sand early the next morning, it seemed it did. We tracked the fresh leopard paw prints to the edge of some dense undergrowth, a spot intently watched by a troop of baboons, and it became apparent she was holed up their with a mate. Success!
9 | Morning coffee by the river while hundreds of wild animals wandered in the surrounding plains
After a 5am wake up the prospect of stretching our legs and reviving our tired souls on the morning coffee stop brought great excitement! On our second morning in the Xigera Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve we pulled up in an open plain and witnessed an incredible scene. Hundreds of impalas, red lechwe, storks and zebra meandered in the grass and our hearts melted!
10 | The thrill of the chase
‘Do you know what those footprints are Elaine?’ I hadn’t guessed a single footprint correctly since we’d arrived in the Okavango Delta. ‘They’re wild dogs, they were playing on the airstrip last night’. The endangered African wild dog had eluded us on our safari travels and, now, we were following in their tracks from just 12 hours previous. The excitement was palpable but they eluded us once more. Other prints brought more success: hippos, elephants, lions and leopard prints all brought sightings and the search for their owner never lost its thrill.
11 | Feeling tiny in the Delta
We’ve seen our fair share of elephants in Africa and were in awe of their huge presence but it was still a shock to sit alongside the skeleton of an elephant and realise that its skull was bigger than our entire bodies! The mid-sized male elephant had died of natural causes and the bones were all that remained after it was devoured by a mix of the Okavango residents.
12 | A hippo mistaking the path for a pool!
As we made our way back to camp late one evening K, our guide, came to an abrupt stop and declared ‘there’s a hippo in the middle of the road!’. Convinced it was a joke to keep us alert on the way back to camp we giggled at the absurdity of a hippo sitting on the path. That was until we saw the giant mass of the aforementioned hippo slowly emerge from the puddle in front stopping only to give us a look of disgust at disturbing him before he trotted off to deeper waters!
13 | An iconic Okavango moment
It’s the iconic Okavango image with red lechwe skipping through the flooded plains of the Delta and it was beautiful to witness.
14 | UNESCO 140!
We’re obsessed with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Okavango Delta made it UNESCO 140 for us! The Delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species and to one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems with over 200,000 species of mammal, 400 birds and 70 types of fish.
Where we Stayed
We opted to split our stay between a land based camp, Little Vumbura in the Vumbura plains, and a water based camp, Xigera (this is dependent on time of year so be sure to check the best options) in the Moremi Game Reserve.
My main camera is currently a Nikon D7200 with the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 and the Sigma 70-200 f2.8. We highly recommend Adobe Lightroom and use it for editing all our photos. For less than €12.29 a month you get access to Lightroom and Photoshop, which is a fantastic deal.