Mysteries of the Okavango Delta

The essential work of a ranger is the lifeblood of our Belmond Safaris. Read on to uncover the magic of Botswana’s Okavango Delta with Moses Maphane.

My name is Moses Maphane and I’ve been a guide with Belmond Safaris for over a decade. I’m a 37-year-old Motswana, originally from a village called Shorobe, 40km east of Maun.

I started an internship with Belmond in March 2008. In 2015 I transferred to Eagle Island Lodge, where I’m still based today as the senior guide

The lodge is set in the middle of the Okavango Delta along the Boro River, one of the region’s three main channels. This unique wetland system was the 1,000th site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014. When it floods, it reaches an area of around 22,000 square kilometres. It’s a wonderland of floodplains, palm groves and papyrus swamps, visible from space.

The wetlands attract a glorious wealth of wildlife. As well as a high elephant population, we have over 500 species of birds, 160 mammals, 35 reptiles, 71 fish and around 1,500 plants. Among the mammals are endangered species, such as cheetah, white and black rhino and African wild dog.

A key highlight of Okavango is the spectacular scenery, influenced by the variety of ecosystems. These range from deep, permanent water channels to huge, round termite mounds. There are also long islands formed through the shifting of sediment and the Kalahari sands.

It’s amazing how animals adapt to life here. Cats are known to hate water, but in the delta big cats such as lions have learnt to live and hunt in the shallows, using water to get close to their prey.

The peak season for wildlife viewing is when the water is highest, usually May to August. Around this time, the delta is only accessible by plane or boat. Take a dugout canoe and glide through the clear water, past kingfishers and elephants.

The most magical moment for me is after sunset. Tiny frogs emerge from their hiding places and start making territorial and mating calls. When the hippos join in with their deep booms, the combination of sounds from big and small animals is music to my ears.

Botswana’s mysteries extend beyond the wildlife. In the stony hills surrounding Savuti, you can admire ancient San Bushmen rock paintings, thought to be more than 1,500 years old. The red ochre outlines depict elephant, giraffe and eland antelope. Nearby, an incredible cluster of giant baobab trees are almost as old as the paintings.

Perhaps the greatest phenomenon of all is the Savute Channel, which seemingly ebbs and flows at whim. When it springs to life, it attracts great numbers of lion, leopard and wild dog. It runs right in front of Savute Elephant Lodge, so guests have a ringside view. Even when it has ceased to flow, there are fascinating interactions to witness around the waterholes. It’s where creatures such as warthog, hyena and marabou storks gather to drink.

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