The emerald swirl that is the Okavango Delta, can be seen from space, reaching out like a hand into the heart of the Kalahari. The palm of the hand is the permanent delta while the fingertips are seasonally flooded swamps. This is perfect terrain for the whole range of Africa's animals and birds to thrive - and they are here in great numbers.
The delta is fed by the Okavango River, flowing all the way from moist and fertile Central African highlands over 1,300km (800 miles) away in neighbouring Angola. The Okavango Delta fluctuates in size
according to a complex relationship between local rainfall and floodwaters from Central Africa, both of which create a life-giving source in a country that is 80% arid.
The arteries of the Okavango are its meandering river channels lined by dense reed and papyrus thickets. These channels have a deceptively strong current, which all but disappear in the tranquil water-lily lagoons
and knee-deep swamps.
From the air, the rich mosaic of land and water is a perfectly constructed puzzle. Palm tree islets, savannah grasslands and forest glades are chain-linked by ox-bow river loops, lily ponds and winding watercourses. Great herds of Antelopes, Buffalo and Elephants roam through the pastures and Lions and Leopards are well fed. Game viewing whether by vehicle
, mokoro (dug-out canoe) or on foot is rarely interrupted by the sight of other visitors.
The Angolan floodwaters should push their way into the Okavango Delta in January each year and water levels usually reach a peak in the central delta by June or July. Rain is not expected in these winter months, so it is the perfect time for game viewing. During the hot dry months
of September to November, channels shrink to their narrowest and many pastures dry out. Waterways begin to look more like footpaths guiding the animals towards the permanent rivers in Moremi Game Reserve and the northern reaches of the Okavango.
Moremi Game Reserve lies within the Okavango Delta, and is surrounded by strictly controlled, privately managed wildlife concessions
. This arrangement creates an ideal situation for sustainable wildlife management.
Many of Botswana's safari camps are situated in these private reserves around Moremi and often cater for no more than 20 guests at a time. There are also many camps on and around Chief's Island within Moremi Game Reserve. Light aircraft is the best way to reach these exclusive hideaways and although you may be sleeping in safari tents
, you will be surprised just how much luxury is possible in the heart of the African bush.
Your bush guide and mokoro poler are likely to be descendants of the Bayei people who arrived in Botswana from the north nearly 400 years ago. They have been born and bred in the Okavango region and instinctively know where to find animals and how to read animal behaviour. If they tell you to be silent or stand still on a bush walk
, it is wise to listen as you never know what might be around the next Jackalberry tree!