Hide and seek in a water wonderland - in search of the elusive Sitatunga. Not many visitors to the Okavango Delta are lucky enough to have a sighting of these shy antelope.
The Sitatunga Antelope is one of the Okavango Deltas most elusive inhabitants. These antelope are true water specialists and live in the thick reeds of the Delta. They are also solitary and often flee from danger. They hide deep in the middle of reed thickets and can submerge themselves underwater with just their nostrils above to hide from danger.
Botswana's water dancers
They have adapted to their wetland habitat and have evolved long splayed hooves which allow them to walk over floating mats of reeds and pick their way through parts of the Delta where other antelope would struggle to walk. In fact they are very ungainly on solid ground. They also have a shaggy oily coat that helps keep them dry.
They are very pretty antelope. The females have reddish brown coats while the males are a darker brown colour. They have spots on their face and fait to distinct stripes down their sides. The males have long lyre shaped horns. Males tend to be larger than the females and are more commonly seen.
The Sitatunga is most active for a few hours during the middle of the day when the predators are least active. This is also when most of the tourists have taken respite from the midday sun in their lodges. The Sitatunga also usually hides at the sound of boats or humans, so it can be difficult to spot these antelope. They feed on the new growth of rushes, sedges and new shoots of grass.
That said, in areas where this is a fair amount of tourist activity some of the Sitatunga seem to have become used to humans, and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these secretive creatures. They often move through tunnels and pathways in the reeds and papyrus. They will stay in a very limited area for several weeks, but will suddenly desert it and move on.
Reclusive by nature
They are seldom found together and males and females spend short times together in order to mate. The fawns are kept on a dry flattened mat in the middle of dense reeds. They are left on their own, with the mother only returning so that they can suckle. The young are more independent from their mothers than most antelope, and from the age of six months are often on their own.