Today remote lodges in the Okavango Delta are accessed from the air, with dirt airstrips dotting the Delta landscape, and small aircraft are now the most common form of travel around the wilderness areas of the Okavango.
© Traversing Eden with elephants at Kwara Camp. Okavango
But it was not always so!
Historically the only way to navigate the channels of the Okavango was by dugout canoe, known locally as Makoros. These craft were carved from the trunks of large trees such as Sausage trees and African Ebonies that grow on the islands of the Delta.
The trees used to make Mokoros can be up to 300 years old and with the increase in tourist activity the Okavango was in danger of losing all their old trees, so a local businessman came up with an idea to manufacture the craft from fibre glass. So successful was this that, aside from all the safari operators in the delta, the locals were converted to the more stable artificial craft. Today very few trees are cut down for Mokoro manufacture.
Motor Boats on the Okavango
As the Delta became better known through exploration in the second quarter of the 19th century, motor boats and motor vehicles began to make an appearance and today a boat cruise and a game drive are as much part of the Okavango experience that the Makoro is.
Aside from small airplanes the delta can also be explored from the air by helicopter, with some lodges offering helicopter flights as an optional activity.
Travels of the Hunters and Adventurers
The first explorers arrived in the Okavango region in the 1800's via oxcart, which proved to be hazardous for the cattle as the Nagana-carrying Tsetse Fly was prevalent. For the same reason horses were not an ideal travel source, although horse safaris are offered in the delta today.
The 1960's and 1970's saw a rise in trophy hunting activity in the Okavango as displaced hunters from Kenya arrived in search of new hunting grounds. It was at this time that the boom in motorised transport happened, which carried into the tourism industry today.
The Makoro is widely used in the tourism industry, and though many local fishermen are using motor boats there are still many who ply their trade in the traditional way.