Man and the Okavango

© Harvester transporting papyrus to market
There is often a clash in the wilderness areas of Africa between conservation ideals and subsistence living but in Botswana's Okavango Delta it is shown that the two can exist together.

Living off the Land (and Water)

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is renowned in as one of the greatest wilderness areas in Africa, with many visitors enjoying what is a truly unique safari experience. Relatively new to the safari world the Okavango has nonetheless provided survival for man for centuries.

Man has been part of the Okavango delta in Botswana for as long as records of the area show, living off the land and water. Subsistence fishing and hunting provided sufficiently for all. Although wild and remote negotiating the channels and floodplains of the Okavango was made easy by the wooden makoros carved from the trunks of delta trees.

Explorers, Adventurers and Tourism

Due to its location in the heart of the Kalahari, the Delta was saved the ravages of colonisation and mass hunting that other areas in Africa experienced in the 1800's. Early explores did however reach the delta and recorded their experiences in their journals but the difficulty of the route prevented any major migration into the area.

Early travellers to the area, after the explorers, included missionaries and adventurers, but the first paying visitors to the Okavango were trophy hunters, lured by the reports of untouched wilderness. Adventure safaris soon followed but it was only in the 1990's that photographic tourism began to take off.

Local inhabitants of the delta have been moved from the area within the Moremi Game Reserve but communities still live in designated areas surrounding the Okavango and fishing rights are still exercised by Botswana's people in some areas. The communities still in the area now lease out concession rights to hunting and photographic safari companies.

Man and the Okavango Today

The sudden rush of luxury tourism into the Okavango has resulted in countless luxury lodges springing up in the Delta, with airstrips and road networks now dotting the landscape. A drive toward more environmentally friendly lodges is firmly in place today.

Subsistence fishermen are, however, still allowed to operate in designated parts of the Okavango. A visit to the Okavango is one of Africa's most memorable safari experiences, and it is in the delta where it can be seen how tourism and conservation can live side by side with subsistence living.

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