The Okavango Delta Through My Lens: A Photo Essay
After spending three amazing days in Chobe National Park, it was time to move on for more African adventures. The next leg of our 10-year anniversary trip took us to Sanctuary Retreat’s Stanley’s Camp, a safari lodge that borders the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta.
The Okavango Delta is another of Botswana’s gems. With its rich ecosystem, this World Heritage site is one of the most sought after wilderness destinations in Southern Africa. This became obvious as we flew over the delta in our Cessna Caravan, gazing down at the herds of wild elephants we could see roaming its plains.
I had heard so much about the Okavango Delta and after our amazing time in Chobe National Park, we were looking forward to some more adventures. That’s right, we never tire of seeing wildlife!
Where is the Okavango Delta?
The Okavango Delta is located in the north-west of Botswana, where the Okavango River flows into the Kalahari Desert from the Angolan Highlands. The river creates a huge oasis covering between 6,000 and 15,000 square kilometres.
The Okavango Delta is home to thousands of different species of plants and animals. You’ll find more than 400 species of birds, nearly 200 species of mammals, and over 150 species of reptiles! There’s also more than a thousand species of plants. Along with Chobe National Park, it’s the perfect place for an African safari, which is why it attracts so many visitors every year.
Getting to the Okavango Delta from Chobe National Park, a plane ride to remember!
To reach the Okavango Delta, we caught a flight from Kasane Airport, which is 6 kilometres from Chobe National Park. Our plane was scheduled to do two intermediary stops before arriving at the Stanley’s airstrip in the Okavango Delta.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find this plane ride particularly pleasant. The single prop Cessna plane was incredibly uncomfortable. Even as short as I am, I banged my head a few times trying to make my way up to the front of the plane! There was barely any room to squeeze along the aisle and the inside of the plane was incredibly hot and stuffy.
But the worst part of the trip was the turbulence. I quite often get motion sickness in cars and boats but not normally in aeroplanes. But not this time! It was so bumpy that I felt sick the entire way from Kasane to Stanley’s airstrip, which took an hour and a half.
However, sick or not, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the scenery down below. As we flew over we could see many waterholes and herds of elephants drinking or bathing. The lush green scenery almost looked unreal. But as amazing as it was from up there, I still couldn’t wait to get back down on the ground!
Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp the Ultimate Glamping Experience!
Sanctuary Retreat’s stunning Stanley’s Camp is set among ebony and sausage trees. It is located on a 260,000-acre private concession bordering the Moremi Game Reserve. Its ten luxury safari tents are nestled right in the bush. With no fence surrounding the camp, you never know what you might find at your doorstep!
The all-inclusive package at Stanley’s offers twice-daily game drives at sunrise and sunset, as well as a traditional Mokoro excursion in season only. At Stanley’s you can also experience the unique Living with Elephants activity where you’ll meet Jabu and Morula, two orphaned African Elephants. Find out their latest prices here.
Arriving at Stanley’s Camp
When we finally landed at Stanley’s and exited the tiny plane, I suddenly felt much better. We met Chippy, who would be our safari guide for the next three days. Chippy began by giving us the rules of Stanley’s Camp. There weren’t many but one of them was very important. We were not allowed to walk around camp alone at night; we would always be escorted. Why? Because there are no fences at Stanley’s and if you walk alone in the dark you might come face to face with a lion, a leopard or an elephant.
We were staying in tent number ten, which was furthest away from the reception area. At Sussi and Chuma lodge we’d met a couple who had just come from Stanley’s and they said that the previous week lions had been spotted lying just outside of our tent. Still, we thought, what were the chances we’d see something?
An Elephant near our tent!
On our first night in Stanley’s, we headed back to our tent after our sunset game drive. It was pitch black by the time we returned to camp. As we headed back to our tent to freshen up for dinner, we chatted happily to Chippy who was escorting us.
But as we rounded the corner to our tent, Chippy stopped suddenly and firmly asked us to step back. He had spotted a large bull elephant who was happily munching on bushes right next to our tent! We were very fortunate that Chippy was there with us because Simon and I probably wouldn’t have noticed and would have ended up nose to nose with that beautiful bull. When startled, elephants can be very unpredictable and of course extremely dangerous if they become aggressive.
We quickly retreated to the next tent for a few minutes, until we finally saw the elephant walk away from our tent and Chippy gave us the all clear to continue. It was a bit of fun on our first night and certainly a story to tell!
Game drives and some Awesome Wildlife Sightings
Although the wildlife wasn’t quite as abundant as in the Chobe National Park, we still had some pretty awesome game drives in the Okavango Delta. Five game drives gave us plenty of opportunities to spot large numbers of elephants, zebras, kudu, giraffes and impalas. We also had another fantastic sighting of an elusive leopard. Plus, because the resort is set in a private reserve, we were allowed to do night safaris, which gave us the chance to see predators at night. On our last night, we spotted a pride of lions resting and patiently waiting to ambush their prey beside a waterhole. Lions are so clever!
A Sunset Mokoro Ride
At sunset one night during our stay, we took a traditional Mokoro boat ride. The Mokoro is a small canoe that is commonly used in the Okavango Delta. I have to say it was a little scary, the Mokoro was rather small and could easily have tipped over. Fortunately, there weren’t any crocodiles nearby! However, we did see a hippo bathing in the river just a few metres away from us. Our guide made sure to keep us out of the hippo’s threat zone but we had the chance to watch him for a while taking in the beautiful sunset.
Hippos don’t look like they do that much all day but the males at least have rather eventful lives. This particular hippo was likely hanging out in the watering hole his mother had led him to for safety, waiting to grow big enough to return and fight his father to the death. Apparently, that’s the way it works with male hippos. The things you learn on safari!
Our Morning with Jabu and Morula
While at Stanley’s camp we participated in the Living with Elephants experience, where we had the absolute joy of meeting the beautiful Jabu and his lovely friend Morula. Jabu and Morula are two orphaned elephants who were rescued by Doug and Sandi Groves. We learnt a lot about them, walked with them and even had lunch next to them. You can read more about our experience here. It was the highlight of our time in the Okavango Delta.
When to Visit the Okavango Delta?
The best time to visit the Okavango is in winter from May to September, which is the dry season. At that time, temperatures are more moderate. The Okavango also floods from June to October, which concentrates the wildlife, making sightings easier.
November to April is summer and the rainy season. During this period, the Okavango Delta turns into an excellent bird watching destination but you can still see many of the same resident animals. The prices are also lower at this time.
We visited in March and found the temperature to be extremely hot at the peak of the day. There were also a lot fewer animals around compared to Chobe National Park. However, we still saw a lot of wildlife and we had an amazing time anyway. I don’t really think there’s a bad time to visit the Okavango Delta.
What do you need before you go on a safari in the Okavango Delta?
A good camera with a good lens is essential!
Some insect repellent to keep those mozzies away!
An action camera for wildlife videos!
Binoculars to observe the animals from afar
A hat… it gets hot!
Sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn