Intact, largely unthreatened and virtually undeveloped, the Okavango Delta is a complex natural ecosystem that varies in size and mood according to season. It's important to know however that the Okavango Delta is not just a wetland: Angolan floodwaters from June to September can double the size of the permanent swamps at the core of the delta but great areas of the Okavango Delta are dry woodland, thick riverine forest and grassy floodplains throughout the year.
To ensure your expectations are met, work with your safari expert about where to go in the Okavango Delta, and at what time of year.
A classic 'frontier town', Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta either via charter aircraft or land transfers. There's nothing remarkable about this dusty, bustling, sun-baked village and there are few places of interest to detain you - you'll more than likely fly in on a regional or local flight only to fly out again on your charter flight - but a central hotel and several lodges located out of town provide adequate accommodation if a night's stop-over is required.
Protecting the eastern and central regions of the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve is one of Africa's most beautiful and wildlife-rich conservation areas. Game viewing is excellent in Moremi's diverse habitats: elephant, buffalo and lion sightings are common, the bird watching is amazing and it's a famous stronghold for leopard and wild dog.
Several top-class lodges are located in Moremi and on its fringes and there's an emphasis on game drives though many lodges offer water-based activities too.
Read more about Moremi Game Reserve.
An inverted oasis of permanent dry land at the heart of the Okavango Delta, Chief's Island is big game country, a place where the animals that need water - but don't necessarily like getting their feet wet - thrive.
Some 60km long and around 10km wide, the island is where both game drives and guided walks take place and many lodges - including the luxurious Chief's Camp - are set either on it or close by. Part of Moremi Game Reserve, the island's wide range of habitats make for excellent bird watching and Chief's Island is home to all the major predators including good numbers of wild dog.
Clustered around the Moremi Game Reserve are private concessions - clearly defined, sole-use areas of the Okavango Delta leased from the authorities and run by individual operators. Staying at one is a great option in that not only do private concessions deliver game viewing as good as Moremi's but most only accommodate one or two lodges and so the low number of visitors means a very exclusive, away-from-the-crowds experience.
Furthermore, operators in private concessions aren't bound by Moremi's strict regulations and offer night drives and off-road driving to enhance your wildlife sightings.
With much of the Okavango Delta dry for large parts of the year, land-based camps are sometimes unable to offer water-based activities out of the flood season. In compensation, the game viewing at these camps is usually excellent and with game drives offered in the morning, afternoon and early evening, you'll be well rewarded with an array of diverse sightings.
Guided walks are offered at some land-based camps and, given the juxtaposition of land and water, the bird watching is superb.
Located on the edge of permanent lagoons and rivers, many water-based camps offer game drives but the emphasis is more on providing a pure wetland experience. These lodges, usually beautifully located, are where to go in the Okavango Delta for guaranteed water-based activities such as mokoro (dug-out canoes) and motor boat safaris as well as fishing trips.
The game viewing is not as spectacular as at land-based camps but guided walks on the many small islands of the permanent swamps are often a highlight.
An ephemeral waterway linking the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti, the Selinda Spillway was dry for many years but is now flowing and delivering a sensational wildlife experience.
Centrepiece of the Selinda Concession, a private 1 350 km² reserve of pristine wilderness, the Selinda Spillway attracts huge numbers of animals and the game viewing in the region is superb. All the major predators are present, not least the area's notoriously large lions that prey on the hippos of Selinda's Zibalianja Lagoon, a unique hunting behaviour that will thrill those lucky enough to witness it.
At a Glance
A huge, sprawling freshwater oasis at the heart of the Kalahari, the Okavango Delta delivers sensational year-round game viewing and bird watching - explore by 4X4, canoe and boat.