The waters of the Okavango River begin their story in great, thundering clouds above the Angola Highlands in January. One month and one thousand kilometres later they form the border between Angola and Namibia, then rapidly descend some four meters, through the Popa Falls and enter the parched, Kalahari Savannah of Botswana. Everything ….. slows ….. down.
The unruly haste of the Okavango’s flow is quietened here by a vast, geological trough. With an altitude variance of fewer than two meters over an 18,000 square kilometre basin, it is pancake – flat and thirsty. The waters will take a further five months to spread out into the great, alluvial fan of the Okavango Delta, gradually unfurling into the giant shape of a male peacocks tail feathers in display. Green, iridescent and resplendent, this is the jewel of southern Africa.
We had been immersed in this wild oasis for nine nights already when a dear friend, in need of a vantage point, convinced us to take to the skies, with an Irish man, in a four seater helicopter, with the doors off. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made. In the hour that followed, the expanse, the diversity and the overwhelming life of this ecosystem was revealed beneath us. Lagoons, covered in millions of water lilies were waving to form a boundless, work of pointillism seen from above. We traced the amber waters of seasonal channels, flooding around termite mound islands, fringed with palms and fig trees where elephants abound. We saw the floodplains stretch out on either side as the air rushed past our ears. We were all grinning like idiots.
It’s important to remember that the pulse of this wetland is ever changing and the extent of the flood can vary between 6000 and 15,000 square kilometres. Indeed this year it seems we are entering a dry spell that will leave much of the seasonal floodplains and channels untouched by water. This has already resulted in wildlife concentrating around the permanent water and our clients have all reported truly extraordinary game viewing.
Jana’s images from this trip transport me straight back to the clear skies above that paradise and I’m filled with the joy of that moment. I hope they inspire some of the same feelings in you too and above all else I hope you can see it for yourself one day (let’s make this happen together when you are ready!).