Exploring The Okavango Panhandle – where the desert meets The Delta

From glowing, silent waterways, papyrus swamps and lagoons carpeted with waterlilies, to the mythology and thriller of historical rock work, Botswana’s Okavango Panhandle is a magical place to go to.

Having spent a while in Chobe Nationwide Park, going for boat cruises and recreation drives, with lions, elephants and extra, it was time for a change of tempo and a chance to expertise a spot that’s actually off the crushed monitor. Leaving the stunning Chobe Sport Lodge behind, we flew from Kasane Airport to Nxamaseri.

A patchwork of greens and browns and yellow and beige unfold out beneath us, lower by way of by animal ‘highways’ and recreation trails. Scrub and bushes, sand and grass, water holes glistening silver within the daylight. The airplane’s shadow appeared to be racing us, and tiny dots beneath revealed themselves to be giraffes, kudus, elephants and buffalos. A Bateleur Eagle soared over the huge expanses of area. As we obtained nearer to camp the land beneath us turned to a vibrant inexperienced, lower by way of by the indigo and blue channels of water. We touched down on a tiny airstrip a stone’s throw from the water, and leaving our tiny 6-seater Cessna behind, travelled by boat, weaving our method by way of the channels, to Nxamaseri Island Lodge.

Situated on a tiny non-public island, between two UNESCO World Heritage Websites of the Tsodilo Hills and the Okavango Delta, Nxamaseri Island Lodge, nestled beneath large Jackalberry bushes and wild date palms, is perched on an fringe of an historical fossil river that after flowed from the Kavango River to the Tsodilo Hills. The proper place for exploring this wonderful a part of the world. The rooms are quiet havens, elevated above the water and interconnected with raised picket walkways. The lodge showcases the fantastic thing about the everlasting swamps, however with out eliminating any creature comforts. My room had a secluded verandah suspended over the water, good for some quiet time alone. I had a spacious lavatory with seemingly countless sizzling water, and a sublimely snug mattress. I felt immersed in my environment as I lay in mattress at night time listening to the sound of hippos splashing and grunting within the darkness close by.

Life revolves across the water on this a part of the world. Should you’re not out on the water, then you definately’re by the water, absorbing the fantastic thing about this calm and peaceable setting. We headed out on the river to take pleasure in sundown, with a sundowner in hand. There was a mild breeze blowing and the solar was heat on our pores and skin. Papyrus and reeds towered above us and brilliantly colored birds flitted amongst the greenery. The Okavango Delta is fed by the Okavango River, which flows southeast from Angola, by way of Namibia’s Zambezi Area, earlier than getting into Botswana on the small village of Mohembo. Right here it spreads out right into a strip roughly 11km broad, stuffed with floating islands of vegetation, calm lagoons and a myriad of twisting channels whose programs are continually altering. Seen from above, the Okavango Delta appears considerably like a frying pan, with the primary river flowing down the roughly 70km ‘deal with’, earlier than fanning out into the Delta, the ‘pan’; therefore the identify ‘Panhandle’. It was on this ‘deal with’ the place we had been boating now, beneath the watchful eye of a Fish Eagle, perched excessive in a tree.

For an much more immersive expertise you possibly can take a journey in a conventional mokoro (dug-out canoe), and glide silently by way of the clear water, at eye degree with water lilies, dragon flies, reed frogs and brilliantly colored malachite kingfishers.

The realm is famend for its wonderful chook watching. The river financial institution vegetation is thick, however a little bit persistence is quickly rewarded. The tall, shady, riverine forests are house to quite a few resident and migratory birds, and the channels are house to an array of waterbirds. My private favourites are the Painted Snipes, Rufus Bellied Herons, Pink Winged Pratincoles and Swamp BouBous. The uncommon Pel’s Fishing Owl is frequently seen right here, and in reality a pair dwell on a tiny island simply downstream of Nxamaseri Island Lodge. One thing else spectacular on the chook watching calendar, are the migrant Carmine Bee-Eaters that collect to nest within the dry banks of the Okavango River within the low water season.


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The Okavango Panhandle will not be a part of a reserve or protected space, this isn’t the place to come back for a conventional recreation viewing safari, however there are nonetheless large areas of unspoilt wetlands right here, ready to be explored. There are many crocodiles and hippos, in addition to elephants and, my private favourites, the otters. If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of the shy and secretive swamp dwelling Sitatunga antelope hiding within the dense reeds.

It is a prime vacation spot for eager fishermen.  The water is deep and quick flowing, supreme for catching each bream and the extremely prized Tigerfish. Throughout September and October smaller bait fish are pressured into the Panhandle system, attracting hundreds of Barbel (Catfish), some over 4ft lengthy, these in flip entice ‘the Tigers’; and an unbelievable feeding frenzy ensues. A sight to behold and undoubtedly one that can rank excessive in any fisherman’s recollections. For many who take pleasure in a quieter fishing expertise, the world affords unbelievable fly-fishing for the well-known (and scrumptious) Okavango bream. In all 17 species of fish may be caught right here.

Simply 40km from Nxamaseri Island Lodge lies the Tsodilo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Web site and residential to one in all Africa’s most spectacular collections of historical rock artwork, with over 4,500 work positioned round 500 completely different websites. Waking early one morning, we watched because the solar rose over the tall reeds and papyrus, in a crimson ball of fireplace, lighting up the sky in shades of orange and scarlet. Espresso by the hearth, adopted by a light-weight breakfast, after which it was time to set off within the boat. Winding our method by way of the misty, chilly channels, we headed again to the airstrip, the place a helicopter awaited. Taking off, whisps of white mist rose off the water. As we rose into the sky, the gentle morning gentle grew brighter, and the early colors melted away. The nearer we obtained to our vacation spot, the drier the earth beneath us grew. Botswana is likely one of the flattest international locations on the earth, however there forward of us, rising dramatically, 400m out of the arid panorama, had been 4 lonely chunks of quartzite; the Tsodilo Hills. We flew round them, seeing the good streaks of mauve, turquoise and lavender within the rocks, earlier than touchdown close by.

The biggest rock is named the Male, the subsequent measurement down is the Feminine, then the Little one, a fourth rock is referred to in numerous myths, as both an earlier spouse, one other little one or often as a grandchild. Unfold over roughly 8km, these hills are the religious house of the Basarwa (typically referred to as San or Bushmen) and Bantu individuals. The hills are woven with religious which means and symbolism, and present indicators of formative years from way back to 100,000 years. The most effective rock artwork websites are on the north finish of the Feminine, and we spent some hours right here, with an area information, observing, studying and experiencing this fascinating place.

With unbelievable pure magnificence, unbelievable birdlife, wonderful fishing, and engaging tradition and historical past, the Okavango Panhandle is an off the crushed monitor vacation spot, however an actual gem, a particular place and one which undoubtedly deserves a go to.

A Tip To Improve Your Journey: With 482 species of chook, 130 species of mammal and 64 reptiles all calling the Okavango house, it’s typically difficult to establish exactly what you’re looking at. Assistance is at hand, within the type of the fabulous Botswana Wildlife App. Obtain it to your cellphone and take it on safari with you, not simply within the Okavango, however in all places in your Botswana travels. Grant Reed non-public safari information, information coach, photographer, passionate naturalist and cofounder of Letaka Safaris has put his years of information and talent into creating this easy-to-use app, that can assist you rapidly establish all of the animals, birds, fish, reptiles, flowers and bushes that you simply encounter in your safari. It’s out there for Android  and Apple, and you may watch a fast introduction to the app on YouTube.

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