Each year rains that have fallen several months previously in Angola (the catchment area of the Okavango Delta) begin to flood Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta around March / April… this year’s flood is much lower than normal.
Lower water levels means that many camps that would typically offer water activities such as boating / canoeing / mekoroing cannot do so… the upside are that vast tracts of land and islands that were previously only accessible by boat or mokoro are now accessible by vehicle and wildlife has been able to move into certain areas that would ordinarily be under water. Large herds of zebra for instance have been recorded on the Jao Flats for the first time since 2012.
The graph below shows the water levels of the Okavango River – the river that feeds the Okavango Delta – at Rundu. The stats show that the river is significantly lower than at the same time last year.
Here are updates from various camps and lodges:
Camps in the Vumbura Concession, Vumbura Plains and Little Vumbura, are offering normal water activities as they have access to good permanent water.
Camps in the Jao Concession are drier than normal as they rely on the seasonal flooding… We expect more water to inundate the areas around Tubu and Kwetsani. Boating is probably off the table for the season.
Qorokwe is offering mekoro excursions and should be able to do so throughout the season.
At Abu and Seba no water activities are on offer. Everyone however anticipates that water will push into the Abu Concession in the next couple of months making mokoro trips possible.
In the Linyanti area water levels are good and water activities at Duma Tau and Kings Pool continue as normal. As a side note, the Savute Channel is still flowing past Savuti Camp!
In a “normal” year, we would pretty much guarantee water activities in the Jao, Abu, and Vumbura concessions from May through August. However, this year is not normal.
Great Plains Conservation operates camps in the Duba Plains Concession and the Selinda Reserve… Dereck Joubert notes that when things are dry guests are in for a bumper year for great sightings.
The guides often struggle to get to the far corners of the Duba area in wet cycles, pushing their vehicles through the swamp and flood to get there. For those that know Duba Plains well, getting stuck every now and then is not unusual! A little terra firma in a dry cycle is welcomed where guests can get in everywhere and the floodplains, or rolling grasslands, are reminiscent of the Mara, but in Botswana. Lions must have known this was going to be their season of plenty because there are cubs everywhere. In addition prides are already following the buffalo, with wild dog and leopard already hunting the river banks and floodplains.
The northern sector of the Duba concession, where Duba Explorers Camp is located, has the best of both worlds. The area surrounding the camp is in the inner Okavango Delta, allowing mekoro and canoeing, even in the expected shallower waters of this coming season.
Another element of this drought is the suspension of the 2019 rhino relocations. Great Plains Conservation had planned to move another 13 into Botswana to complete their first milestone of 100 under the Rhinos Without Borders project.
AndBeyond has noted that the continuing dry conditions in Angola and Botswana has resulted in the suspension of mokoro trips, motorized boat cruises, and fishing activities at all their lodges. On the other hand even better than normal game viewing is the order of the day!
Desert and Delta Camps and Lodges have reported that mokoro and boating activities have continued at both Camp Okavango and Xugana Island Lodge despite the low water levels. Boating activities from Camp Moremi and Camp Xakanaxa have been unaffected as the water levels in the Xakanaxa Lagoon and the surrounding deep water channels remain high.
Chobe River levels are considerably lower than average. Measurements of the Zambezi River at Katima Mulilo (which usually pushes water into the Chobe) are approximately 4 meters lower than last year. Despite the lower levels boating continues on the Chobe River from both Chobe Game Lodge and Chobe Savanna Lodge and wildlife sightings are extremely good.
The poor rainfall has resulted in the premature start of the zebra migration at Leroo La Tau on the western boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – seeing thousands of zebra starting their annual movements months before the usual times. Seasonal boating activities at the lodge are suspended for the foreseeable future. The early zebra migration means that the Boteti River Valley is once again a sea of black and white and guests are in for an intense season of game-viewing.
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