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Okavango Delta, Botswana – Update on Water Levels and Guest Experiences

May 15, 2019 Southern Africa Bush Tails

At AAC, we are privileged to plan safari adventures for our clients in wild, open ecosystems. The beauty of this is that these environments offer varying experiences based on natural, annual cycles and seasons. This is seldom truer than in the dynamic Okavango Delta. We would like to highlight some of the changes as far as the annual inundation goes this year, pointing out the relevant facts, and setting appropriate expectations for our safariers who will be visiting the Okavango Delta in the coming months.

The floodwaters typically start spilling into the Okavango Delta in March/April each year. This year, however, there was both low rainfall in the Angolan Highlands (the catchment area of the Okavango Delta) and lower than average rainfall within the Okavango Delta itself. This has resulted in a lower than average inundation coming into the Okavango Delta, and a water table that is also lower than usual. As a result, the current water levels within the Okavango Delta are lower than we have experienced in a number of years. 

The effect of lower water levels is that some areas will not be able to offer certain water activities. The upside though, is that it makes for a completely different Delta experience. Tracts of land and islands that were previously only accessible by boat or mokoro are now accessible by vehicle. The lower than normal water levels have also allowed for game 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. 

Vumbura Concession – Vumbura Plains and Little Vumbura
All water activities (boating and mekoro) are still on offer, as have been in the past few years. We anticipate that this will remain the case for the remainder of the season.  

Jao Concession – Pelo, Jacana, Jao, Kwetsani, Tubu Tree and Little Tubu
Pelo is currently offering mokoro activities, although the first push of water is starting to recede. The second push will be arriving in the next month or so, and we are hopeful that mokoro will also be on offer at Jacana soon, and at Jao when it reopens. We expect the water to arrive at Tubu and at Kwetsani later than usual.

We anticipate that the levels will increase for the next couple of months with the second inundation’s push of water. As far as boating in the concession goes, it is too soon to comment on this for the remainder of the season; however, it will be highly limited. 

Qorokwe is offering mokoro trips and we expect this to continue throughout the season.

Chitabe and Chitabe Lediba
As a “Land” camp, no water activities are offered.

Mombo and Little Mombo
As a “Land” camp, no water activities are offered. Abu and Seba
Currently no boating or mokoro activities are on offer; however, we anticipate that the water will push into the Abu Concession in the next couple of months, making mokoro trips possible. Indeed, we are optimistic that the second push of water could move as far as Abu. We will keep you updated on this. Regarding boating however, given the current water levels, and estimated water levels, we do not anticipate being able to offer this activity in the Abu Concession this year.

The Linyanti 
The water levels in the Linyanti Concession are good. Water activities continue as normal at DumaTau, and at King’s Pool when it reopens in June.

As a side note, the Savute Channel is still flowing past Savuti Camp.

Outlook going forward
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 we cannot do that. We will keep you updated as the waters move in, but for now be prepared for lower than usual water levels. On the plus side, this dynamic and open ecosystem may provide you some unexpected and fascinating sightings. At Abu Lagoon, game is congregating around a pool that has formed in front of the camp – have a look at the below to see the stunning surroundings.

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