The broad sandy banks of the Chobe River in northern Botswana are the source of my earliest childhood memories. One day an angry bull hippo made a huge hole in the bottom of my father’s boat and he had to spend half a day searching for his rifle on the bottom of the river. Today the area is still home to numerous hippo, most of them friendly enough. And to literally 10s of 1000s of elephant.
The Kalahari Desert, that circumscribes this incredible country, is a vast area of sand, in place hundreds of meters deep, and sandy soils supporting mopane woodland, desert scrub and expansive dry salt pans. It is to water, that scarce and precious commodity, that herds of elephant and other game are drawn. Remote dry season desert oasis’ deep in the Kalahari are magical places where animals congregate for water and are places of dramatic action as lion hunt springbok, kudu and buffalo.
The Jewel of the Kalahari is of course the Okavango Delta. Whose river, the Okavango, has its source deep in the forested highlands of Angola and each year delivers up to 11 billion cubic meters of water into the largest inland delta in the world. The flood drains away through a 17,000 square kilometer maze of lagoons, channels and islands before disappearing into the Kalahari sands. The floodwaters provide a bonanza of grazing for huge herds of buffalo and marsh specializing antelope – the abundant red lechwe and shy sitatunga. In the dry season from May to October huge herds of elephant enter the Delta.
Today most of the Delta’s area is taken up by private concessions where one gets the best the dry sandy edge of the Delta and the excellent delta waterways from a few gorgeous small lodges on islands. Of course, a charter of Little Mombo on Chief’s Island is also fantastic and offers the best of both dry and wet, all in one place!