As one of the largest inland river deltas on earth, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is surely one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
The swampy delta is formed by seasonal flooding of the Okavango River during the dry season. The floodwaters flow from the Angola highlands across Namibia’s Caprivi Strip before it empties into the harsh Kalahari Desert basin. Known as the “jewel of the Kalahari the flood waters cover an area of over anywhere from 9,000 square miles in the drier season to 13,000 square miles in the wetter season. As part of the African Rift Valley System its geography has resulted in the ‘capture’ of the Okavango River that has formed the Delta and its extensive waterways, swamps, flooded grasslands, and floodplains. But the Rift Valley also makes the water’s flow, distribution, and drainage patterns continually change due to tectonic activity underground.
The Okavango is divided into three areas. The panhandle where the river runs deep and wide and the swamps are perennially flooded. Here the papyrus beds and phoenix palms are home to many bird species and fishing is popular. At Seronga, the Delta forms a fan where the waters spill over rejuvenating the land and creating a variety of channels, lagoons, ox-bow lakes, flooded grasslands, and thousands of islands of all shapes and sizes. It’s covered in reeds, mokolwane palms, acacia, sycamore fig, sausage trees, raintrees, and African mangosteen. Finally, it turns into dry land forming the Matsebi Ridge, Chief’s Island, and the Moremi tongue and is dotted with salt pans.