Wildlife in the Okavango Delta
With countless bird species and wildlife, it is challenging to summarize the highlights, but we will try to paint a picture of Okavango Delta’s bustling wildlife.
Biggest predators and the Big 5 in the Okavango Delta
The biggest predators dominating the Okavango Delta are cheetah, wild dog, lion, leopard and hyena. Large herds of elephant also roam the area, seeking water and refreshment. These big herbivores consume huge quantities of forage and fodder and modify the environment by keeping the channels open. Some of the elephants also like to be regulars at some of the lodges, so keep an eye open for these grey giants.
The Okavango Delta is a true haven for the Cape Buffalo. Some herds hold over a thousand buffaloes. Buffaloes are the third most antelope in the Okavango and have a reputation of being very dangerous. Buffalo are also a lion’s favorite bite, and where there are buffaloes, the lion prides are usually not far away. There is a fairly permanent herd of around a thousand buffalo that live on the Duba Plains in the Okavango and there are a couple of prides of lion that regularly hunt them. Making this an area where you are almost guaranteed to see a lion kill!
Although lions might not be the first to pick a wetland like the Okavango Delta, they’ve adapted to their water habitat and thrive in the Okavango Delta. Don’t be surprised to catch a lion slowly swimming closer to his prey. A lion pride can consist between three and thirty members; the more the better. These big cats are highly social.
Big Five in the Okavango Delta
As wildlife enthusiasts probably already noticed, the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and the rare rhino) can all be crossed off the bucket list in the Okavango Delta. Spotting these impressive animals in their own habitat is something you will never forget. Unfortunately, the rhino population has been decimated, but is slowly being reintroduced into private areas of the Delta and Moremi Game Reserve. Did you know that they didn’t get their name, Big Five, due to being ‘large’ animals? It was the difficulty to hunt these animals back in the days that gave them their nickname.
Elegant antelopes, over 500 bird species
Also the ever-elegant antelopes are well represented in the Okavango Delta: springbok, tsessebe, impala and the rare red lechwe are often spotted.
There are over 560 recorded bird species in the Okavango Delta, as they thrive in Botswana’s undisturbed natural vegetation. Swamp, open water, forest, drier areas; you will spot different species everywhere you go. In addition to ‘locals’, Botswana has many migrants from Europe and North Africa. To identify them all, Newman’s Birds of South Africa is a highly recommended field guide.
Because the Okavango Delta knows such a high diversity of ecosystems – flood plains, forest, dessert, saltpans, savannah – a wide range of animals can be spotted, whether you venture out with a vehicle, boat or by foot.