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The Okavango Delta (or Okavango Grassland) in Botswana is a very large inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. All the water reaching the Delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired, and does not flow into any sea or ocean. Each year approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water spreads over the 6,000-15,000 km² area. Some flood-waters drain into Lake Ngami. The Moremi Game Reserve, a National Park, is on the eastern side of the Delta. The scale and magnificence of the Okavango Delta helped it secure a position as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, which were officially declared on February 11, 2013 in Arusha, Tanzania. On the 22nd June, 2014, the Okavango Delta became the 1000th site to be officially inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The area was once part of Lake Makgadikgadi, an ancient lake that mostly dried up by the early Holocene. Although the Okavango Delta is widely believed to be the world’s largest inland delta, it is not. In Africa alone there are two larger similar geological features: the Sudd on the Nile in South Sudan, and the Inner Niger Delta in Mali.
Sports & natureExtensive pristine wetland with a wide diversity of wetland types in a continuous state of flux. The delta extends over an area half the size of Belgium, with 6,000km2 of permanent swamps and 7-12,000 km2 of seasonally flooded grassland. Remarkably, it remains in a largely pristine condition, unaffected by any major developments either within the delta itself, or anywhere along the course of its inflowing rivers and their tributaries. The wetland ecosystem is in a constant state of flux as channels change their course, fires determine short-term grazing cycles and elephants impact trees and other vegetation. The red lechwe is a wetland-adapted species abundant in the Okavango Delta world heritage site (Botswana)Rich diversity of species across many taxa, with significant populations of African mega-fauna. The delta supports a high diversity of natural habitats including permanent and seasonal rivers and lagoons, permanent swamps with reeds and papyrus, seasonal and occasionally-flooded grasslands, riparian forest and woodlands, dry woodlands and island communities. Each of these habitats has a distinct species composition with strong representation of aquatic organisms across most taxa. A total of 1061species of plants (belonging to 134 families and 530 genera), 89 fish, 64 reptiles, 482 species of birds and 130 species of mammals has been recorded. The Okavango supports significant populations of wetland-adapted mammals such as sitatunga, red lechwe and southern reedbuck, and serves as a core habitat for part of Africa’s largest elephant population (with 200,000 individuals ranging across northern Botswana). Habitat for important populations of rare and endangered species. The delta provides a refuge to globally significant numbers of rare and endangered large mammals, including white and black rhinoceros, wild dogs, lions and cheetahs. It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area, harbouring 24 species of globally threatened birds, including six species of vulture, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret. Thirty-three species of water birds occur in the Okavango Delta in numbers that exceed 0.5% of their global or regional population. Area of exceptional natural beauty with outstanding wilderness qualities. The natural beauty of the emerald-green ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’ in its red-sand desert setting is legendary. Its crystal clear waters meandering through the ever-changing channels of the delta, its islands and waterways teeming with wildlife create an unparalleled range of vistas of exceptional beauty. Furthermore, the size and difficulty of accessing the area (except by light aircraft) ensure that it maintains exceptional wilderness qualities with very little development or management infrastructure.
Culture and history infoHistory: The Okavango Delta is a large low gradient alluvial fan or ‘Inland Delta’ located in north-western Botswana. The area includes permanent swamps which cover approximately 600,000 ha along with up to 1.2m ha of seasonally flooded grassland. The inscribed World Heritage property encompasses an area of 2,023,590 ha with a buffer zone of 2,286,630 ha. The Okavango Delta is one of a very few large inland delta systems without an outlet to the sea, known as an endorheic delta, its waters drain instead into the desert sands of the Kalahari Basin. It is Africa’s third largest alluvial fan and the continent’s largest endorheic delta. Furthermore it is in a near pristine state being a largely untransformed wetland system. The biota has uniquely adapted their growth and reproductive behaviour, particularly the flooded grassland biota, to be timed with the arrival of floodwater in the dry, winter season of Botswana. Culture: The Okavango Delta peoples consist of five ethnic groups, each with its own ethnic identity and language (Bock 1993, 1995). They are Hambukushu (Mbukushu, Bukushu, Bukusu, Mbukuschu, Ghuva, Haghuva), Dxeriku (Dceriku, Diriku, Gceriku, Giriku, Niriku), Wayeyi (Bayei, Bayeyi, Bakoba), Bugakwe (Kxoe, Kwengo, Barakwena, G/anda) and Xanekwe (Gxanekwe, //tanekwe, River Bushmen, Swamp Bushmen, G//ani, //ani). The Hambukushu, Dxeriku, and Wayeyi are all Bantus who have traditionally engaged in mixed economies of millet/sorghum agriculture; fishing, hunting, and the collection of wild plant foods; and pastoralism. The Bugakwe and Xanekwe are Bushmen who have traditionally practiced fishing, hunting, and the collection of wild plant foods, Bugakwe utilized both forest and riverine resources while the Xanekwe mostly focused on riverine resources. The Hambukushu, Dxeriku, and Bugakwe are present along the Okavango River in Angola and in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, and there are small numbers of Hambukushu and Bugakwe in Zambia as well. Within the Okavango Delta, over the past 150 years or so Hambukushu, Dxeriku, and Bugakwe have inhabited the Panhandle and the Magwegqana in the northeastern Delta (Barnard 1992, Tlou 1985). Xanekwe have inhabited the Panhandle and the area along the Boro River through the Delta, as well as the area along the Boteti River (Barnard 1992). The Wayeyi have inhabited the area around Seronga as well as the southern Delta around Maun, and a few Wayeyi live in their putative ancestral home in the Caprivi Strip (Larson 1988). Within the past 20 years many people from all over the Okavango have migrated to Maun, and in the late 1960's and early 1970's over 4,000 Hambukushu refugees from Angola were settled in the area around Etsha in the western Panhandle. Small numbers of people from other ethnic groups such as Ovaherero, Ovambanderu, and Batawana now live in parts of the Okavango Delta, but since the majority of the members of those groups live elsewhere and the habitation is recent they are not included in the Okavango Delta peoples. There are also several Bushmen groups represented by a handful of people. These groups were decimated by diseases of contact in the middle part of this century, and most of the remaining members have intermarried with the Xanekwe.