2020 Flood Predictions for the Okavango Delta

Posted on February 6, 2020

Rebecca Clarke

The Okavango Delta is often quoted as the “jewel of Botswana”, but what is it that makes it so special both for the animals that live in the area and those of us lucky enough to visit and ride there? Becky from In The Saddle writes:

Where is the Okavango Delta?

The Okavango Delta covers between 6,000 and 15,000 square kilometres of the Kalahari Desert in northern Botswana. Unlike other famous deltas such as the Mississippi, the Nile or the Rhine, the Okavango never reaches the sea.

okavango delta

Map showing the location of the Okavango Delta in Botswana (screenshots taken from google maps).

What is the Okavango Delta?

The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta that is affected by seasonal flooding. Water travels over a thousand kilometres from the rain-soaked highlands of Angola before it spills onto the Kalahari sands and slowly seeps away.

When the floods arrive, the main channels of the delta weave their way around lush grasslands, reed beds, palm groves and mopane forest. During this time a green oasis is created – a haven for so much wildlife.

flood waters in the okavango delta

The flood waters spreading out across the desert. The areas of higher ground are made into islands during this time. (Photo taken at Macatoo camp).

What happens when?

The rain in Angola falls mostly from November to April before slowly making it’s way through Namibia and into Botswana usually by late May. The floods normally peak in the Delta during July and August and start to recede again in September.

Just to confuse a little, the time of year when the flood waters should be at their highest in the Delta, is actually known as the “dry season” because there is no rain at this time.  Between November to February are the hottest months and the ground is bone dry but since this is when the most rain falls it is known as the “wet season”.

What are the Okavango Flood predictions for 2020?

In 2019 the rainfall in the Angola highlands was way below average and the Okavango floods were almost non-existent. So, what are the predictions for 2020?

So far, there have been good rains in Angola and water levels in the Okavango river remain higher than the same time last year. The water levels are monitored in the village of Rundu in Namibia’s caprivi strip and show the following:

river levels

River levels of the Okavango at Rundu (credit: Hydrologival Services Namibia)

As you can see from the chart, in January 2020 (the red line) the river level is already much higher that in 2019 (yellow line). Hopefully there will be more rain, river levels will continue to rise and the delta will receive much needed water soon.

What makes the Okavango Delta so special?

The Okavango Delta supports hundreds of mammal, reptile and bird species. At its widest point the delta’s fan is 170km and between July and September over 200,000 animals migrate from the desert to this natural oasis. Unlike other inland seas, the waters of the Okavango are sweet to drink, filtering through Kalahari sands and evaporating before they have a chance to stagnate.

riding with buffalo in the okavango delta

A group of riders travel through the flood water alongside a herd of buffalo. (Image taken at Kujwana camp).

Game Viewing in the Okavango Delta

Key predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and endangered African wild dogs find sanctuary in the Okavango Delta. As well as the predators, you can see herds of wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and various antelope species.

leopards in the okavango delta

Leopards are certainly in the area but you need to keep your eyes peeled to see one!

During the months of the flood migratory herds of elephant head for the delta. Over these months, the area hosts almost half the continent’s elephant population. Rhinos are even making a comeback as conservationists, fearful of their survival in South Africa, relocate them to Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

okavango delta

Elephant playing in the flood water

When the delta is in full flood there is plenty of water for all species of animal. This means that the herds can spread out. But on horseback you can easily traverse this wet landscape. The riding during this time normally includes lots of splashy canters and the Botswana winter temperatures make it ideal riding weather.

Having said that the hotter summer months of November to February are also great for game viewing. Since there is limited water at this time the game surrounds the remaining water holes making them much easier to find.

buffalo in the delta

A large herd of buffalo at dusk. During the hotter summer months, when there is little water remaining, the game is much more concentrated. (Image taken at Macatoo Camp).

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For more information about riding in the Okavango Delta, please call us on +44 1299 272997 or email rides@inthesaddle.com.

The rides that operate in the delta are:

Macatoo

Kujwana

Okavango Mobile Safari

14 responses to “2020 Flood Predictions for the Okavango Delta”

  1. Avatar Laurel Knightley says:

    It was so sad to see how dry it was last year but as you say, it did mean the game congregated around Kujwana’s water holes so for the first time ever I saw all the Big Five in one trip and wild dog virtually every day

    • Rebecca Clarke Rebecca Clarke says:

      Hi Laurel, I’m so pleased you were able to see so much game this year. Spotting all of the big five is special indeed. Hopefully this year the rains have been much better in Angola and the delta will return to a lush green oasis during the winter months. Becky

  2. Avatar Sam Strom says:

    Hi, i heard there were severe storms and much damage in Duba area a few days ago, is this true?

    • Rebecca Clarke Rebecca Clarke says:

      Hi Sam, I’m not sure about the storms in the Duba area. The riding safaris that we work with are further south and we get a lot of our updates directly from them. Becky

  3. Avatar Alan Monnaaletsatsi says:

    The level looks much better and promissing .Please if possible keep me up dated
    thanks looking forwards for the updates

    • Rebecca Clarke Rebecca Clarke says:

      Hi Alan,
      Thank you for your comment and the levels certainly do look much better than last year. We will aim to put out further updates as we hear them. Becky

  4. Avatar Freedom Dough Joshua says:

    its a blessing year for as in Botswana. we are waiting patiently

  5. Avatar Mandy says:

    Thank you for the valuable information. Would the Inner Delta Tender Boat Cruises be possible during the month of May?

    • Rebecca Clarke Rebecca Clarke says:

      Hi Mandy, thank you for your comment. In The Saddle specialises in riding holidays and so I’m not sure about the boat cruises. Perhaps it would be a good idea to contact a cruise company?

  6. Avatar Justice Thebe Moilwa says:

    We stayed on the Rundu Beach Lodge on 28 December 2019 and the water level was extremely low. It is exciting to hear that the water level has gone up to the extent that we hope the water in Boteti River would reach Rakops in large quantities so that life of all livings things including Humans can flourish again

  7. Avatar Ndabazabo Legwaila says:

    Let it be too much because the river is so dry .

  8. Avatar David Henry says:

    Can you give an update 2 months later than the last report

    • Olwen Law Olwen Law says:

      As of April 2020 we know that the flood waters have arrived at the horse safari camps at Macatoo and Moklowane and are heading for Kujwana camp. Unfortunately due to the Coronavirus travel restrictions currently no visitors can enjoy the floods at the moment but hopefully they can visit later in 2020.

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