Moremi Game Reserve is part of the Okavango Delta and number one on every Botswana safari wish list. The game reserve is renown for its abundance of wildlife and the great variety of safari activities, on land and water. The reserve is unfenced and its boundaries are defined by natural water systems. The vegetation is varied, with dry land complemented by permanent and seasonal swamplands, resulting in an excellent diversity of both wildlife and birdlife. There is a great network of game drive routes through the reserve. Boating can be enjoyed in Xakanaxa and Mboma where the channels are connected to permanent delta waterways.
Moremi is excellent for viewing the endangered African wild dog. Xakanaxa is home to a resident herd of several hundred buffalo whose range covers the territories of at least four prides of lion who hunt them. Breeding herds of elephant move between browsing areas in the mopane forests and the fresh waters of the Okavango. Red lechwe are one of the more unusual antelope species commonly found here.
Game viewing in the Moremi Game Reserve is excellent year-round and varies between the seasons. During the dry season (Apr – Oct) the game is usually concentrated around permanent water sources as seasonal pans dry up. From September to November migrant birds such as herons and storks return to the area guaranteeing prolific bird watching which remains excellent throughout the summer months. In the rainy season (Nov – Apr) Moremi captivates its visitors with wild flowers, dramatic thundershowers and spectacular sunsets. Most of the animals give birth during this period and newborn antelope attract a variety of predators.
The main areas of this top-rated African safari destiantion are the Khwai River, Xakanaxa Lagoon, Third Bridge and Chief’s Island. The Khwai River traverses a picturesque region characterized by tall evergreen trees lining a wide floodplain. It is situated on the north-eastern tip of Moremi Game Reserve and provides remarkable sightings of predators and prey. The elusive leopard is spotted regularly and birdlife is abundant with saddle-billed storks, wattled cranes, and many species of kingfishers and bee-eaters present.
The Xakanaxa Lagoon lies at the tip of the Mopane Tongue, where substantial mopane forests and a system of deep waterways and shallow flooded areas come together. It is where the desert meets the delta. The striking landscape is packed with game and leopards are seen frequently even though they are well-camouflaged, solitary and shy. The lagoon is also a good place to find the African wild dog and the sheer density of antelope is staggering. Exceptional and varied birdlife is the order of the day at Xakanaxa Lagoon, renowned for the breeding colonies of birds that congregate on its tree covered islands. Seasonal sightings include innumerable herons, egrets, storks and other waders, to the many species of sparrow hawks, buzzards and kites. There are three camps in this area situated along the shore of the lagoon, Camp Moremi, Camp Okuti and Xakanaxa Camp.
A short drive from Xakanaxa Lagoon, lying in the heart of the Moremi Game Reserve is Third Bridge. The area is positioned on an island with substantial amounts of tree thickets, in addition to a number of large, open plains. Campsites are available for mobile safaris, and the combination of unfenced campsites and wandering wildlife make for some close encounters between man and beast. Third Bridge’s boundary of land and water is an ideal destination to combine vehicle and boat trips, or for the more adventurous, an ‘island sleep over!’
Many areas of the Okavango Delta are largely dry including Chief’s Island, arguably the Okavango’s most famous isle. Once the royal hunting ground of Chief Moremi, the traditional leader of the local tribes donated it as an extension to the Moremi Game Reserve, which it was incorporated into in 1976. Chief’s Island is now one of the region’s best locations for spectacular wildlife viewing and hosts three luxury safari camps. Chief’s Island is the first part of dry land that the flood waters reach in the greater Okavango region. Most of the nutrients carried by the water are deposited here and this results in vegetation for rich grazing and browsing for wildlife. These nutritious grass plains support herbivores in large numbers and associated high population of predators. Chief’s Island is also called “predator capital”, the perfect place to see the big cats.
As Moremi is not fenced in, it can be a good choice to stay at one of the neighboring private concessions. A number of lodges can be found in the private concessions bordering Moremi Game Reserve, offering the wildlife viewing of Moremi without the crowds. As there are no fences between the reserve and these private concessions, animals are free to roam. Since these areas can only be explored by guests staying there, the game viewing experience is an exclusive one as well as a great one. As these areas aren’t governed by National Park rules, night drives and walking are also possible. In addition to land-based activities, some of these camps also offer the water-based activities and the scenic landscapes of the delta.
Make sure you will experience a perfect African safari in Moremi or at one of the private concessions by making an informed decision on the camp you choose. Keep the seasons in mind and the floods to enjoy all safari activities possible.
Ute Sonnenberg for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa
sources: safari destinations, image: chiefs camp