The Okavango Delta could be called “the Venice of Africa,” due to its thousands of narrow canals opening up to large open water masses. However, that is about the only thing they have in common — that, and possibly the precarious boat drivers.
The Okavango Delta has two sides to it. On the one hand complete peace and tranquility comes with the quietness of the waterways, the cry of the fish eagle and the floating water lilies. But beneath the seemingly calm and peaceful water lies four-meter-long crocodiles and more hippos than you could ever imagine. Not to forget the fact that an elephant might pop out of one of the side canals right next to your boat at any moment. This is the Okavango Delta – home to some pretty wild animals.
Whizzing through the canals on the Delta is a most breath-taking and thrilling experience. The absolute pure beauty and raw wildlife surrounding you is something that will forever stick in your memory.
The best way to truly experience the Okavango Delta is to really get in and explore the more ‘off-the-beaten-track’ places. There are a few islands around the Delta that are private concession areas in which visitors can spend the night. Sleeping on an island means that you are completely surrounded by the wildlife; like most camps in Botswana they are completely open and unfenced so animals roam freely. You could wake up to hippos snorting in the water just next to the island, or the loud splashing of a family of elephants making their way onto land, or just the peaceful sounds of birds chirping.
All of the island lodges offer game drives and cruises, ensuring that you experience the best that there is to offer of the Delta. Cruising along the vast open water and through the narrow canals spotting birds, hippos, elephants and occasionally a croc is probably one of the more adventurous safaris that you’ll experience. A sunrise or sunset cruise is the perfect start or end to a day – who wouldn’t want to enjoy a sundowner while on a boat in the middle of the Okavango Delta with hippos bobbing up around you and a fish eagle flying over head?
Here are a few island accommodation spots to choose from:
Sanctuary Chief’s Camp
Chief’s Island is in the very centre of the Okavango Delta and one of its largest islands, the island is part of the Moremi Game Reserve. You can stay over at the luxurious Sanctuary Chief’s Camp in one of the twelve suites burrowed in a jackalberry and sausage tree woodland. Each suite has its own spacious seating area and private viewing deck overlooking the flood plains of the Delta.
Xugana Island Lodge
Xugana Island Lodge is situated along Xugana Lagoon, which is widely recognised as the most spectacular permanent water site in the entire Okavango Delta. The lodge accommodates 16 guests, offering a private and specialised experience. The thatched chalets all face the lagoon and have their own private viewing decks, strategically placed on the shaded side of the island. Xugana Island Lodge is run by Desert and Delta Safaris.
Camp Okavango on the remote Nxaragha Island is yet another perfect paradise. The camp has eleven private East African-style safari tents on raised teak platforms with private open-air viewing decks. They also have an Okavango Suite for those seeking ultimate privacy and luxury – a honeymooners’ favourite. Camp Okavango is run by Desert and Delta Safaris.
Gcadikwe Island Camp
Gcadikwe Island Camp is less luxurious than the other camps, however they make up for it in the smaller details. The permanent tents are set up with private ablution facilities and hot water on request, and a private chef makes freshly baked bread each morning and prepares meals to specific requests. The friendly faces and lively atmosphere is what makes Gcadikwe Island Camp so special — it’s a homey atmosphere in the middle of the Delta.
Almost neighbouring Gcadikwe, Gcobega is a very similar style camp with permanent tents and unassuming atmosphere. The tents are all hidden under the big green trees, with their own ablution facilities and private patio to enjoy your morning stretch. Meals are enjoyed in the communal area with all of the guests sharing their bush stories and discussing the day’s sightings.
Belmond Eagle Island Lodge
Another piece of luxury in the Okavango Delta, Eagle Island Lodge is made up of luxury rooms on raised wooden platforms with traditional African thatch roofs. The rooms have all the amenities that you would need (including fully stocked mini bar). If you want a bit more privacy, then make sure to book yourself into the exclusive private suite, which is decked out with its own private splash pool.
Pom Pom Camp
This camp is located on Pom Pom Island on the headwaters of the Xudum river system. The island lies on the western boundary of the Moremi Game Reserve. It has nine luxury en-suite Meru style tents as well as a family tent, plus a communal dining room, lounge, bar and glorious swimming pool that you will fall in love with on a hot day.
These islands are all remote and not entirely easy to get it – almost impossible by yourself. The best option is to contact the lodge directly to find out their transport options, either boat transfers or air transfers. The bigger islands would have an airstrip, the others you may need to fly to the closest airstrip inland then go via boat transfer to the island.
There are also many safari companies that you can contact to organise all of the finer details of your trip, leaving you to only worry about whether your camera has enough battery life to capture the beauty around you. Some of the most popular safari companies include Desert and Delta, Wilderness Safaris and &Beyond. These are recommended if you would like to explore more of Botswana than the islands in the Okavango Delta.