Into the Okavango

“Wilderness, water, unrivaled abundance. This is what makes Africa great. And I will do everything in my power - anything in my power - to protect this place.”

These purposeful words come from one of the lead scientists on National Geographic’s Okavango Wilderness Project.

First launched in 2015, the multi-year expedition, supported by the National Geographic Society, seeks to explore the entire length of the river system that feeds Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The ultimate goal is to secure the sustainable future of the Okavango Delta and its catchment area.

 

Despite more rapids and blockages on the river today we managed to overcome 10km down the #Cubango and this is a photo of what lays ahead of us downstream for tomorrow. Looks promising and the spirits are high, but our bodies now need a a recovery rest. Photo & text: @kodilu / @angolaimagebank #conservation #science #natgeo #angola #africa #travel #adventure #Cubango2017 #expedition

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A multi-national team of scientists, researchers, filmmakers and expert polers have been exploring the Okavango Delta’s eco-system in a series of expeditions undertaken on foot, by motorbike and in mokoros (traditional dug-out canoes).

Currently, the team is nearing the end of their 10 week exploration of the Cubango River (the Okavango river is known by its Portuguese name Rio Cubango in Angola where it begins).

Navigating hundreds of kilometers of river system is not always smooth sailing. On this expedition, the team has had to traverse huge rapids and negotiate with an angry female hippo who held them up for two days.

 

Every day around 3:30pm we look for a camping spot and get out of the river to avoid hippo encounters. But yesterday we were forced into this camping spot by a defensive hippo that blocked our way a few hundred meters downstream. As it was getting past 3:00pm we had to paddle back and against the current to this very spot where we could climb onto the shore. This morning we were greeted by this epic sunrise mood. Aesthetically the site was well worth the trouble of getting to it. However, later this morning our second attempt to cross the hippo’s territory failed again and we are now spending a second night at the same camp, which we had to setup again. After a thorough inspection of our aerial photos, we found out that the hippo is a female with a calf and that explains its defensive behavior. Photo & text: @kodilu / @angolaimagebank #conservation #science #natgeo #angola #africa #travel #adventure #Cubango2017 #expedition #intotheokavango #Cubango

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One of the great things about the Okavango Wilderness Project is that readers can follow the team's journey in real time. The Into the Okavango site provides live updates of movements as well as links to social media pages that are updated regularly with info, videos and breathtaking photos from the expedition.

The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta and sustains a myriad of life in the area. In 2014, it became the 1000th site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The World Heritage Committee based the decision on the impressive environmental impact of the delta, “One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the river Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronised their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods. It is an exceptional example of the interaction between climatic, hydrological and biological processes.”

With this prestigious title comes the duty to preserve the area. While the Okavango Delta is protected in Botswana, its source rivers which originate in Angola are unprotected outside of Botswana.

The idea is that to protect the system effectively, the team needs to understand it as a whole. Since it first began two years ago, the team has been gathering information on the creatures that inhabit the system and have been learning about the people who depend on the waters for survival.

According to National Geographic, “The team is using their scientific and survey work to build connections among governments, non-governmental organizations, and local communities to help inform planning for the long-term goal of establishing sustainable management of the Okavango watershed’s source rivers to protect them forever.”

For live updates follow the Into the Okavango Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages and experience the expedition to protect one of the most beautiful and valuable ecosystems in the world first hand.

Looking for inspiration for your own trip to the Okavango Delta or a Botswana Safari? Read our Botswana Safari page!

Heather Cameron

Meet Safari365's Content Creator Heather Cameron.

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