Okavango and Chobe
The world’s largest sea of sand, the Kalahari, stretches from the north western parts of South Africa, across land-locked Botswana up to Angola and beyond. The sand covers 2.5 million sq km and is up to 300m deep in places. Under this cushion of sand, ongoing seismic upheavals cause movements along the fault lines of the Earth’s crust and result in changes on the sand surface.
Forty million years ago the Okavango, Kwando and Zambezi Rivers had their origins on the highlands of what is now Angola, and emptied their contents into a vast super-lake, about the size of France. From here, they joined the Limpopo and the Gariep eastwards to the sea in present-day Mozambique. Huge upheavals then occurred, blocking the way of the Kwando and Zambezi Rivers, changing their courses and creating the first gorge of the Victoria Falls. Today the Kwando becomes the Linyanti and then the Chobe, before it joins the Zambezi on its way to the sea. Over time, the super-lake vanished since the Okavango River could not sustain it on its own.
In the meantime, more faults developed in the way of the Okavango River, and before long it simply spilled its water into the sand, forming an enormous wetland and the largest inland river delta in the world. Today a unique fauna inhabits the famous Okavango Delta, a 15 000 sq km network of channels, swamps, lagoons and islands. Most of the common African mammal species are found here, but it is also the home of rare species with specific habitat requirements. This is the only place in southern Africa where the sitatunga and lechwe occur. The rare species list also includes several types of bird, some of which reach their most southern distribution in African here. The astounding variety of birdlife attracts many visitors to this pristine destination. The Moremi Game Reserve is situated in the Okavango Delta.
The Chobe River forms part of Botswana’s northern boundary. South of the river, woodland is interspersed with stretches of grassland, but true forests occur only along the banks of the Chobe. The Chobe National Park with its large number of elephants is situated in this region. A patchwork of forest reserves and private concessions connects Chobe to the nearby Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
The Savuti Marsh is part of the Chobe National Park and is fed by the Savuti Channel flowing down from the Linyanti Marsh. The latter, however, is no longer a marsh. Since the second half of the twentieth century the channel has slowly been drying up, probably because of more upheavals deep down in the fault lines. Today, the former marsh is a breathtaking plain of waving grass with an abundance of game in summer. After the rainy season when water becomes scarce, large herds of herbivores, especially zebra and wildebeest, migrate towards the Linyanti Marsh, the Chobe River and Hwange.