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10 Things to Know Before Camping in the Okavango Delta (To Stay Safe!)
Camping in the Okavango Delta can be one of the coolest experiences that a traveller experiences in their lifetime.
The Okavango Delta (in Botswana) is an inland Delta that is produced by seasonal flooding brought on by rainfalls in Angola. This makes the Delta, and the rivers that run through it, the lifeblood of many of Africa’s natural habitats.
It’s one of the best locations in all of Africa to see the Big 5 game animals as well as a huge range of other species.
The natural beauty and rich plant life is why the Delta was declared one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. It has also been listed as the 1000th site to be officially inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The vast array of animal life and the breath-taking beauty of this remote region means that camping in the Okavango Delta is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the heart of this unimaginable landscape.
However, this amazing stretch of wild Africa certainly has its mix of hurdles and experiences you should be prepared for.
Which is why we have provided this list of the 10 things you need to know before camping in the Okavango Delta!
10) Do Your Research
Camping in the Okavango Delta is not as simple as camping in the United States or Europe.
You will need to keep several things in mind when arriving into Botswana to ensure your journey goes smoothly.
Firstly, you’ll need to pick your camp before arrival as all of the camping in the Okavango Delta is always done on a pre-booked basis.
Most camps in the Delta offer a range of activities that is very seasonally dependent.
Camps located at permanent waterways usually offer boating and canoe safaris throughout the year. Whilst camps located in the seasonally flooded areas focus more on game drives during the low season.
9) Pre-plan Your Trip
Due to its remote location, reaching the Delta is no simple task.
You will usually arrive first in the Maun International Airport which is set at the edge of the Okavango Delta.
From there, you can arrange transport to your accommodation – whether by a light aircraft transfer, a short drive and even a boat ride for the final leg.
While it sounds like a lot to organise to simply get to your camp in the Okavango Delta, booking through a tour operator will make your life a ton easier.
8) Check if You Need Any Visas or Vaccinations
For most nationalities you can visit Botswana without a visa for up to 90 days.
This means less time in contact with embassies and travel regulators. However, all foreign visitors must carry a return ticket and hold a passport that is valid for at least six months before entering the country.
Children under 18 must also have a certified copy of their birth certificate.
Government health bodies also encourage visitors to Botswana to be up to date with Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations as well as to pack any anti-Malaria medication.
Also, if you’re travelling from a country which is at risk of yellow fever the government of Botswana requires proof of yellow fever vaccination when you arrive.
Border regulations are fairly strict in Botswana so make sure you have all your documents in check before you start your journey.
Requirements also regularly change so make sure you check your local government site for travel advice before leaving.
7) Research the Laws & Customs Before You Go
People in Botswana are friendly and immensely helpful, however there are some local laws and customs you should be aware of especially when travelling or camping in rural areas like the Okavango Delta.
You should be aware that drug-taking is a very serious offence in Botswana and can result in a long prison sentence so be sure to avoid any exposure to drugs during your stay.
Same-sex relationships are no longer illegal in Botswana since 2019, but it is still not widely tolerated in rural regions so to avoid any potential conflict keep public displays of affection to a minimum.
It is also illegal to trade in protected wild animal parts throughout Botswana so you should be extra careful about what you are buying from local markets and always check the source.
It’s also considered rude to take photos of people without their permission in Botswana so make sure to always ask before you point the camera at someone.
6) The Okavango Delta Changes with the Seasons
Your camping experience in the Okavango Delta will vary wildly depending on when you decide to go.
While it is always a worthwhile experience, it’s always good to look at what time of year works best for you.
The winter months (between April to September) are the high-water season and this is the best time of year for boating and canoe safaris.
Huge herds of animals migrate to the Delta at this time, due to the water drying up in surrounding regions. This and the mild winter climate make this period one of the best times for an Okavango Delta safari.
The Delta’s summer starts in October and ends in March with the onset of the dry season. October is the hottest month with dry temperatures soaring up to 40 degrees Celsius or more.
Towards the end of November (and early December) the arrival of the first rains occurs. This does cool the area down significantly.
The summer months are an excellent time to view mass bird migrations to the region as well as one of the largest Zebra migrations in Africa.
During this time, tens of thousands of Zebra move to the salt pans of the Delta.
The rainy season in the Okavango Delta lasts until the end of February or early March. The days during this period are hot and sunny in the mornings with thunderstorms regularly occurring in the afternoons.
Before travelling to the Okavango Delta, you should ensure that you’ve picked the right season for what you’re seeking.
5) Only Bring a Small Bag When Camping in the Okavango Delta
As we mentioned earlier, the most common form of transport in and out of the Okavango Delta is light aircraft or coach.
Given the changing seasons, the road conditions can be unimaginably difficult at certain times of the year. Some usually short journeys can take as long as 6 hours in the wet season.
To ensure that you have the easiest time travelling, it’s best to pack a light soft style backpack or duffel bag. Especially if only staying in the Delta for a few days.
Many of the light airlines that serve the Delta do not allow hard-edged suitcases. or luggage over 20kgs.
If you will need to take a big bag or backpack with you throughout your travels, I suggest opting for a group tour. That way, you can leave your main luggage on the bus or with the tour provider whilst you camp in the Delta.
That is what I did.
4) Use a Good Packing List
Given we suggest taking only a small overnight bag with you, the question is “What do you pack?“
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
We have a whole section of this website dedicated to the best travel gear for backpackers.
However, for the purpose of Botswana, here’s a short list of a few things you should pack if camping in the Okavango Delta overnight.
1) Pack light breathable clothing with neutral colours
In particular, aim for soft shades of white, brown, grey or khaki.
Animals see colours differently from humans. therefore any bright colours can scare them off!
This can make it hard for you to get up close to animals whilst on Safari, as they’ll be very aware and cautious of your presence.
2) Pack any personal medicine that you require and that is it.
Most camps have their own First Aid area. This will provide you with any basic medical equipment you may need whilst staying in the Delta.
3) Pack only your toiletry essentials
(eg. toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, and lip balm)
If camping in a mainstream tent overnight, you’ll need to accept that you may go a night without a shower,
If glamping, then you may have the luxury of some soap, shampoo and conditioner.
But really, unless you’re some sort of princess, that’s going to be a low concern.
4) Pack a light jacket for cold early mornings
Like any safari experience it’s likely you will be getting up EARLY. Maybe even before sunrise.
During these times, the crisp morning air can be chilly.
5) Bring your camera (and binoculars if small)
One of the great perks of the Okavango Delta is that you’re sure to spot some rare animals.
However, it’s often from a distance.
Using the zoom of a camera or binoculars can come in handy when wanting to the animals closer or more detail.
6) Sunblock and Mosquito
Definitely don’t forget these. Trust me, you’re going to need them.
3) Be Prepared to Get Close to Nature
When camping in the Okavango Delta you will truly be in the heart of one of the most remote regions of Southern Africa.
As such, you’ll be surrounded by animals and their natural habitat.
Most of the camps in the Delta are unfenced and designed to avoid disturbing the local animals as much as possible.
As a result, you must be prepared to have some close encounters with a plethora of wild animals – such as baboons, giraffes, elephants and so on.
It’s always wise to keep food, valuables, and other items you don’t want lost out of sight or safely stowed in your tent or lodge.
You would be surprised how appealing a shiny bracelet or a pack of bread is to a troop of baboons. And they’re FAST!!
Once they’ve spotted it, it’s gone before your eyes.
Despite there being a lot of water in the Delta, NEVER EVER go swimming… unless in your accommodation’s swimming pool.
For one, your body is not used to the potential diseases lurking in the water.
Second, you are in crocodile and hippo territory, my friend (two of the most dangerous animals in the world).
You do not want to find yourself in the situation of having two beady eyes approaching you in the murky waters. Or even worse, being attacked from underneath, as hippos do.
No no. We don’t want that!
2) Expect Some Discomfort When Camping in the Okavango Delta
While much of the accommodation across the Delta is surprisingly luxurious and aimed at encouraging sustainable comfort, you are still camping in the heart of Africa.
Therefore, you should expect a little difference from many western luxuries.
The first and foremost of these is the mosquitoes.
In the Okavango Delta, Mosquitoes gather in swarms around the waterways, especially during the wet season.
This is why we recommended packing mosquito spray.
You must also make sure to spray your arms, wrists and ankles during morning and evening to stay protected.
The Okavango Delta is a high-risk malaria zone which is at its worst in the wet season. As such it is advisable to take anti-malaria medication with you and limit exposed skin.
If you are staying at one of the more budget camps in the Okavango Delta, you should expect outdoor showers as well as rural “bush-style” toilets.
These changes can seem strange at first but it is all part of the true African safari experience!
1) Take it Slow & Savour It
Life in the Okavango Delta goes at a slower pace than the rush of the city.
Days in the Delta are spent seeking rare animal sightings and enjoying the serene beauty of this truly remote region.
Take your time and keep an eye out for rare animals and birds.
Here are some cool activities you can do whilst camping in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
1) Explore the marshlands in a Mokoro
A Mokoro is a dug-out canoe that was used by the Okavango’s original inhabitants.
Many river-based lodges and tour operators offer you a safari through the Okavango Delta on one of these boats.
So, jump aboard and glide through the hidden waterways on the Delta.
You will also have our own guide propelling you through the reeds to your final destination.
This is truly the best way to experience the Delta like it was meant to be!
2) Take part in a guided walk Safari
This will allow you to see the Delta from a completely different perspective.
Learn new skills (like animal tracking) and view both the big 5, bizarre insects and other rare animals.
3) Boat tours
Boat tours are one of the best ways to cruise the deep network of winding channels and serene lagoons throughout the Delta.
Cruising by boat allows you to see this amazing landscape whilst protected in a physical vessel, rather than being directly on the land.
So, there you have it – our top ten tips for camping in the Okavango Delta.
With these tips you are all set to experience an African adventure of a lifetime!
10 Things to Know Before Camping in the Okavango Delta in Botswana
- Take it Slow & Savour it
- Expect a Little Discomfort
- Be Prepared to Get Close to Nature
- Find the Perfect Packing List
- Bring the Right Bag
- The Delta Changes with the Seasons
- Research the Laws & Customs Before You Go
- Check if You Need a Visa or Vaccinations
- Pre-plan Your Route
- Do Your Research