BOTSWANA SAFARI GUIDE: WILDLIFE HABITATS

Descriptions on the varied and unique habitats of Botswana, from the waterways of the Okavango to the Kalahari thirstlands.
Botswana

THE KALAHARI DESERT
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The Kalahari Sands are of the youngest deposits in the region and vary in thickness from 5 to 200 meters. The Kalahari Sands cover 80% of the country, however only about 10% of the population live on them.


THE OKAVANGO DELTA
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The Okavango Delta has three distinct sectors, The Pan-Handle - a +/- 70km stretch of the Okavango River from where the river enters Botswana until it fans out; the Permanent Swamp is the
area that has water throughout the year and the Seasonal Swamp where the annual flood plays the major role in influencing the water levels.


An extension of the Great African Rift, the entire region lies in what is called the Kalahari basin. Graben faults of which there are four major types, have trapped the Okavango River on its journey south, giving rise to one of Botswana's greatest gems.

Lying within an extension of the Great Rift Valley, the northern part of the country is prone to earth shifts. Seismic studies indicate that these shifts occur once every two days. The strongest such shift occurred in 1952 and measured 6.7 on the Richter scale.

The Okavango Delta occupies 15 000-sq. km. of the surface area of Northern Botswana.

The source of this great alluvial fan stems from the northern provinces of Angola, where the rains gather to form a mighty river that floods into the Delta on an annual basis and eventually runs dry in the Kalahari Desert.

Into the permanent swamp of the Okavango Delta, flows on average 11 billion cubic meters of water, this is enough water to suit the needs of an industrialised nation.

The region is extremely flat, the gradient varying a mere 35 meters from the Panhandle in the north, to Maun in the south. It is so very flat it is rumoured that the very large termite mounds are the highest landmarks in the Okavango Delta.

It is said that termite mounds are the starting points of the Delta Islands. Through evaporation and transpiration, salts are deposited on the periphery of the mounds base. Over a period of thousands of years, the process is repeated and in so doing, an island is born.

An estimated 97% of the water that enters the delta is lost under the hot Botswana sun through evaporation and transpiration.


LIFE ON THE LILY PADS
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The Blue water lily (Tswii) is common in the waterways of the Okavango, and turns the Xaxaba lagoon white/pink. This plant has Many medicinal uses - bladder problems, asthma, blisters, diabetes, infertility and skin problems, to mention but a few. Closely associated to the water lily, is the African Jacana or lily-trotter. This bird's foot distributes its weight perfectly so that it can walk on the floating lily leaves and stems. The Jacana is one of two birds in the region that are
polyandrous; this is to say that the male tends the eggs and young. The female courts many males, lays the eggs and then moves on.


THE FLOODPLAINS
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The mixed marginal floodplain woodland and the surrounding semi-permanent flood plains are primarily home to Cape buffalo, bushbuck, red lechwe, baboon and Sitatunga. This does not, however, mean that other species do not occur in this area, for at certain times of the year it is not uncommon to have an elephant outside your tent.


MOREMI GAME RESERVE
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The Moremi Game reserve was originally established by the Batawana in 1965, its total area is 4 209-sq. km. The Moremi Game Reserve is protected Tribal land. The Moremi Game Reserve was named after the BaTawana king "Moremi III".

The Khwai River is an extension of the permanent swamp channel, the Maunachira, which forms the northern boundary of the Moremi Game Reserve. The Maunachira channel flows into the Xakanaxa lagoons before becoming the Khwai River. As with the word Xaxaba, "Xakanaxa" is river bushman meaning for "Place of Big Water."

The annual flood of the Okavango Delta influences the Khwai too. The water diverted to the most westerly finger of the alluvial fan, takes much longer to reach the Khwai and so the water is only seen at Lodge in August, unlike Eagle Island Camp, where the waters arrive in June.

Very close to Khwai River Lodge, is the Khwai Village. This village is one of the last remaining River Bushman communities in the delta.


THE BORO CHANNEL
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The principal channel is called the Boro. The Boro channel borders Chiefs Island and also forms the south-western boundary of the Moremi Game Reserve.

It is said that the Boro channel also boasts one of the highest concentrations of African Fish Eagle in Southern Africa. In this stretch of water, one would find +/-12 nesting pairs of African Fish Eagle.


CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
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The Chobe National Park was the first national park in Botswana, declared in 1967, after the passing of the National Parks Act that same year. This National Park is protected State land and within the heart of this great wildlife area, lays the Savuti Elephant Lodge.

Chobe National Park is the second largest national park covering 11 000 square kilometres. The largest protected area in Botswana and second largest in Africa, is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve totalling 52 800-sq.km.

The Chobe National Park was named after the Chobe River which runs along Botswana's northern border.

SAVUTI
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Savuti is the name of an extinct channel that last saw water in 1982. The channel once fed the Savuti Marsh, now a vast grassland, some 100 sq. km. The channel source was from the elbow
part of the Kwando River known as Linyanti.

The Savuti Channels' ability to flow and stop flowing, stems from tectonic movements deep below the Kalahari sands.


TSODILO HILLS
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Tsodilo Hills are located to the west of the Okavango Delta, are not the highest point in Botswana as they are situated in a low- lying area, however, if one measures from the foot to their peaks, they hills are the tallest.

The 3 000 odd rock paintings at Tsodilo Hills are proof of long gone habitation. Excavations in these hills suggest that cattle had arrived in the area by AD 550.

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