Miracle #2 – So Far We Haven’t Screwed It Up.
Given the human mania for fencing in, plowing up, building on and paving over much of the earth’s surface, it is miraculous that the Okavango Delta’s rich wilderness hasn’t been homogenized into the modern world. It gives me shivers because it could happen so easily. Dam the Okavango River, bulldoze in a bunch of roads, drain the swamps and Botswana would have another unremarkable city; the world however, would experience a remarkable loss. It’s odd that, for a change, we’ve left a little corner of real estate alone. Even odder, it is not a barren place that no one cares about but one of the most beautiful, rare and ecologically diverse corners of the world.
The government of Botswana closely monitors the widely-spaced safari camps for compliance to strict low- impact ecological standards. Local people are trained and employed in the area to work in a variety of positions including guides, managers, hotel staff and anti-poaching teams.
Due in part to its remoteness and in part to cooperating governments, the delta thrives. UNESCO has designated it as a world heritage site. The countries of Angola, Botswana and Namibia, have set up a system for managing the river under the Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) for sustainable management of the system. OKACOM supports the UNESCO designation which assures that the water will flow but there are threats. Namibia is a desperately dry country and is interested in damming the Okavango River. Diamond mining activities in Angola threaten to spoil water quality and there is the constant push of ever increasing human populations. For now these forces are in abeyance.
Visiting wilderness can keep it wild. It is counterintuitive but that’s pretty much the simple idea behind ecotourism. Pulling it off is tricky. Bringing visitors in, giving them the ability to connect with the place and live there for a few days without damaging it, is one trick. Preserving and fostering the wild environment and making it profitable to the folks that live there is another. Balance has to be struck in a world where there isn’t much and it is usually the wildlife that loses. The Okavango Delta is a true success story but its success depends on those of us who value wild places. If we visit it stays; if we don’t it goes.
“Botswana’s plan is particularly intelligent and well thought out…few tourists generating significant revenue.” says Pierre Faber of the travel service Classic Africa. “It comes at a premium for the visitor but guests get a private experience, it is low impact to the environment and the revenue is going to the right places…the rural people.”
Classic Africa – We’ve used this travel company for two safaris in Southern Africa. Their knowledge of the area and attention to detail can’t be beat. They helped us out by arranging transportation and accommodation at the camps listed below.
Xigera Camp (pronounced Kee-Jeer-Ah) – A small camp on a permanently flooded part of the Okavango Delta, it is oriented toward exploring wetlands. The staff here were some of the friendliest and talented (best singers) we met on our safaris.
King’s Pool Camp – This camp really isn’t technically in the Okavango but it was part of our Botswana experience. It boarders the Okavango in the Linyante Wildlife Reserve and is also oriented to wetland rivers and pools. Very high end, this is a place where you will enjoy top notch wildlife viewing while staying in luxury accommodations.
Chitabe Camp – Several things stand out in my mind about Chitabe. The scenery is gorgeous. We had amazing cheetah viewing and to top things off we saw a lion roaring at twilight. Check out the video below where our guide uses a red light to illuminate the lion. Red light doesn’t destroy the lion’s night vision.
Links – Check out my other African Blogs:
Three Miracles in Botswana – #1 Water in the Desert
Reasons To Go On An African Safari Even Though You Can’t Afford It
Photography Gallery – Botswana and South African Safaris In Color
Photography Gallery – African Safaris in Black & White