Waters in the Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is an inland delta in southern Africa, with waters formed by seasonal flooding. When the water is here, wildlife abound.

More info: Okavango Delta Wikipedia.

The Delta is flat and vast, covering 5,800 square miles (15,000 sq. km.); on the edge of the Kalahari Desert.

We visited this UNESCO World Heritage Site years back in August, when the Okavango River floods the Delta and wildlife congregate.

Large African antelope called waterbuck are often found around water because they cannot tolerate dehydration.

Little Bee-eaters perch as they wait for bees. If you watch bee-eaters long enough, you have the pleasure of watching one sally out in a flash, grab a bee, whack it against a tree, and come back to the perch to consume it.

Hippopotamuses are semiaquatic mammals; they spend their days in lakes and rivers, staying cool in water or mud. At night they graze on grasses.

This is a rufous-bellied heron we watched wrestling with a carp. He swallowed it whole.

Other bird species we commonly found foraging in the Okavango Delta waters were jacana and the fish eagle.

Jacanas have feet designed to evenly distribute the weight of the bird so they can walk atop lily pads. But in many parts of the Delta their long legs take them through shallower waters.

The African Fish Eagle, a raptor, was fierce and vigilant and commonly found in many watery parts.

Other raptors were the African Barred Owl and Black-shouldered Kite. They, too, found their perches and stealthily waited.

Wattled cranes, the largest cranes in Africa and globally threatened, forage on aquatic tubers and rhizomes of submerged sedges and water lilies. It was thrilling to find this trio, for this crane species is rare to find.

The hamerkop is one of my favorite birds, named for the hammer shape of its head. We didn’t see them too often but when we did, we watched intently.

Blacksmith Plovers in their bold patterning were often seen in the waterways.

We passed this hippo pond at sunset and watched their antics until the day’s light had receded.

There are over 5,000 species of wild mammals and over 10,000 species of birds on this planet. I am glad I could share a few of them from the Okavango Delta with you.

Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos in the wild by Athena Alexander.

96 thoughts on “Waters in the Okavango Delta

  1. The diversity of animals is amazing and beautiful, Athena did a great job photographing them! I saw a TV program a while back on this delta, it’s amazing how it’s cycle of flood and dry works. ❤️

    • Thank you, Sylvia. There is so much beauty in this world, it’s a good place to dwell when the pandemic hits another curveball. I love those hippos at sunset too. We parked the vehicle close to the water’s edge and could get out of it, but not stray beyond a few feet because the hippos can run really fast. Sending warm wishes your way, Sylvia.

    • The beautiful scenes abound in the Okavango Delta, Wayne, and what a pleasure it is to share a few of Athena’s photos here today. Yes, we are looking forward to traveling again someday, but we have learned, like many, to appreciate where we’ve been and embrace the beauties that surround us at home. We’ve seen so many loved ones get sick or die from Covid, that staying isolated seems a small price somehow. On that note, I think I’ll cruise over your way and partake of your amazing photos. Thanks so much.

  2. Thanks, Jet, for taking us out of our restrictive life circumstances into the broader experiences that you are so generous to share. Beautiful photos, information and hopes for tomorrow!

  3. I so enjoyed these interesting shots from the Okavango Delta – it truly is a paradise. Such an unusual angle the top photo of the hippo with the elephants behind. And what lucky timing to see the heron catch and swallow the carp! It is great to armchair travel with you but it is an enticing thought that one day venturing out may become more possible while we hunker down during the 4th wave.

    • I really valued your comment on the Okavango Delta with your southern Africa background, Carol, and am truly delighted you enjoyed it. I really liked that first photo of the hippo and elephants in background, too and didn’t even know it existed until I started looking around in the photo library, so I’m happy you found the angle interesting. I’m glad you enjoyed it while we stay hunkered down at home staying safe again. I also really enjoyed your three dwarf antelope post today as well.

    • I like that you noticed some of the similar species in the Okavango birds today, Mark. Although we don’t have bee-eaters or hamerkops in the U.S., we do enjoy owls, eagles, herons, plovers, cranes, kingfishers, and kites. My warmest thanks for your visit and comment, much enjoyed.

  4. Great tour Jet and Athena. It’s been decades since I travelled through East Africa in a Volkswagen Beetle, but I still remember the thrill of coming upon the abundant wildlife. I came across my slides from the trip just a couple of days ago. Thanks for the memories. –Curt

    • Hi Curt, it’s wonderful that you’ve been to East Africa, and your VW Beetle adventure sounds like loads of fun. I’m glad the Okavango Delta post brought back happy memories for you. As I am sure you’ll agree, there is no place on this earth like Africa. Many thanks.

  5. I started out with keeping track of the photos I particularly liked BUT…I couldn’t keep track eventually and just have to say I enjoyed them all as well as the commentary. Glad I could tag along.


  6. Oh this brings back such great memories of our trip to the Okavango Delta, Jet. Great shots, Athena. The birds are amazing…how lucky you saw those cranes. The hammerkops are cool birds and I didn’t know the bee eaters knock the bees out! The hippos command attention and I found it astounding how they leave the water and forage at night, then rumble back to the water in the morning. Great post. Wishing you a wonderful start to the new year! Ok, let’s hope that things improve fast. 🙃

    • How lovely to “see” you today, Jane. Your comment was a joy to read. I enjoyed your recollections and observations and agree with you on the marvel that is the Okavango Delta. Your upside-down smiling emoji gave me a smile, and I am with you in hoping things improve fast. Sending warm wishes your way, Jane, and thanks.

    • How wonderful that you enjoyed the Okavango Delta post, HJ. I really enjoyed composing it, too, and sharing Athena’s animated photos. I am so glad you stopped by, my friend, thanks so much.

    • It was great fun sharing the Okavango Delta wildlife with you, Donna. I agree, the African Fish Eagle is oh so handsome. They were quite prevalent, always cruising above the waters and perching in nearby trees, and such a big and beautiful bird. My warmest thanks.

  7. I was fascinated to learn about the bee eaters. Here, we have the loggerhead shrike that does the same, sometimes impaling its prey somewhere for a little snack later. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen dragonflies impale butterflies. Every living thing has to eat, and there are some amazing ways of getting a meal that have been developed.

    I think I might have mentioned to you the pygmy hippos that live in Liberian rivers. The other thing that came to mind as I read your text were our true swamps, where the same dynamic — seasonal flooding and drying — are present. It’s all fascinating, and I love seeing this part of the world exhibiting some of the same dynamics I’ve seen elsewhere.

    • I agree with you, Linda, it is a great joy and fascination to see different parts of the world and the earthly patterns that exist. The Okavango Delta is incredibly dynamic with its seasonal flooding. The Kalahari Desert, confluence of rivers, and the Rift Valley all have major influence here. I liked hearing about the pygmy hippos in Liberian rivers that you have witnessed, and I am a great fan of the true swamps we still have left in the U.S. As for the bee-eaters, they are really a delight to observe. They’re relatively small birds and so colorful and bright, and they’re prowess is remarkable and a little surprising given their lovable colors and petite size. Cheers to our planet and its remarkable inhabitants. Thanks very much, Linda.

  8. What a treat to see the sights in Africa and learn more about the wildlife there. Even if related to species we find in the America’s, so very different.

    It’s always fascinating to watch a bird swallow whole a fish many times the size of its own head (try to imagine doing this yourself!). But without the bill of a raptor, what choice do they have?

    • I enjoyed your comment, Eilene, thanks so much. It is fascinating to watch birds swallow whole fish, and you’re right, they don’t have the bill of a raptor and they do perfectly with their bill what they are designed to do. It took that heron about a half hour to achieve his goal. There was much fighting on the carp’s part, it would fall back into the water, then the heron would retrieve it, but it would slip out again; until eventually the heron got the carp in the right position and down the hatch it went. Great fun to share this beautiful heron with you. Many thanks.

  9. What a wonderful space! Huge, and full of amazing creatures – I really like the hippo photographs top and bottom, just lovely. Thanks, Jet, what an adventure you shared today!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the Okavango Delta, pc, and the hippos. Hippos are one of the most fascinating creatures on this earth to observe. They’re short-legged but fast and so odd looking with that big face and barrel-shaped body. When they’re in the water they grunt and croak and roll around and make quite a ruckus. I am happy you stopped by, my friend, thanks so very much, and cheers to you and Mrs. PC and Scout.

  10. Your description of a bee-eater in action cracked me up! “pleasure of watching one sally out in a flash, grab a bee, whack it against a tree”!😋
    And the portrait of the hippopotamus is hilarious. I have to say they look quite adorable sunken into the muddy water like that. 😏
    At least the kingfisher, kite and barred owl have some resemblance to ones we have here. 😉 Enjoying the similar as much as the differences?
    I’m also very much glad you shared! 🙏

    • I have watched so many bee-eaters, it is a great joy to describe them, and I’m flattered you enjoyed the description, Gunta. Because they are such beautiful birds, and quite prevalent in certain habitats, I often had my binoculars on them. I wouldn’t have seen the bee and the activity nearly as well if I hadn’t had my binoculars on them all the time. Yes, I always enjoy the similarities of birds here in the U.S. with other related species around the world; it reminds me that we’re all connected always. Dear friend, a joy to have you stop by, thanks so much, Gunta.

      • Connected, but unique…. each and every one of us! I find that quite thrilling actually. Funny how we make such wonderful connections and get to share our stories and passions here on this platform. The good side of the interweb! 💞😋

  11. some really cool pictures. I liked the hammer head and the fish eagle -=well and the barred owl. I liked them all except the bee eaters – hopefully they were not eating honey bees

    • I liked your comment and your perspective as a bee-keeper, Bill. Made me smile. I am really glad you enjoyed all the wildlife of the Okavango Delta, and appreciate your visit very much.

    • I so enjoyed your Rudyard Kipling quote, Sherry. He visited South Africa more than once and it is easy to see why. Thanks so much for your visit today, it is always appreciated.

  12. Love going on these fascinating tours in various places all filled with delight.
    This one is no exception. I remember dreaming about Africa as a youngster and
    so much wanting to travel there. Your exciting visits and photos over the years filled
    me with much of that lost desire. Thank you very much Jet, hugs, Eddie

  13. Absolutely wonderful! Great to sit & contemplate the beauty of this place, with hippo, bird & so much more. I love the images of bee-eater, fish hawk, and wattled cranes especially. Thank you, Jet.

    • I so enjoyed your visit, Walt, thanks so much. I liked hearing your favorite images, too. That bee-eater photo is fun because it shows both individuals in the pair. The African fish eagle was in the midst of a fierce find. And the wattled cranes, well I just fell in love with them that day. I am loyal to sandhill cranes, because they migrate here at home and I never ever tire of them. But after that, the wattled cranes are my favorite with their bustles and elegant smoky gray coloration. Really fun to share them with you, Walt, thank you.

  14. Such a feast for our eyes! You’ve been to so many parks in Africa, but I believe Deltas in general abounds with so much wildlife. It it very less likely I’ll get there, so I enjoyed all your photos😊

    • Yes, it is great on Word Press how we can all share the beautiful places in this world with one another, because the world is so huge we can never get to all of it. Really fun to share the beauty of the Okavango Delta with you today, Christie, thanks for stopping by.

  15. Pingback: Waters in the Okavango Delta — Jet Eliot – Echoes in the Mist

  16. How amazing to see so many species of wild mammals and birds in one location! It’s hard to believe that Rufous-belied Heron could swallow that carp whole. The sweet little African Barred Owl is so cute. It must have wonderful seeing these creatures in their home landscape. I’ve never been to Africa so I appreciate these visits there with you!

    • I’m pleased that you enjoyed a vicarious visit to Africa, Barbara, through this post. The world is such a huge place that I, too, find so much fun in visiting other places with friends’ photos and memories. Thanks for stopping by, it was a pleasure sharing these birds and mammals of the Okavango Delta with you.

  17. Pingback: Waters in the Okavango Delta — Jet Eliot | huggers.ca

  18. The most amazing place. We spent a week split between Moremi and Chief’s Island in Sept 2014. I’d never seen hippo at such close range before, nor the stealth with which they stalk humans. One of them thought he’d have a go at upending our boat, but our wise tour guide had kept the motor running and hightailed it out of there the minute the hippo disappeared beneath the surface.

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