On Safari: Is The Delta Floating Away?

On Safari: Is The Delta Floating Away?

Climate change is effecting Africa seriously, and perhaps nowhere is it as evident as in the Okavango Delta.

The delta is Botswana’s landmark attraction. It’s where the Kalahari ecosystem floods. That’s right, a “desert” in flood.

The unusual continental divide in Africa is very close to its western coast. And the torrential rains of Angola flow regularly east creating some of Africa’s great rivers like the Zambezi, and some of its most famous natural wonders, like Victoria Falls.

And the Okavango Delta, for here the water spills onto a flat scrubland, creating ever-changing islands and massive marshes and wetlands. And the rich nutrients deposited create a fertile ecosystem with as diverse a biomass as found anywhere in Africa.

But the Delta is being stressed by global warming. More water than ever imagined is flowing into it. And this year it’s a double whammy as unusually heavy rains pour relentlessly onto the delta as well.

Our camp’s airstrip was flooded out. The circuitous tracks we had to take from the nearest surviving airstrip challenged our Landcruisers as they submerged well above their floorboards and bubbled through flooded areas like tugboats!

High water time in the Delta is May and June. Yet already in March the water was higher than it had ever been before.

What does this mean? For one, there have been many resident animals like elephant, giraffe, buffalo and sassaby that may be pushed out. For another, reeded wetlands supporting many bird rookeries may be pushed far away towards the radical climates of the pans.

And for populated areas like the important central city of Maun, humans are being relocated away from the rising tide.

The wilderness is resilient. I have little doubt that for many years of stress during our global climate change, plants, animals and birds will adapt. But man’s permanent settlements, including existing camps and lodges much less cities and villages, will be much more traumatically challenged.