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  • Writer's pictureNHFU

Death and Rebirth

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Last year Botswana faced one of the worst droughts in decades. With more than 40 million people affected throughout Southern Africa the government of Botswana declared a state of emergency. Along with decimated crops and a mass loss of livestock, 2019 was a hard year for both humans and wildlife across the country.

An aerial view of the Okavango delta after fires ravaged the area in 2019

Mortalities for both Elephants and Hippos were desperately high as the much-anticipated rains failed to arrive. As weeks passed and the desperate dry continued, the delta became a place barren of the life giving resource, water. With such a parched landscape, fires began to ravage what would have been the sustenance for the deltas wildlife...

A white backed vulture feeds on the carcass of a deceased hippo

But help was on its way. Through the determination of countless amazing people and private organizations, boreholes were put into place in an effort to save these incredible animals. This amazing act of human willpower did indeed give a much-needed lifeline to the large mammals of the delta.

As we know the start of 2020 has been trying for us all. With the shock and fear surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic it is easy to overlook good news.

As this piece begins with an account of the desperation of last year our team is beyond excited to see one of the biggest flood years heading our way. The life giving waters of the delta support a congregation of almost 260,000 mammals each year. This diverse and unique ecosystem is also home to 530 bird species, including near endemic species such as the Pel’s fishing owl.

Our home, the Okavango Delta is a bit of an anomaly, being that most deltas across the earth are formed at the mouth of rivers that then empty out into the sea. This 18,000-kilometre wetland is amazingly unique, as it does not come to its end in the ocean but in the vast desert of northern Botswana.

Its heartbeat begins in the Angolan highlands where its small beginnings are nothing but a trickle. As the rains hit Angola this small bloodline accumulates with other water bodies to create a river called the Cuito. With growing force this phenomenon travels south towards Namibia where it joins with the Cubango River. When this mammoth 1000-kilometre journey finally reaches its end, the result is our beautiful and unique delta system.

A pack of wild dogs cross a channel in search of prey

This spectacle turns a vast wasteland into a water oasis containing more than 150,000 islands. As the range in elevation of Botswana barley differs between a few metres, most islands can be connected to the ever-productive termite colonies that account for these higher pieces of land. These islands now become a refuge for the large mammals of the delta.

This is in part, why the Okavango delta is so abundant in life. Human development is slowed due to the threat of flooding in the wetland and wildlife thrives in this plentiful ecosystem.

With the first signs of floodwater arriving this year our crew was quick to get ahead of the flowing waters. With an average of 10 billion cubic metres a year, the volume quickly became evident after witnessing the speed and force at which it travelled.

With an arsenal of Red cameras, stills cameras and even our Phantom Flex (for ultra slow motion) the crew worked tirelessly to capture the incredible moments this spectacle provides. Our team enjoyed some much needed exercise as well attempting to stay ahead of the fast flowing waters. With lots of luck and a bit of good timing our crew was able to capture the extraordinary moments of the arrival of the flood.

However this is just the beginning. As the panhandle continues to rise, this vital lifeline will continue to stretch her arms across the vast sands of Botswana. Slowly, the desolation of last year will be washed away as the delta’s veins feed new life and transform a once barren wasteland into the oasis that it was meant to be.


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