Winter is Coming...
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
No one warned me when I moved to Botswana that it would be cold. And yet here I sit, writing this blog, wearing nearly every single item of clothing I own. Looking around, it’s easy to forget that I’m in a desert. The lush, swamps of the Delta seem a far cry from the harsh, barren landscapes you typically associate with them. But that’s exactly what makes the Okavango Delta so unique. The fact that it’s an oasis, right in the middle of the Kalahari desert.
A view of the Delta from above.
An annual flood pulse brings life to the Okavango Delta. Draining southwards from the highlands of Angola, the water is dammed here between two ancient tectonic ridges. Trickling downstream at just one kilometre per hour, the fine sands of the Kalahari desert trap the minerals transported in these waters, and so an oasis is born. The diverse habitats created by this phenomenon, which is constantly in flux, is a refuge for thousands of otherwise endangered animals. So, where better for the NHFU to call home than this ecological oddity?
A beautiful beetle feeds on the pollen from this wild heliotrope. Can anyone help us ID it?
Last month, we welcomed the arrival of the flood. It marked a dramatic change, from a record rainy season, to the harsh, dry (and unbelievably cold!) winter. Across the Delta, wildflowers bloomed, the grass grew tall, and animals gave birth to coincide with this time of abundance. From huge breeding herds of elephants, to leopards with small cubs, its residents are thriving in the now bountiful winter.
A termite mound island from above. Termite mounds are the start of nearly all of the islands in the Okavango Delta.
As the flood waters continue their path, it is two beasts of markedly different sizes that will determine its course. Coursing through the deep trenches carved out by the hippopotamus, and meandering about ancient, colossal structures built in stunning displays of the mass cooperation, termites and hippos are the true architects of the Okavango Delta. As islands form, prey, predators and enemies are forced into close proximity. New territories must be forged, and new alliances made.
A leopard scent marks and rubs against a tree, carving out a new territory. She secretes oils that leaves behind her unique scent.
This beautiful and fragile phenomenon relies on the seasonal rains that fall in the highlands of Angola. Without them, the Delta would soon become a pan like the Mgkadigkadi. Climate change introduces new unpredictability to this ancient occurrence, with last year a timely reminder of what is at stake. That is why we, the NHFU, endeavour to maintain the lowest possible carbon footprint across all of our operations. The Delta exists in its pristine state today thanks to the foresight of others. Living and working within it today, it is now our responsibility to preserve it for all of our future generations.
Photos and text by Hannah Gormley