Botswana | Environmental Report

Enjoy this update on what’s up in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
And view photos from our 2008 trip there.
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November 2010 Environmental Report
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As 2010 comes to an end, we look back at the miraculous events and stories that have made this year in the Okavango Delta so incredibly different from past years, and we look forward to the dramatic changes they will bring to the future.In the Okavango, after nearly 30 years of the usual “slightly up, slightly down” water flows, the water levels started increasing in 2008 and then even more so in 2009, and in 2010 we had the whopping great big floods, the biggest in centuries. In front of our very own eyes we watched dead rivers spring into full flowing life. Such changes in our normally fairly predictable ecosystems have had a profound effect on humans and animals in the area.

Many local villagers have been affected by the floods – some with flooded crops and others having to move out of their waterlogged villages. On the positive side however, when the floods subside, the soil will be nourished and fertile and there will be no need to wait for the floods before sowing the next crop. The water, the new life, the new rivers and flowing Channels has excited every person and animal in Botswana and there is a feeling of rejuvenation in the air, the birth of a new era in the Okavango Delta.

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Moving on to the more factual side of life in Botswana
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Temperature and rainfall Rainfall has been exceptionally high and temperatures much warmer than average – October’s average daytime temperatures have been in the 40′s.

The Savute Channel

The most interesting and miraculous phenomenon of this year’s floods is the flowing of the Savute Channel in Northern Botswana’s Chobe National Park. (click here to read more)

Game viewing

Savute has always been known as the elephant capital of the world but the flowing of the Savute Channel into the Savute Marsh has attracted more elephants than we have ever seen before. Breeding herds of 500 elephants are currently in Savute. Magnificent to behold, but also somewhat devastating to the surrounding vegetation, with the candlepod acacia shrubland thinning away to just some trees dotted here and there.

The over flooded islands in the middle of the Okavango Delta have forced the animals to congregate onto the few dry islands, making game-spotting on walks and helicopter flights a shoe-in.

The abundance of water has resulted in plenty of delicious, fresh green food for the antelopes and they are looking fat and healthy as we approach the rainy season. This is the time of the year when they start having their babies and we are all looking forward to seeing the somewhat wobbly and fragile little “bokkies” springing around our place very soon.

Birds

The good rains and the exceptional floods have brought many birds to the Okavango Delta. An ornithologist’s paradise, the Delta is home to more than 450 species of terrestrial and aquatic birds. The endangered Wattled Crane and the rare endemic Slaty Egret enjoy their largest concentration in the world right here. 75-80% of the world’s 4000 slaty egrets are found in this area alone. Just a few of the many species found in the Delta are the exquisite malachite kingfisher, the goliath heron and the African Fish Eagle.

More and more aquatic birds have settled in the Savute Marsh. Fish Eagles, yellow billed stork and pied king fishers are now a common sight in the area.

Vegetation

The floods have affected the vegetation differently from one area to another. We have seen grasses, reeds and other water-loving flora fill up the Delta in areas that had been bare. On the other hand some trees, especially the acacia species, are slowly drowning as they are stand in water.

The Savute Channel has brought many changes to the surrounding vegetation. It is thick and green whereas in the past the trees, plants and grasses would turn brown as soon as the rains were gone. However with time, more trees will die as the water level increases and as the dramatic increase in elephants visiting the Marsh takes its toll on the vegetation.

While some things change, others remain constant, such as the passing of another year and happy festive seasons. On that note, we would like to share a message from our General Manager Warren Stone:

For me, Christmas time is a time of families coming together, of reflection over the year that has just past, and also a time of anticipation of the year ahead.

Orient-Express has made many impressive changes this year, including a journey of discovery, of getting to know the staff better and thus unlocking their true potential.

2010 has also been an encouraging year as the tourism industry in Botswana is showing signs of improving and so we are excited about the prospects for 2011. As General Manager of Orient-Express Botswana, I am looking forward to all the challenges that the year may hold, knowing that I have a much better understanding of my team, and with our on-going motivating training, we will exceed all expectations, both from ourselves and from our guests.

Below is a poem which sums up my wishes for everyone as we come to the end of another year:

Whatever be the colour of your eye,

Whatever be the colour of your hair,

Whatever position you occupy,

Whatever religion you might declare,

Whatever be the colour of your skin,

Whatever be your political thought,

Virtue be in your heart, or deadly sin,

Whether you have treasures, or possess nought,

In this Festive Season please turn your face

Towards a stranger and hold out your hand,

Offer him, or her friendly embrace

And try to make him, or her understand,

That we are all of the same family.

There is no place for violence, or hate,

There is no need for quarrel, or enmity,

That a just, peaceful world we must create

And we must learn to live in harmony,

Putting behind us all our bloody past,

Securing safety for our progeny,

For them to live on Earth in peace at last.

by P. J. Oszmann

Thanks to all the staff at Orient-Express Botswana for their hard work and enthusiasm in ensuring that each and every one of our guests has enjoyed an authentic journey of discovery at our camps. I also wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a prosperous 2011 and may all your dreams and aspirations be realised.

And from me, Onx Manga, I would like to extend my very best wishes to everyone who has taken their time to read all the wonderful news from the bush, to those who have been inspired by the stories to eventually find themselves in the African wilderness and to those who are still dreaming of coming to Africa one day; may your dreams come true.

“Masigo le Mathogonolo a Keresmose le ngwaga a moshu.”

Compiled by

Onx Manga
Environmental Manager

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