Camping in the Okavango Delta: An Unforgettable Experience

by Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders
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Camping in the Okavango Delta is a once-in-a-lifetime, completely unforgettable experience and one that should top any travel bucket list. The Delta, a wetland of meandering waterways fed by a river born in the mountains of Angola, passes through the vast area of the Kalahari Desert and is a bucket list journey for anyone with a love of Africa and wildlife.

View of the waterways of the Okavango Delta

Visiting the Okavango Delta was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip, and indeed one of the most incredible travel experiences ever. It makes you realise how lucky we are to travel and to be able to experience the natural world in places just like this.

As part of the G Adventures Tour Southern Africa: Bush Camps and Wildlife Spotting the itinerary included a night of wild camping in the Okavango Delta. This post will cover what to expect, what to bring, and some of the things you can do. As well as why you should do it!

If you want to know more about travelling on this kind of tour with G Adventures, I have a full review of what to expect here: Overlanding in Africa with G Adventures

How to access the Okavango Delta

Most trips into the Okavango Delta will start from the nearby town of Maun. Located in the north of Botswana and is the gateway to the Delta. It has plenty of accommodation, from camping to hotels. As well as stores, ATMs and a currency exchange. So everything you need to prepare for your trip into the delta.

Maun also has an international airport, with flights to South Africa, Zimbabwe and other parts of Botswana.

Getting there – camping in the Okavango Delta

The first morning of your trip into the Okavango Delta with start with packing your belongings into an open-air jeep, and then driving to the edge of the Delta. It will be a typical African journey, fondly known as an African massage, along bumping tracks and over streams deep into the bush. Even the journey is part of the experience – the landscape is beautiful. And keep an eye out for wildlife.

Once you reach the shoreline, you will find lots of mokoros lined up and you will meet the polers, who will take you to your campsite in mokoros. These are traditional dug-out wooden canoes, used by Batswana, for transport and fishing. The polers stand on the back and use a long pole to move and steer the mokoros.

What to bring for camping in the Okavango Delta

If you are camping in the Okavango Delta, it is going to be basic, so you don’t need to bring much. The morning before you set off, you pack up your tent, sleeping bags and overnight pack.

If you travel during the cooler seasons (April, May, June, July) it will be very chilly in the morning, especially on an open-air jeep. Make sure to pack a warm jacket and scarf. You might not need it during the day when the sun fully comes out, but you will be very grateful for it during this drive.

One of the amazing things about travelling to the Okavango Delta with G Adventures is that tents and food will be supplied by the tour company. So you just need to bring a very basic overnight bag.

  • Sleeping bag,
  • Swimwear
  • Spare t-shirt
  • Spare underwear
  • Hiking boots
  • Eye mask and ear plugs (if you use them)
  • Travel towel
  • Sunscreen
  • 5 litres of water
  • Money – bring some money for tips for your polers

Facilities when camping in the Okavango Delta

Well, there are none.

The campsite is just a wooden area next to the edge of the water. To be clear, nothing is separating you from the wildlife, there is no fence. You are really in the middle of nowhere. Within moments of arriving, you will have your tent set up for you, the polers take care of everything, even setting up a fire in the middle. And there you have it. Camp. Such a treat!

There will be no electricity and no running water, so the 5L bottle of water you bring will be your drinking water, and also for basic washing.

And the toilet? Well, one of the mokoros will have brought a seat out. This will be set up over a hole, dug a little walk away from camp. Welcome to the bush toilet. A shovel and loo roll will be just before the turn to the ‘loo’. If they have gone, then the toilet is occupied. When you have finished, use the shovel to add some of the dirt from the hole to flush. Honestly, it was absolutely fine, not the worst toilet I’ve used by a very long way.

At night you will be told to take a torch and shine it around. If you see any eyes shining back at you in the dark – walk quite quickly (but do not run) back to camp.

What to do while camping in the Okavango Delta

Travelling through the Okavango Delta

This is very much one of those moments where the travel is the experience. As soon as you set off from the shore line you will be in another world. Peaceful, calming, thrilling and exhilarating all at the same time. You are sitting so low in the water, it is incredibly soothing.

View of the waterways in the Okavango Delta

The Delta is made up of many channels weaving and winding their way through the reeds. Followed by larger open expanses of water. The channels are often so invisible that, due to the growth of the reeds, it is hard to see they are even there. The skill and knowledge of the polers is second to none. The way they navigate their way through is a sight to behold. Plus it makes for a very exhilarating ride when. you are sitting at the front of the mokoro heading straight to what looks like a bank. Trust your poler, it isn’t and they will guide you through safely.

If just the experience of being on the water isn’t enough, the odds of you spotting wildlife during the journey through the Delta are extremely high. Undoubtedly you will come across a pod of hippos. It wasn’t too long into our journey before we saw our first. The polers will stop and give them the room they need. There might also be some times when they wait until it’s safe to carry on.

Take a swim in the delta

If you feel like you need a chance to cool down, why not take a dip in the Delta? Don your bathers and have a splash around in the cool water. Just watch out for any hippos. Plus with no shower and bathing facilities, it’s the perfect way to wash! You will take a trip out in the mokoros to find a great spot for a splash.

image of people standing on the edge of the Okavango Delta with some traditional mokoro canoes

Attempt to pole

While you are at it, take the opportunity to have a go at poling on the back of a mokoro. The polers make it look so easy, so how hard could it be? Turns out very! They are masters of their craft and have honed it over the years. It is hard to steer, to push, to move and even to keep your balance. But fun to give it a go.

Bush Walk

One of the most incredible experiences you will have when camping in the Okavango Delta is going on a bush walk. A couple of hours before sunset, in groups of 6 or so people, one of the polers will take you out for a walk into the Bush. Setting out on foot into the grasslands just outside of the camp.

After experiencing safaris from the safety of a jeep, this is a real eye-opening experience. You have to keep your senses about you and it is such a humbling experience. Remain as quiet as possible and if you are lucky you will spot some wildlife such as giraffes, zebras and even buffalos. But also wading through waterways and spotting footprints, dung and even skulls. Nature is real here.

Enjoy the campfire

Another amazing plus of being on a tour with G Adventures? Not only have they packed all the food and drink, but they also bring the coolbox out to the delta with you. This means you can slip some beers into it and after an amazing day in the Delta, you can sit back with a cold beer in front of the campfire. Perfection.

Spend time with the locals

The polers stay overnight with you in the camp and will take turns to stay awake to keep any animals away. But it means you also get to spend the evening with them. Dinner, cooked by the polers and your guide, will be traditional which is another great opportunity to experience some of the local cuisine. Also incredible what can be produced by being brought in on canoes.

Image of polers dancing around the campfire in the Okavango Delta

After dinner, we all sat around the campfire together, while drinking beer. The polers then sang some songs and danced for us. We were also taught the Delta song:

Beautiful Delta. Delta

Beautiful Delta

I shall never forget, beautiful Delta. Delta

The word ‘delta’ is also replaced with words such as ‘Botswana’, ‘Africa’ and everyone’s names for extra verses. It has multiple levels. And then after singing, we all played games together. Sitting in the dark, lit only by the light of the campfire with the most incredible people, listening to the sounds of wildlife and nature. An evening to never forget.

Listen to the sounds of the wildlife

No sleeping experience will come close to that of overnight camping in the Okavango Delta. Before going to bed make sure to check out the stars. On a clear night, with absolutely no light pollution, the stars will undoubtedly be the best you have ever seen.

Then while you are drifting off there will be no doubt that you will fall asleep listening to the sounds of animals all around you. A little nerve-wracking, but also what an experience. You will definitely hear hippos but also listen out for elephants, lions and hyenas.

Watch the sunrise

If you do one thing when you are in the Delta, make sure to get up for sunrise. African sunrises are like nothing else, and the Okavango Delta takes it to the next level. After a quick cup of tea, set off into the grasslands to watch the sun slowly rise above the horizon and start another day.

Again on the way, keep an eye out for wildlife – zebras, giraffes and elephants. We were lucky enough to see one in the distance. Plus the sounds of the animals will echo all around you. Keep a listen out for the hippos again.

Leaving after camping in the Okavango Delta

It might have only been one night, but camping in the Okavango Delta will be one of the best travel experiences of your life. Packing up the camp, loading the mokoros and heading back the way you came. Despite not knowing these people for little more than 24 hours, the warmth and friendship will last a lifetime.

image of two women standing with a poler after camping in the Okavango Delta

Was camping in the Okavango Delta on your bucket list? If not, is it now? I’d love to hear from you:

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Camping in the Okavango Delta
Camping in the Okavango Delta

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