While the large mammals of the savannah are often what people conjure up in their imaginations when they think of safaris and game reserves, the Okavango Delta is also home to creatures that live in and on the waters of the river.
The delta is a vital water source for all of the local wildlife, with lions and elephants arriving to make the most of the wet season. There are animals that stay year-round and depend on the water entirely. Life on the water in the delta is diverse, from prey to predators, both above and below.
The Nile crocodile is the largest freshwater predator in Africa, and the second largest reptile in the world after the saltwater crocodile. The apex predator averages between 3.5 and 5 metres in length and 225 to 750 kilograms in weight, but specimens of 6 metres and over 1000 kilograms have been found. They are opportunistic and will eat fish, birds, reptiles and mammals. In the Okavango Delta, they can be seen among the floating reed rafts or basking on the islands.
The delta is also home to the common hippopotamus. The third-largest land mammal after the elephant and rhinoceros, they are actually the world’s heaviest artiodactyl (a classification of hoofed animal) and most closely related to whales and dolphins than anything else. Weighing around 1500 kilograms, they are one of the most dangerous animals in the world, despite being herbivores, due to their aggressive and unpredictable nature.
Touring the waters of the Okavango Delta on a boat, visitors can safely view these creatures, as well as viewing the majestic birdlife, with the African fish eagle and Pel's fishing owl swooping down on the water to catch catfish and tilapia. One fish that is not so easily caught is the African tigerfish. The subaquatic predator has prominent sharp teeth that it uses to catch other fish. They have also been known to leap out of the water to catch birds.
Life on the water in the Okavango Delta is a fascinating drama, with quiet moments and flurries of activity. Visitors are rewarded with an unforgettable adventure in a truly unique habitat.