It’s hard to establish a precise number but it’s thought there are around 2000 species thriving in and around the Okavango Delta in an explosion of natural life, with more than half of that number being plants and trees. The remainder – the creatures – enjoy a co-existence that can vary from happy symbiosis to food chain. Every aspect of this cherished environment helps to keep the cycle of life turning.
The impressive big animals that are the flag-carriers for African wildlife are led by the elephant. Over a third of the continent’s elephant population roams through northern Botswana each year from a headcount of about 130,000. Like the buffalo and the black and white rhinoceros – which are considerably rarer – they like the wetlands where they can thrive in the cooler months while moving to the lush surrounding grasslands when the vegetation starts to grow in spring and summer. Elephants are drawn to the many inland shorelines where they can keep cool while chomping away relentlessly on their favourite natural snacks.
Lions, cheetah and leopards are local residents too; not always easy to catch sight of but – if there’s anywhere in Botswana that they can catch the prey they crave – then it’s here. That’s because the Delta is teeming with lechwe, zebra, kudu, giraffes, wildebeest and warthogs, all feeding off its life-giving properties. These are a small proportion of the 150-plus mammals found here. Wild dogs and hyena live sustainably in large packs; steely jackals patrol constantly; and giraffe and zebra thrive in the grasslands. Meanwhile, hippopotamus have their natural home in the lagoons. Several thousand crocodiles inhabit the Delta, where these surprisingly shy creatures find plenty of food among the 80 and more different fish species found in the waterways.
There is so much more to discover, including large numbers of dragonflies and damselflies that breed in the waters and dart about above it. You might see baboons perched on top of termite mounds, surveying the scene as they eat, while some 30 species of amphibians like the mellow cover of the tall papyrus reeds.
Nowhere else other than the Okavango Delta that surrounds Xigera can you encounter and observe such an extraordinary variety of wildlife and biodiversity.