At a time when mankind is experiencing one of the worst pandemics in modern history, Nature seems to be taking this time to recover and replenish. Nature is certainly having its say – and this is clear from the changes we have witnessed in the Okavango Delta and Jao Reserve.
Winter, to most, might bring thoughts of snow, cold and snuggling in bed with a good book, but in the Okavango this is when life returns. The water reached the Okavango, having traveled over 1 200 km (750 miles) from the Angolan highlands, bringing with it a new dawn after a tough two years of drought.
Dawn over the Delta, with the first waters arriving
The first wave, or “push”, arrived around mid-April, and although slow, it was a welcome sight for both animals and ourselves.
With the river starting to spread its fingers into the Delta, we all watched as a trickle developed into a stream, filling what was at first only small pools. It grew more, developing into a steady flow and eventually into a river, bring life and a fresh green tinge to the surrounding area.
Animals headed to drink from the papyrus-filtered water, and birds feasted on an abundance of insects and aquatic life. Although fish numbers were severely affected by the drought, the new oxygenated water brought life back to those few that were left, and also brought some fish with its inflow.
The inundation spreads across the floodplain, breathing new life into the landscape
Jacana and Jao both welcomed the inundation just as much as nature did. The waters’ arrival seemed to complete these camps’ remarkable rebuilds, filling in the missing pieces.
The Jacana main area now stands tall above the floodplain, which is filled with water and millions of water lilies. The once lonely looking fire deck is now a striking feature, with its private walkway leading to a now “floating” deck. The swimming pool has an “infinity” feel to it, with its view across the vast floodplain in front of camp.
The Jacana fire deck is now a majestic sight in the floodplain
Jao Camp, recently awarded a spot on the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler’s 2020 Hot List, was built to blend in and encapsulate the Delta and all its colours. With the waters’ arrival, the designs now truly show off the camp’s beauty and elegance. As the water rises and surrounds the island, it too brings not only a fresh lease on life to the trees and plants, but also splashes of colour through the flowers and lilies that are now blooming. The amazing views and reflections in the water appear to place the Jao villas and main area on pedestals, while at the same time evoke a feeling that it was always there, part of nature, a secret island in the Delta.
The Jao Camp main area, reflects nature and its surroundings, one of the many reasons it is on the 2020 Hot List
The Jao main area swimming pool is now a relaxing retreat, surrounded entirely by water.
The Jao main area pool floats among the lilies, ready to welcome guests to a special hideaway
Pelo is also showing off its spectacular views of the Delta, and is waiting to treat guests to breathtaking mokoro and boat rides.
The views from Pelo will always be of space and natural beauty
Kwetsani and Tubu Tree have received the first glimpses of water but for now they wait patiently for the second push to arrive and lift the inundation levels.
Both prides of lions and cubs are thriving, and with lechwe and tsessebe feasting on the fresh shoots in the floodplains, there is no shortage of food for the big cats.
Lion cubs explore their territory, now reduced by the waters
Our channels are being maintained not by boats but by the joyous hippo, who have all welcomed the waters – extending their territories and creating far more access and movement for them all. Their feeding not only opens the channels for boats but also increases the flow and reach of the arriving waters.
A joyous hippo, enjoying the deep pools and a flowing channel again
The grazing animals are all regaining strength and condition thanks to the fresh water and grass shoots. The sound of frogs and hippo feeding are soothing as you drift off, either to dreamland or while relaxing in the Jao Spa.
Lechwe back in their natural habitat of water-filled floodplains
Would a lion cub siesta not be awesome right now?
We are now standing by for the second push of the inundation, which will further raise the level of the water, reaching across more areas and transforming the landscape and plants, breathing life into the Delta and all who are fortunate enough to roam this majestic place.
A black mamba crosses the airstrip as birds attack it – this is the most activity the airstrip has seen in a while
Let us not forget that this fresh lease on life has a far greater effect on nature than on us. We share this spectacular event with the world, and while we cannot travel at the moment, nature continues to replenish itself and grow, thrive and blossom.
The travel industry is the hardest hit by this pandemic but hopefully updates like these will keep Africa and the Okavango Delta flowing in your veins and beating in your heart.
Stay safe and see you all soon.
Wherever your road goes, we hope that it leads you here, to the Okavango Delta, and to us
Written and photographed by Antony Mulligan
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