This season has been one of the driest I have experienced in the Okavango, and when talking to people whose families have lived in the Delta for generations, they absolutely agree.
The dry conditions make for magical experiences, with lechwe kicking up dust as the males spar and chase each other
Not the most positive way to start a blog I know, but Mother Nature has an amazing way of balancing things out. As with everything in life, there are positives and negatives. However, we humans tend to look at things from our personal perspective rather than the fine balance that plays out in this intricate ecosystem.
The Okavango Delta, one of the largest alluvial fans in the world, is the centre of extraordinary life, and each year we eagerly await the seasonal waters from their source in the Angolan highlands.
With drier than usual conditions, all channels ceased to flow, and only very deep waterholes contained any hope. Elephant dug open some of the dry pans and these waterholes provided a much-needed water source for various animals and birds.
This is where nature balances things out. These waterholes and pans created ideal breeding conditions for insects that have a water-based larvae phase. This meant that we had large irruptions, or hatchings, of mayflies and mosquitoes. With fish numbers at an all-time low, the insects thrived. While we possibly think of insects in a negative light, this new abundance provided a real treat for birdlife too, especially African red-eyed and dark-capped bulbuls, and even more so the lesser-striped swallows, among other insectivorous birds.
These outbreaks have been so good that the swallows, which are normally summer breeders, have already had a winter clutch and are building again for the second time this season, preparing for their usual nesting period.The mayfly numbers were also a welcome food source for skinks and other insect-eaters.
This is Mother Nature at her best. Looking after all her progeny, even in times of drought.
Baboons take the opportunity to drink from one of the last water pans
Eventually, the water did arrive, slow and very low, but it is here – filling only the deep channels, but still creating a vein-like formation to feed the lifeline back into the Delta.
Hippo settling back into areas with fresher water; the youngsters took the opportunity to bask in the sun and eat the new grasses
Hippos returned to their pools with less friction and fighting between them.
Buffalo herds also arrived, with zebra and elephant all making their daily walk to drink from the fresh water, providing us with amazing sightings in front of Jao, Jacana and Pelo camps.
Zebra on the Jao floodplain making their way through the dust to the fresh water
A buffalo bull keeping a watchful eye on things, what with all the lions about
Their arrival has also meant that the lions and wild dogs have also have had lots of prey to feast on, with the Jao Pride seen feeding on four different buffalo kills over the last three weeks.
The wild dogs seem to hunt on the floodplain in front of Jao almost weekly, and with the water flowing past camp, more antelope have come to drink and feed daily. Their presence was a magnet for the wild dog, which made six kills this month in and around Jao.
The Jao Pride on one of their buffalo kills, a fine feast
A female leopard has been setting up territory around Jao Camp and also made two kills this month, one in camp and the other right next to the main Jao bridge.
The new female leopard on a reedbuck kill close to the Jao bridge
The water has spread out in the low lying floodplains and we have started hearing frogs again, as well as seeing the first signs of catfish runs. The lifeline of the arriving water is spreading, and restoring the balance once again.
The rare sitatunga antelope, also happy to have fresh water
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