The Moremi Game Reserve protects a pristine slice of Botswana's famous Okavango Delta.
The eastern section of the Okavango has been preserved by the Batswana tribe as the Moremi Game Reserve. The Moremi Game Reserve is a seamless extension of the Okavango Delta, both as an ecosystem and as a tourist destination. Moremi extends well into the permanent delta and covers the extraordinary Chief's Island. Despite what you might imagine, many areas within the Okavango Delta are largely dry. Chief's Island is huge and perhaps the Okavango's most famous island. It was once used for hunting by Chief Moremi, the traditional leader of the local tribes, and it is now regarded as one of the region's best areas for game viewing. Although Chief's Island is private, it is part of the Moremi Game Reserve. Although the delta in general is a marvel, Moremi is where all its elements are best concentrated, and it is one of the few safari destinations where you are guaranteed to see large numbers of game on almost every outing.
The Moremi Game Reserve's pristine wilderness of water and land, renowned for its beauty, shelters a profusion of wildlife, including enormous lion prides and elephants herds as well as buffalo, leopard, wild dog and cheetah. Rhinos, which no longer exist naturally in Botswana, are being slowly reintroduced and closely monitored as the possible nucleus of a breeding program for the area. Within the park boundaries, at the Mombo or Little Mombo camps, you are limited to morning and late afternoon game drives, as reserve rules prohibit drives after dark, walking safaris and boating. If you stay outside the reserve borders, at Xigera Camp or Camp Moremi, your range of available activities expands to include night drives, mokoro and powerboat trips, walking with a guide and watching game from several hides that have been erected in the area near water holes and rivers. Birdlife is prolific in the reserve, and there are numerous waterbirds as well as forest dwellers. You will also find geese, ducks and a variety of heron.
After the annual rains, the Moremi Game Reserve is transformed into a world of islands and waterways and an abundance of animals are drawn to the nurturing wetlands of the Okavango. Guests can enjoy great water-based game viewing on different types of vessels, which include powerboats and the traditional mokoro.
What is that? That’s the question probably going through your mind, as you try to figure out how to correctly pronounce the word. The Sitatunga, also called the marshbuck, are swamp antelope. It is referred to as an amphibious antelope, and is probably the only one in the world, with physical characteristics that have adapted to a water-based lifestyle.
In the heart of the Moremi Game Reserve, where the desert meets the delta, you will find the Xakanaxa Lagoon. The varied vegetation creates different habitats that hosts a multitude of fauna and flora. It is a great place for birding, and wildlife sightings that can include elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, kudu, lechwe, and leopard, if you’re lucky.
Set in the heart of untamed Botswana, guests traveling to Moremi will be welcomed at OR Tambo International Airport and be assisted in transferring to Maun. From Maun, you will board a light aircraft that will transfer you directly to a private airstrip situated within the reserve. The airstrip you will land on will depend on the amount of rain that the area has received.
The Moremi is part of the greater Okavango Delta, and subsequently most of the area is water-logged. Driving in the Moremi is therefore a matter of extreme skill and knowledge of the area. Guests with African Sky will be transferred from the airstrip to their lodge by an expert guide in a private, air-conditioned 4x4 vehicle.
Moremi can be visited all year round, although heavy rainfall in the summer season makes some of the roads inaccessible. The rainy season, which occurs from November to March, is the best period for bird viewing. From April to October, during the dry season, the animals can be viewed best, with September and October being the finest time to travel.
Contrary to popular belief, it is also during the dry season that the Okavango water levels are at their highest, as the water originates from rains in the highlands of Angola and flows almost 2000 km before reaching the region. Moremi is unique in that it offers various types of safaris, including boating and walking safaris just beyond the borders of the reserve, which means that the area can be explored any time of the year.
The Moremi Game Reserve was officially proclaimed on the 15th of March 1963 and named after Chief Moremi III of the Batswana people. The reserve is considered one of the first in Africa that was formed by the indigenous people. It was not Chief Moremi III that started it, but in fact his widow. She was concerned with the degradation of the area due to unsustainable hunting and the encroachment of cattle. Initially, the reserve only included what is known as 'the Mopane Tongue', but in the 1970’s all of Chief Moremi’s royal hunting grounds were incorporated into the reserve. Only a game reserve was proclaimed and not a national park, which allowed the indigenous people to continue residing in the area.
Ngamiland, that area around Moremi, was originally occupied by the BaSarwa or Bushmen. In the 18th century the WaYeyi, a Bantu-speaking people, moved there from north-western Botswana and north-eastern Namibia. The BaSarwa were led there by a local skilled fisherman and hunter named Hankuzi. Hankuzi married one of the WaYeyi women, forming a peaceful bond between the Bushmen and the WaYeyi. The BaSarwa bushmen taught the WaYeyi new fishing techniques, and the WaYeyi brought their canoe-building technology to Ngamiland. When the powerful Batswana people arrived in the 19th century, the WaYeyi voluntary became serfs of the Batswana, as it was good to be attached to a powerful household.
The life-giving waters of the Okavango Delta draw masses of wildlife. It is both a seasonal and permanent home to a very large variety of species. All of the Big Five species occur here during times of high density. Very large elephant and buffalo herds can be seen and both the endangered black and white rhinoceros occur, but only on Chief's Island. It is also one of the few places that plays host to both brown and spotted hyena. The very dangerous hippopotamus and Nile crocodile live in the delta. Plains game species like giraffe, Burchell's zebra and blue wildebeest are abundant. Beautiful antelope species such as sitatunga, lechwe, greater kudu and sable antelope also occur.
Healthy populations of endangered African wild dogs reside here and have been studied since 1989. Research is being conducted by means of tracking them with radio and satellite collars that they are frequently seen wearing. The reserve offers one of the last natural and most significant habitats for the wild dogs. Cheetahs can also be found in Moremi Game Reserve. They are just not that easy to see, because they must constantly hide to avoid more formidable rivals like lions and leopards. The cunning black-backed jackal is around constantly scavenging for sustenance, and brings the night alive with its calls. More than 400 species of bird occur here, including Pel’s fishing owl, the lilac-breasted roller and much more.
The Moremi Game Reserve has received many accolades in terms of its conservation efforts. In addition to being the first reserve in Africa that was established by local residents because of their concern for their ancestral heritage, it is also the only officially protected area in the Okavango Delta. The reserve covers almost a third of the hallowed Okavango and boasts one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent and in the world. The Okavango Delta is one of the largest inland river deltas in the world. It is seasonally or perennially wet, and encompasses a number of waterways, pools, lagoons, pans, riverine vegetation, acacia and mopane forests as well as grasslands.
The mopane forests are one of the main vegetation-related attractions of the park. The trees can grow to gigantic proportions which dwarf everything below them. Other areas of interest include the swamp landscapes of the Black and Xini pools and the wide open spaces of the various floodplains that are common to the area. Moremi is also known for its rivers, including the Khwai and Joa Rivers and their tributaries, which vein into the plains and sustain the multitude of lifeforms. Currently negotiations are underway to include the park in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which will ultimately span five countries.
Moremi has been described as one of the most beautiful reserves in the world, and has won numerous travel and tourism awards. The diverse landscape and ecology offer so much to be seen that the daily expeditions offered into various areas of the park are highly sought-after. The waterways outside of the reserve are best explored by boat, and various water-based activities are available, including the traditional Mokoro outings (canoe-like hollowed out tree trunk). Some areas are based squarely in the wetlands and therefore only offer water-based activities. Game drives are available in the drier regions, which may include night drives and guided walks (contingent to the water levels).Landscape and wildlife photographers and cinematographers will not be able to put their cameras down. The lush green plains, accompanied by the deep blue hues of the waterways and an array of wildlife, make for seemingly endless picture perfect moments. Be on the lookout for the Big Five, endangered African wild dog and countless birds for which these wet lands are a natural habitat. Swimming in the rivers and tributaries is not allowed and guests should keep in mind that this is the domain of crocodiles and hippos. Some lodges, however, do have swimming pools in which visitors can cool off. Fishing is also a popular activity at some lodges in the region.
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