ABOVE RIGHT: Carmine bee-eaters nesting in the bank of the Okavango River at Shakawe.
ABOVE: White-fronted bee-eater.
ABOVE LEFT: Yellow-billed stork.
LEFT: Marabou stork & baby, nesting in a 'heronry' in the Okavango.
FAR RIGHT: Minute and exquisite malachite kingfisher.
Many of these photos are taken from a mokoro, including, BELOW, watching at least 15 elephants to cross from an island where they were delighting in a mud bath to a different island, offering tasty fruits. A baby elephant is barely visible above the reeds.
The Okavango River arises in Angola and flows south, entering Botswana just north of Shakawe. From there the river starts its swan song. For some 100km the river spreads out across a 15km wide corridor between two faults, flowing through reeds and bulrushes teaming with crocodiles and birdlife and creating what is known as the Okavango 'Panhandle'. Its waters then spread out in an alluvial fan. Over ninety percent of the water evaporates, leaving just three percent to sink, ultimately, into the salty sands of the Makgadikgadi Pan.
At the Botswana border, the Okavango fluctuates by up to two metres as the Angolan rains make their 1,000km journey to Botswana. The waters slowly make their way down the panhandle and into the Delta, swelling the 6,000 square kilometres of permanent swamp to three times that area between about May and September each year. Along the way, the wonderful watery expanse includes channels, lagoons and wide stretches of open shallow water. Bright green stretches turn out to be water-bedded reeds. Grassed islands teem with wildlife, abundant woodlands, palm trees and flowers. Everywhere there are beautiful birds. The Okavango is truly a paradise on earth.