Face-off: Okavango Panhandle vs. the Delta

Is the Okavango Delta on the upper rungs of your bucket-list ladder? The catch, though, is that accommodation comes at a premium and for Southern African visitors, particularly, it’s becoming prohibitively expensive.

Well … serendipitously we’ve recently discovered that the Panhandle — the long straight passage of the Kavango River before it fragments into the Delta’s myriad waterways — delivers an equally happy experience. And the costs are so much more palatable.

There is such immense complexity to the Okavango Delta — for one, the water never reaches the sea! The spidery mass of rivers and channels, much resembling the head of the papyrus that define the waterways, flows over the arid Kalahari Depression and the water that is not lost by evaporation eventually subsides into the sands of the desert. The main river-channels, however, always carry water and it’s this massive branching Delta that most travellers are drawn to — for wonderful fishing, birding, boating and mokoro trips.

But, hold that sigh … wanna hear more about the Panhandle experience? You’ll skim through labyrinthine reeded canals on a flat-bottomed boat; skate over lily pads while gazing slack-jawed at the fragile porcelain beauty of the flowers; go eye to eye with countless warty-faced crocs; glide beneath a guard of honour of fish eagles ranged to either side of the channels. The birdlife, too, is astounding. For ourselves, Xaro Lodge, which sits on its own island when the waters are high after Angolan rains, was where we laid out heads. We couldn’t have been happier.

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