The Okavango Delta is one of the most amazing places to go on safari in Africa. The Delta is a large wetland area with UNESCO world heritage status. It’s also one of the best concentrations of wildlife in Africa, and is often featured in wildlife documentaries.

Although we are avid overlanders, even we have to admit that the best way to experience the majestic Delta is by air. Because so much of the delta is covered by water, exploring large swaths of it by land is impossible.

So, in 2014, on a self-drive trip through Botswana with friends, we decided to leave Maggie and the dusty roads behind to go on a scenic helicopter safari over the Delta. To this day, it remains one of our most cherished memories from our time in Botswana – so we’re sharing our experience and pictures here.

The Okavango Delta from the sky

Departing from the Maun airport, and hovering over villages, we passed the Buffalo fence which marks the beginning of the Delta. The coolest thing about our helicopter safari was seeing the criss-crossing animal tracks through the floodplains in between the bright green and blue waterways….

Okavango Delta from the sky

Okavango Delta by air

We chose an early morning flight (starting at 6am), which is the best time to see wildlife as the sun rises over the horizon. We saw so many elephants, giraffe, zebra and hippos bathing in the waters below.

Zebras and elephants, Okavango Delta

Lone elephant in the Okavango Delta

Aerial view of Southern Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis subspp) over the Okavango Delta. Characterized by two knobs, called ossicones, on their head and unlike most mammals giraffes walk using both legs from the same side of the body simultaneously. Dist. Southern Africa

Herd of giraffe, Okavango Delta

Choosing an operator

There are a number of operators offering helicopter and private charter flights over the Delta. We did some research beforehand, and decided to go with Maun-based Helicopter Horizons – primarily because their helicopters have no doors, so there is literally nothing between you and the marshy wildlife-filled wetlands below. Slightly scary, but mostly spectacular…

helicopter delta no doors

Our friend Anais, looking out at the Delta from our helicopter without doors

Our tips: book directly with the operator for the best rates. Many lodges in Maun provide this service, but the prices will be higher to accommodate their commission. Also, if you’re visiting in the low season, it may be possible to negotiate a discount off the regular price. If our memory serves us correctly, we paid approx. US$150 per person for four people for a 30-45 minute flight (2014 price).

Where to camp

Camping in Maun is always difficult – no matter which site you choose, you will inevitably be affected by the all-night, booming house music of the backpackers.

Our favourite campsites include the Sedia Hotel (P70 / US$7 per person per night) due to its understated and relatively quiet riverside location. The Island Safari Lodge (P80 /US$8 per person per night) is another favourite, due to its riverside location and lovely bar area, although it can become too crowded at times…

Of course, the best place to camp is not in Maun at all, but in the Okavango Delta. Check out our post on awesome campsites in the Delta

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