Hippos in the Okavango Delta

As far as African safaris go, there are a few destinations that rise above the rest, famous for their abundant wildlife and magical settings. The Okavango Delta is one of those destinations. An oasis within the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango attracts lion, elephant, buffalo, magnificent bird species, and a dazzling array of other fauna. These animals, in turn, attract more than 200,000 tourists per year.

The Okavango Delta Ramsar Site (a title given to Wetlands of International Importance) covers nearly 10% of Botswana’s entire area. Though mining is a major industry in the country—it is the world’s largest producer of diamonds—tourism is now the second-largest contributor to the GDP. Tourism officials have pursued a “low volume, high yield” model: fewer visitors, paying higher rates than found elsewhere in Africa. Through innovative practices such as this, the government has been a pioneer in developing sustainable, responsible ecotourism in the Okavango Delta Ramsar Site. The region’s admittance to the GSTC’s Early-Adopter program is a further step on the path to sustainability, seeking to minimize impacts while maximizing benefits to the local population. Former president Sir Ketumile Masire said it best: “We are dedicated to improving the lot of our people in rural areas and…creating more employment for our people. But we intend to conserve our resources wisely and not destroy them. Those of us who happen to live in the 20th century are not more important than our descendants in centuries to come.”