Okavango Delta Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Each year, floodwaters turn Africa's Okavango Delta into one of the richest habitats in the world, drawing in huge numbers of animals from far away. Learn about what makes the Okavango Delta such a fantastic habitat in this lesson.

Water, Water, Everywhere

One of the best parts of summer is water: visiting the beach or the pool, or just having fun in your backyard with a slip-n-slide. While big animals like elephants and hippos can't jump off a high-dive, they also love water, but many live in parts of Africa where water can be hard to find. One area in Botswana, a country in southern Africa, floods each year due to heavy rains from far away. This place is the Okavango Delta; a delta is an area where lots of water flows through at the end of a river. When the Okavango floods, animals of all sizes come to enjoy the good times.

The Okavango Delta is in the northwestern part of Botswana, an African country
Botswana

Dry and Wet

The Okavango Delta is located in an area of southern Africa called the Kalahari Desert. The name means 'great thirst' in the Tswana language, so you can assume that there isn't much water to go around. However, lots of big animals live in the Kalahari, including elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebra, and hippos. How can they get enough to eat and drink? Not much rain falls in the Kalahari, but a lot of rain falls farther to the north, in the Congo rain forest. Some of this water drains to the south in the Okavango River, filling up the Okavango Delta each year with eleven cubic kilometers of floodwater.

The flooded Okavango Delta
Okavango floodwater

This water turns one area of the Kahalari from a very dry desert into a paradise. So much water comes through that the ground cannot absorb it all, turning as much as 15,000 square kilometers into wetlands (that's over 5,700 square miles!). Most of this floodwater comes from March to July, and as soon as the water comes, plants and animals come after.

Flood and Feast

When plants go brown and die in a desert, their seeds and the roots beneath them can survive. In the Okavango, plants that haven't had any water in months come back to life, growing big and green. When this happens, animals that eat the grass come in from all around the desert in search of an easy meal. Birds fly in first, snapping up fish, frogs, and insects that come with the water. Next come animals that migrate, or travel large distances, like elephants and rhinos. Huge herds of animals like zebra and wildebeest travel in the thousands or even millions to eat and drink in the Okavango.

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