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Moremi Game Reserve - A view from our expert author
Moremi Game Reserve protects as dense and diverse a population of animals and birds as you’d expect to find in one of Africa’s best wildlife reserves © Joakim Lloyd Raboff, Shutterstock
The oldest protected section of the Okavango Delta and a magnet for self-drivers.
In his Travels and Researches in South Africa, David Livingstone recounts what he was told by the local people near Lake Ngami in 1849 about the origin of a river there:
While ascending in this way the beautifully-wooded river, we came to a large stream flowing into it. This was the Tamunak’le. I enquired whence it came. ‘Oh, from a country full of rivers – so many no one can tell their number – and full of large trees.’
However, within 100 years of Europeans finding this ‘country full of rivers’, its environment and wildlife were under threat. In an exceedingly far-sighted move, the Batawana people proclaimed Moremi as a game reserve in 1962, in order to combat the rapid depletion of the area’s game and the problems of cattle encroachment.
Initially Moremi consisted mainly of the Mopane Tongue area; then in the 1970s the royal hunting grounds of Chief Moremi, known as Chief’s Island, were added. In 1992 the reserve was augmented by the addition of a strip of land in the northwest corner of the reserve, between the Jao and Nqoga rivers. This was done to make sure that it represented all the major Okavango habitats, including the northern Delta’s papyrus swamps and permanent wetlands which had not previously been covered.
As an aside, this is often cited as the first reserve in Africa that was created by native Africans. This is true, and recognises that the native inhabitants were the prime movers here, rather than the colonial authorities. However, beware of ignoring the fact that Africa’s original inhabitants seemed to co-exist with the wildlife all over the continent without needing any ‘reserves’, until Europeans started arriving.
Moremi protects as dense and diverse a population of animals and birds as you’d expect to find in one of Africa’s best wildlife reserves. With the reintroduction of rhino, you can see all the big five, and a lot more besides.
Elephant and buffalo occur here year-round in large numbers, and you’re likely to see blue wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, impala, kudu, tsessebe, red lechwe, waterbuck, reedbuck, giraffe, common duiker, bushbuck, steenbok, warthog, baboon and vervet monkey throughout the park. Eland, sable and roan antelope also range across the park but are less common, as they are elsewhere in Africa. Sitatunga live deep in the swamps.
Lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena all have thriving populations here. Moremi is central to wild dog, which range widely across most of northern Botswana.
Until 2001 rhino had been absent due to poaching, though in November of that year the first white rhino were reintroduced into the Mombo Concession, in northeast Moremi, with black rhino following a couple of years later. Although they’re now free to roam, several have remained on Chief’s Island.