Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi, hunted by the Bushman as long as 10,000 years ago, was initiated by the Batawana tribe and covers some 4,871 km2, as the eastern section of the Okavango Delta. Moremi is mostly described as one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa. It combines mopane woodland and acacia forests, floodplains and lagoons. It is the great diversity of plant and animal life that makes Moremi so well known.
The idea to create a game reserve first originated in 1961 and was approved by the Batawana at a kgotla in 1963. The area was then officially designated as a game reserve in April 1965 and was initially run by the Fauna Conservation Society of Ngamiland. Moremi was then extended to include Chiefs Island in 1976. In August 1979 the reserve was taken over by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. A further extension was added as recently as 1992 and now the reserve contains within its boundaries approximately twenty percent of the Okavango Delta.
How to get there
Travelling north-east from Maun, firstly along a fine full width tar road to Shorobe, then on a wide gravel road, a veterinary control fence is encountered - locally known as the buffalo fence, constructed to protect the flourishing cattle industry to the south from any diseases that may be carried by wildlife. Passing through the gate, a first glimpse of the reason that this is described as 4x4 country is obtained, as the deep sandy track ahead is in stark contrast to the previous road. After a short distance, a left hand fork in the track is taken, travelling through wildlife country of mopane and acacia woodland, interspersed by areas of open grassland. Low speed is essential on this route, due to the soft churning sand and the chance of viewing wildlife.
Eventually, after having travelled 99 kilometres from Maun, the southern entrance gate of the Moremi Game Reserve, Magwee, is reached. Here, nestling amongst a glade of tall mopane trees, is a shady camping ground with two small ablution blocks. Here it is essential to guard foodstuffs carefully against the unwelcome attentions of baboons and monkeys.
From the south gate of Moremi, there is a choice of roads. There is a direct route of thirty kilometres through to the northern entrance gate at Khwai, where the headquarters of the reserve are situated. At Khwai there is a large public camping ground situated in a well-shaded area overlooking the river.
Here at Khwai, a long bridge constructed entirely out of mopane poles, forms a picturesque entrance to the reserve for visitors arriving from the north. This bridge, which rattles and shakes as vehicles pass over it, must be one of the most photographed structures in the northern areas of Botswana and is so much a part of the character of Moremi. Smaller bridges, of a similar construction, can be seen in other areas of the reserve and, in all, a gang of thirteen men is required for continuous maintenance work.
From the south gate, another route goes for 58 kilometres north-west through some diverse scenery, across First and Second Bridges, to a further camping ground at Third Bridge. This area, which borders on the delta and Mboma Island, enjoys heavy concentrations of wildlife in the dry season and one stands a good chance of seeing elusive cheetahs hunting. The water that flows under the bridge here looks clear, cool and inviting - but beware, crocodiles would welcome anyone foolish enough to swim! Care should be taken if filling buckets (safer to use the standpipe) or undertaking any activity close to the water.
The third optional route from the south gate goes through the heart of the mopane forest for 42 kilometres to Xakanaxa. Here, once again, there is a public camping ground overlooking the edge of the delta. From Xakanaxa, a route can be taken to the north gate at Khwai, which is some 45 kilometres in distance, passing through a delightful area known as Hippo Pool, which is only 14 kilometres from the north gate. However, this road is currently inaccessible as it has been flooded by the waters of the Khwai river. Hippo Pool lives up to its name, as there is an abundance of those creatures in residence. They can be viewed in comfort from an observation platform overlooking the pool. It was near here that the Bugakhwe people used to have their village, but, with the creation of the game reserve, they were moved in 1963 to their present location near north gate, which is known as Khwai Village. The village boasts a population of only about three hundred people. There are a few basic supply stores in the Khwai Village, which can be very useful if one runs out of something or would like the luxury of an ice cold drink! A few of these villagers have attractive basketwork for sale to visitors.
Moremi is best visited in the dry season and game viewing is at its peak from July to October, when seasonal pans dry up and the wildlife concentrates on the permanent water. The winter months of May to August can be very cold at night, but pleasantly warm, under clear blue skies, during the day. From October until the rains break in late November or early December, the weather can be extremely hot - both day and night.
Mosquitoes are prevalent throughout the reserve and it is strongly recommended that visitors should take an anti-malarial prophylactic before, during and for four weeks after their visit, especially during the rainy season. Water for drinking should be boiled or chemically treated.
The reserve enjoys a wide diversity of habitat and is well known for the height of the trees in the mopane tongue, which covers the central area. However, the mainland part forms only about thirty percent of the reserve and is, in many ways untypical - the remaining area being part of the Okavango Delta. Birdlife is prolific and varied, ranging from water birds to shy forest dwellers. Elephants are numerous, particularly during the dry season, as well as a range of other wildlife species from buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, hyaena, jackal and the full range of antelope, large and small, including the red lechwe. Rhino, both black and white, were here in the past, but most of the few remaining have been sought out for translocation to the protection of a sanctuary, away from the attentions of illegal hunters. Wild dog, whose numbers are so rapidly dwindling elsewhere, are regularly sighted in the Moremi and have been subject to a project being run in the area since 1989 so these animals are often seen wearing collars placed on them by the researchers. It is claimed that the Moremi area contains about thirty percent of all living wild dog.
Visitors should note that there are no fuel supplies available in Moremi, the nearest fuel and garage facilities being in Maun. Similarly, apart from the limited range of goods on offer in Khwai Village, no food supplies are available in the Reserve.