BOTSWANA-BASED WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER VINCENT GRAFHORST SHARES HIS IMAGES OF – AND PASSION FOR – THE OKAVANGO DELTA
I took several photographic journeys through Botswana’s famous Okavango Delta, in a year vastly different than any other. It was 2020/21, when much of the world was seized, strangulated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism around the globe came to an abrupt standstill, the consequences of which were beyond the imaginable, and which continue to today. So too for this stunning World Heritage Site, the largest, most intact delta on the planet, holding a staggering biodiversity of plants, mammals and birds.
The normally buzzing town of Maun, a tourism gateway just south of the famous wetland, had been devoid of its usual bustle for many months. Now and then local tourists gave it a bit of a spur, but nothing near the situation as we knew it.
Yet, venturing into this wetland/dryland wonderland, whenever possible, if not constricted by either (inter-zonal) lockdowns or the floods that made the Delta’s Moremi Game Reserve inaccessible, was pure magic.
From a Nature-lover’s perspective, the memorable moments I spent there in 2020/2021 were the best I’ve ever had, and this after 19 years of exploring and photographing the remote roads, trails and waterways of the Delta. Lodges and campsites were empty. It felt as if I had the place entirely to myself. And, in fact, I did!
The wildlife did not seem negatively affected by the low numbers of visitors; in fact, rather the opposite. They were able to feed, breed, raise their young and move about, without the intrusion of roaring Land Rovers and chattering, camera-toting tourists. The Delta felt more pure and pristine, the way it was always meant to be, the way it should remain for eternity.
The world is in pain, no doubt. Suffering is widespread, with gigantic, devastating forest fires and unprecedented floods occurring in many countries. This combined with the considerable flames of unrest, ranging from the riots and looting in South Africa to the Taliban’s aggressions in Afghanistan, can lead to despair.
But, please forget all these troubles for a moment or two. I invite you to enjoy the beauty of the ever mesmerising Okavango Delta through the images presented here.
Through them, you can imagine being in this wildlife paradise, and you will come to believe that, after all, Mother Nature will prevail.
Visit www.wildscenics.com to see more of Vincent Grafhorst’s work and to purchase fine art prints.
Wild Sage: A back-lit male lion and wild sage bush, in the dry season.
Leadwood Leopard: It takes practice to spot the elusive Panthera pardus in a tree. This male leopard peering from behind a massive Leadwood tree was spotted from an unbelievable distance by our expert tracker.
Artistic Meander: The Boro Channel meanders through the Okavango, forming beautiful landscapes on its long journey to Maun.
The Nut-cracker: The Okavango’s birdlife never ceases to amaze; and every day is full of interesting activity. This Black-collared Barbet (Lybius torquatus) is feeding on a Jackal-berry seed by cracking it with its strong beak.
The Marine: A male Hippopotamus unexpectedly surfaces from its perfect hiding place in a pool covered with Kariba Weed (Salvinia molesta). This invasive aquatic fern is a free floating plant that is native to south-eastern Brazil. The fern unfortunately thrives in the Okavango Delta where it does more harm than good, by blocking the sunlight needed by other underwater plants and algae for photosynthesis, thus also creating perfect breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
Spotting Cats: Two Cheetahs use a large termite mound as a vantage point to search for prey, as well as enemies, on the vast floodplains of the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve.
Mbudi Tranquillity: Watching the sunrise behind the dry, leafless Leadwood trees, as you glide slowly, silently in a mokoro (traditional canoe) through the still waters of the Delta, brings a feeling of pure peace and serenity.
Pachyderm Protection: A wading baby Elephant enjoys its mother's protection and affection. For Elephants, the protected areas of the Okavango Delta are a safe haven, as well as abundant habitat, with water and food all year-round.
Hippo Hypertension: The territorial display of a bull Hippo, especially a scar-faced one, can be so spectacularly impressive that it is in fact terrifying to the core...
In a Micro World: Making use of the cohesive forces between the water molecules, commonly known as surface tension, this Striped Pond Skater ‘walks’ on the colourful textured surface of the Okavango waters.
Perfect Poses: An adult female and two young Red Lechwe antelope feed on a lush, green island remotely situated in the Delta.
Water Bird of Prey: An African Jacana in action, as it hunts and catches insect prey amongst the water lilies growing in the Okavango’s waterways. It is also known as the 'Jesus Bird', since its splayed feet enable it to walk on lily pads floating in the water.
Delta Trails: An aerial perspective of the Delta reveals the multitude of animal trails that texture the islands and swamps, a natural work of art that tells a thousand stories.
Escape to the Dark Deep: A disturbed Crocodile hurries towards the safer, darker depths of the Boro Channel, one of the Delta’s main waterways.
Delta Skeleton: A skeleton of a fallen dead Knob-thorn tree provides for an interesting aerial.
Boro Meander: The Boro Channel meanders through the Okavango, forming beautiful landscapes on its long journey to Maun.
Copyright Vincent Grafhorst