Adventure Science in the Okavango Delta

Gregg Treinish and his team at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation bring us stories from around the world about adventuring with purpose. Here, Gregg writes about an upcoming expedition to the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Dung beetles, Botswana (Photo by Gregg Treinish)
Dung beetles, Botswana. (Photo by Gregg Treinish)

By Gregg Treinish

The Okavango Delta is among the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Protected by decades of Angolan civil war in the north and sheer remoteness in the south, this is the world’s largest inland delta. It also represents one of the last undisturbed conservation opportunities.

Already listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the Okavango Delta gained UNESCO World Heritage protection this June, becoming the 1,000th site on that list.

This August, I’ll spend nine days traversing the delta with three other National Geographic Explorers: South African conservationist Dr. Steve Boyes; Office for Creative Research co-founder Jer Thorp; and engineer and conservation technologist Shah Selbe.

During the expedition, we will establish research platforms that will record video and audio, as well as other environmental conditions. This will lay the groundwork for ongoing conservation engagement in the delta.

Midway through, you can join us for a live video chat via Google+ Hangout on Air at 10:00am EDT on Friday, August 22, 2014. (Learn more about how you can participate.)

Alongside local baYei tribesmen, we’ll use dugout canoes known as mokoros to move across the water. Our group of scientists, filmmakers and photographers will encounter charismatic and heart-stopping megafauna, among them crocodiles, hippos and lions.

Mokoros are the most common method of travel in the delta (Photo courtesy Botswana Tourism)
Mokoros are the most common method of travel in the delta. (Photo in public domain)

Created through sand deposition by the annual floodwaters pouring out of the Angolan highlands, the delta’s size varies from 9,300-square miles to 13,500, depending on the season. As an extension of the Great Rift Valley, the region regularly experiences tremors and minor earthquakes. A recent study recorded 122 mammal species there, 71 fish species, 444 bird species, 64 reptile species, and 1,300 species of flowering plants.

However, this vibrant ecosystem is not immune to outside threats.

Massive irrigation schemes are planned upstream in Namibia and Angola, and Chinese-funded agricultural development will soon introduce pesticides and fertilizers to the watershed.

Leopard, Botswana. (Photo by Gregg Treinish)

While there, I’ll be scouting a future ASC project, in which adventure science volunteers will live and work alongside the baYei, gathering essential information on the health of the delta, including data on wildlife and water quality. They will be on the front lines collecting information UNESCO and the Wild Bird Trust can use to ensure this ecosystem remains intact.

Learn more, and follow the team live at, and via the hashtag #Okavango14. Learn more about ASC on our Field Notes blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+, and stay tuned for opportunities to get involved in future Okavango expeditions.

Join us for the Google+ Hangout on Air at 10:00am EDT on Friday, August 22, 2014. (Learn more about how you can participate.)

Read More by Gregg Treinish and His Correspondents



Meet the Author
Gregg Treinish founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration. National Geographic named Gregg Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor's 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine "hero", in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men's Journal's "50 Most Adventurous Men." In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow and in 2018 one of the Grist 50 "Fixers." Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Read more updates from Gregg and others on the Adventure Scientists team at Follow Adventure Scientists on Instagram @adventurescientists, on Facebook @adventurescientists, and on Twitter @AdvScientists.