In 2010, a group of researchers and I launched a nine-year research project to study the Okavango Delta—one of Africa’s last-remaining intact wetland wildernesses. It’s a patchwork mosaic of channels, floodplains, lagoons, and thousands upon thousands of islands. The delta is a keystone winter sanctuary for elephants and other wildlife in one of the driest parts of the world, the Kalahari Desert.
This year, we completed the ninth and final delta crossing of our nearly decade-long study. What started as a survey of bird and wildlife sightings in the delta has transformed into the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, an approximately 2,000-mile journey in dug-out canoes to study all of the major rivers in the Okavango River Basin to better understand and protect this precious ecosystem. Through our research, we’ve captured an unprecedented snapshot of the current status of the Okavango River Basin and the people and wildlife that call it home.
Take a look at some of the sightings from this year’s delta crossing:
This year, National Geographic Fellow and photographer Anand Varma joined us in the Okavango Delta. His passion for science and biodiversity is contagious. From an emergent cicada to perfection in a reed frog or radiance in a lily—Anand revealed to us a secret, most often overlooked world of wonder.
The Okavango Wilderness Project’s science team is now made up of almost 60 experts and students. But each year we also activate artists, photographers, and storytellers in our mission to guarantee that the Okavango Delta, the grand rivers to the north and their sources in the highlands, are there for future generations.
There is no doubt that the Okavango River Basin and more of our planet’s last wild places are under threat. What we manage to save now, and over the next 10 years, is most likely all that will remain for future generations. This is our last chance. It’s up to all of us to help protect this unique and vital natural resource. We hope you’ll join usin working to protect the Okavango.