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July Flood Update

2012 Flood | 03 July 2012

Just a few days into July and the daily rate of rise on the Thamalakane River continues to increase slowly towards the 2cm per day mark. Towards the third week of June the we saw an increase of over 100% from around 7mm per day to just over 1.5cm per day here at the Letaka Safaris base in Maun. This didn’t happen overnight but rather over a week-long period. The graph below illustrates the recent upswing in the rate of rise and we would expect this trend to continue until the daily rise peaks at about 2 to 2.5cm per day.

 Although it is still only guesswork it seems unlikely that this year’s flood peak will get to within 30cm of last year’s high water mark here in Maun, although early reports from some of the camps in the delta claim water levels are rapidly approaching the 2012 mark. We personally have seen no evidence of this and tend to take such reports with a pinch of salt until we actually see it for ourselves.

Because this year’s flood rode in on the tail of 2011’s enormous flood there will still be a lot of water out there this year but with a bit of luck the game drive network will start to return to some semblance of normalcy! Safaris in the Okavango Delta will still be crossing a lot of water in the coming months with the peak expected in Moremi around mid-July and in Maun at around mid-August.

I have taken the NASA rapidfire MODIS image of the Okavango from the 2nd of July this year and labelled all the noteworthy features illustrated in this satellite image. It is interesting to note at the bottom of this image that Lake Xau now has water for the first time in nearly 30 years, this is as a result of the Boteti river receiving large amounts of water over the past two years which eventually pushed water down as far as Lake Xau.

If you look closely at the satellite image you will see the water pushing into the top of the Savuti Marsh. We expect that water levels on the Savuti will be quite low this year but the Savuti river will soon start to rise as floodwaters push south-east down the channel, thus keeping the upper marsh inundated until the rains begin in November.

The habitat in Savuti is going through a dramatic metamorphosis at present, the once vast grassland of the Savuti marsh is marsh once again and avian and mammalian fauna have emigrated and immigrated in response to the changes. Birds such as ostrich, secretarybird and kori bustards are making way for herons, storks and ducks whilst cheetah, bat-eared fox and black-backed jackal (all grassland specialists) are making way for red lechwe, buffalo and breeding herds of elephant that previously avoided the arid grasslands. In a few years time Savuti may once again compete with the Okavango Delta for the title “Jewel of the Kalahari”.

– 😉 Brent Reed (July 2012)