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The Okavango Flood – 2010

2012 Flood | 24 July 2012

With the 2012 flood due to peak in a couple of weeks, we cast our minds back to that First Big Flood back in 2010…

Ok, so it wasn’t really the first big flood but it was the biggest flood since the 70’s and therefore the biggest flood we at Letaka Safaris had ever seen. The year 2010 began much like any other and even though there were reports of massive rainfalls in Angola, no one really appreciated the extent of this rainfall or what the effect would be on water levels here in the delta. The floodwaters moving down from Angola found the Okavango already inundated with water from a combination of a good flood in 2009 and exceptionally high local rainfall.

This meant that there was very little filling up to be done and the flood waters got straight down to the business of rapidly raising water levels and rediscovering forgotten channels that had not seen water since the 70’s. This led to quite a number of surprised residents in Maun having to deal with serious amounts of water on properties which they never knew were in danger of flooding.

Two years ago on the 21st of June 2010, the flood defences around the Letaka Safaris property gave way and during the wee hours of the morning the waters of the Okavango rushed in to the property whilst we slept soundly, blissfully unaware of what was happening outside. At around 6:30am the following morning we were still lying in bed when a staff member phoned and said they couldn’t get into the gate “…because of the water”. I had no idea what they were talking about but they were pretty insistent that they couldn’t get in and so I leaned over and pulled back the curtain next to my bed to see what they were talking about. What I saw is an image that will stay with me for a very long time indeed. Our house was an island, our car was standing in three feet of water, the kids toys were drifting slowly past the house and everywhere I looked was just water, water and more water.

Once we had repaired the breach in the flood wall it took 3 days with 5 high-capacity pumps running 24 hours a day to pump out the millions of litres of water that had flooded the property. Thankfully the flood was still well below it’s peak at the time that the flood wall broke and thus the waters didn’t actually do any real damage. At the peak of the flood the water level is some 30cm above the level of my veranda which would have made the breach a whole lot more exciting. Some serious earth-moving equipment was brought in to reinforce the flood wall which now runs in an arc around the property for some 380 metres. On average the wall is 5 metres wide at the base and 3 metres wide at the peak and stands 2 metres above ground level. This image gives a good idea what of what the property would look like if it were not for the Great Wall of Letaka.

This year we can look forward to the peak without trepidation which makes a welcome change for all at Letaka Safaris. For some though, the rising waters in the Okavango just bring the opportunity for more adventure, my two boys, Jarryd and Troy are pictured below doing a mokoro safari at the bottom of the garden at the Letaka Safaris base.

The higher flood levels we have experienced, and continue to experience have presented a number of challenges to the safari industry in Botswana. A lot of us miss the dry 90’s – in those days we never had to worry about flooded airstrips, roads or safari bases. Nowadays though we have all made plans to work with the rising water levels and the Okavango Delta continues to be a wetland wonderland that will draw tourists for many years to come.

You can view the full gallery of that fateful day in June 2010 when the flood defenses gave way at the Letaka Safaris base by clicking here

–  😎 Brent Reed (July 2012)