The Okavango Wilderness Project occupies a special place in modern exploration. Not only is the team regularly making the world’s first scientific journeys down remote sections of rivers—following Angola’s southeastern rivers from their sources to where they meet each other—they’re also returning every year to the Okavango Delta itself, crossing the same area but seeing it with a new perspective.
From northwest to southeast, they glide across this vast inland delta—a fan of once-rushing water that has slowed down and spread out into a wide marshy pool. Surrounded by hippos, crocodiles, and elephants, and underneath thousands of birds, they make their way—recording their observations and renewing their commitment to protect this wild paradise in the heart of Africa.
The 2017 journey was the eighth of nine planned expeditions in Steve Boyes’s ongoing delta study, which focuses on the role of wetland birds as indicators of overall ecosystem health. Every day there were birds to sight, fish to identify, and readings to make on the temperature, flow, and chemical traces of human impact in the water. With each year’s crossing, the data set grows larger, and the trends become clearer.
As the team entered the delta this time, they took a new look at the same world, seeing things they missed before, and processing it all with a greater understanding of the Okavango River system as a whole.
Expedition leader Steve Boyes conducts annual surveys of birds across the delta, building a data record and assessing the landscape's health.
On hardy fatbikes, the team checked their camera traps, interviewed villagers, and continued to document biodiversity in Eastern Angola.
The team was able to conduct research in this once war-torn region with the help of an international landmine-removal organization.
This 2015 expedition, at nearly six months and 2,414 km (1,500 miles), lasted longer and covered more mileage than any of the others.
In late 2016, the team completed the first biological survey of the Cuando and Kembo river sources in eastern Angola.
Top Image: James Kydd