Super Lion Island: The Story of Okavango Delta

A wild place like no other, the Okavango Delta is a land of extraordinary natural beauty and some truly unique beasts!

Aug 28, 2023By Lauren Rey
Super lion island story okavango delta

One of Africa’s greatest wild treasures, the Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Some of the world’s rarest wildlife can be found in the Okavango Delta region, including its famous resident “super lions.” Here’s a look at their epic story of survival.

The Okavango Delta

okavango delta
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Canva

Fed by the Okavango River in Botswana, the Okavango Delta is one of the largest and most biologically diverse river deltas in the world. The vast network of waterways, lagoons, and islands formed by the delta is home to incredible wildlife, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and some of the largest lions on earth!

The formation of the Okavango Delta is a rarity in nature because the water from the river never reaches the ocean. Instead, it flows inland, emptying onto land and forming wetlands. These wetlands provide fertile soil for lush vegetation. The flourishing plant life, along with a constant water source, makes the delta a prime wildlife habitat for hundreds of species.

The region is also home to several indigenous communities that have lived alongside these waterways for hundreds of years. The Okavango Delta is so biologically diverse and culturally significant, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Life in The Okavango Delta

buffalo okavango delta
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The Okavango Delta is teeming with wildlife at every corner. From the hippos and crocodiles that patrol the water, to the herds of elephants and buffalo that roam the land. There are also hundreds of species of unique birds and fish that thrive in these waterways. The occasional rare rhinoceros can also be found in the Okavango Delta.

While the Okavango Delta has wildlife year-round, in the dry season, other animals tend to migrate to the area for its water source. During this time, even more bird life can be found, as well as large herds of antelope, zebra, giraffe, and wildebeest.

Not without its share of predators, the Okavango Delta is also home to cheetahs, leopards, African wild dogs, hyenas, and some very special lions.

Super Lions

okavango delta swimming lion
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Nicknamed “super lions,” for their superior size and strength. The lions that inhabit the Okavango Delta are truly one-of-a-kind. Uniquely adapted for life on the delta, these lions are believed to be bigger and stronger than the lions typically found in other parts of Africa.

There are a few likely reasons for this phenomenon. Due to their constant swimming and walking through water and mud, these lions have developed strong leg muscles that normal land-dwelling lions do not have. This adds to their strength and speed, making them better hunters.

swimming lions okavango delta

Another reason it is believed these lions loom so large is due to their diet. Lions in this area are accustomed to taking down much larger prey, such as buffalo and even elephants in some cases. A feat they accomplish by hunting in much larger groups than other African lions. They’re also known to hunt frequently during the day, whereas other lions mostly hunt at night. These are all extraordinary examples of animals adapting to their environment.

In an area of the Okavango Delta known as the Duba Plains, lies one particular island that is shared by a small population of lions and a large herd of buffalo. The fascinating story of this island and the constant battle between its residents made international headlines when the National Geographic documentary, Relentless Enemies was released. The documentary won numerous awards and helped push Okavango conservation narratives into the limelight.

The Future of Lions on the Okavango Delta

lioness cubs swimming
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Like all lions, the future of the Okavango Delta lions is unfortunately uncertain. While much of the land is deemed protected and regularly patrolled by wildlife officials, poaching is still a problem.

The Okavango Delta is a top spot for ecotourism in Botswana, with visitors from all over the world traveling to the region for safari tours, river cruises, and other wildlife viewing opportunities. The delta has quickly grown to compete with other popular ecotourism areas of Africa like the Serengeti and Kruger National Park. This has helped fund local conservation efforts to further preserve and protect the land.

The ever-changing landscape of the delta and evolving lifestyle patterns of lions like the Duba Plains pride continue to be studied by biologists and wildlife enthusiasts alike. The story of the Okavango Delta “super lions” is certainly a fascinating tale of evolutionary biology at work!

Lauren Rey
By Lauren Rey

A lover of all animals, Lauren’s background is in the veterinary world, but she is now a content writer on travel, wildlife, and all things pets! She’s based in Florida, but when not writing, she’s usually plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime. Pickles is a mixed-breed rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!