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Okavango Wilderness Project: 2018 Cuando River Megatransect

April 5 2018

After already paddling 4000km of river within the Okavango River Basin since 2015, the Okavango Wilderness Project continues its research and exploration of the Greater Okavango-Zambezi System by following the waters of the Cuando River, approximately 2000km, from their source in the Angolan Highlands, through Angola and Zambia, down to where they dissipate into the Linyanti Swamps of Botswana and Nambia.
This is one of the remotest regions in Africa, and with our team of scientists, explorers and storytellers, we strive to share the unique beauty and significance of this pristine area. Please join us here and on our Instagram @intotheokavango and Facebook Okavango Wilderness Project platforms to get the whole story!

April 5 2018


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Preparation Stage

The Cuando River System

As the Okavango Wilderness Project, you might be think why we are leaving the Okavango River System for the very first time and moving to explore and document the state of the Cuando River System?

Firstly, the Cuando is not completely unrelated to the waters of the Okavango. On years of substantial flood events, the waters of the Linyanti Swamps, the terminus of the Cuando River, are connected to the Okavango via the Selinda Spillway. The main outflow of the Linyanti Swamps is the Linyanti river, which connects to the Chobe river and onto the Great Zambezi river. In the distant future to us, and shortly in geological terms, all these waters will get increasingly related, as the Zambezi continues its 100 000 year progress in capturing river further to the west and feed its insatiable appetite for water to take east to the Indian ocean.

Secondly, the Cuando intersects some of the remotest regions of Angola and Zambia, with incredible potential for large scale conservation efforts to rival Africa’s greatest.

The Okavango Wilderness Project has identified the 120 000 sqkm region where the headwaters of the Okavango, Cuando, Zambezi and Kwanza rivers originate, as key to the long term conservation goals of these systems. The proposed protected area is being coined “Lisima Lwa Mwono” the Fountain of Life in the local Luchaze dialect. The Cuando and it’s most western tributary closest to the Okavango, the Kembo river, pass directly through the central and south western part of this proposed area and are suspected to be furthest away from human activity, with the highest potential for greater numbers in megafauna.

Join us as we find out!

Expedition Background

The National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project is a research and exploration project, gathering the relevant baseline data in order to support the current and proposed protection, conservation and socio-economic upliftment within this undeveloped system.
The project was borne from the Okavango Wetland Bird Survey, a 9-year annual research survey started by Steve Boyes in 2010. The aim was to document the wetland birds along a transect across the Okavango Delta, north to south, from dug-out canoes (makoro), and use the wetland bird to gauge the health of the system. In 2013, Steve Boyes was made an Emerging Explorer with the National Geographic Society, and the awareness around this project of small beginnings was rapidly growing. Our own awareness of this incredible, pristine system was also rapidly growing over years, and with this the growing need to know more about where this water originates. Come 2015, with the support of the National Geographic Society, we were heading up to the Angolan Highlands to learn more about where this water comes from, and to follow its flow 2500km, through 3 countries, the Okavango Delta and ending in the desert, the Okavango Wilderness Project is born! Since the 2015 megatransect of the entire Okavango system along the Cuito River, 2500km, the project has surveyed the Cuanavale and Cubango Rivers, a further 1500km of river, and spent months in the landscape learning more about the flora, fauna and people of this region.


Excellent, Chris! Can’t wait to follow along here.


I look forward to seeing your expedition unfold!

Thanks so much everyone! Really excited to share our work with the Open Explorer community, and also get involved with some of the other awesome work being shared on this platform! Looking forward to it!

This is an incredible expedition and I am so excited to follow along!