There is a hidden world beneath landlocked Botswana – the UNDERWATER OKAVANGO delta; an unexplored wilderness brimming with life and diversity. Few have ever laid eyes on this Eden for it is guarded by some of Africa’s most dangerous creatures. Now, a team of filmmakers braves these perilous waters to track the remarkable journey of an epic flood that affects almost every creature in the Northern Botswana ecosystem.
From the smallest creatures to Africa’s giants, all must run the gauntlet of this moving tide. This is the story of the UNDERWATER OKAVANGO, premiering Tuesday, July 16 at 9:00 p.m. Encores on Wednesday, July 17 at 3:00 p.m., Friday, July 19 at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, July 20 at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday, July 21 at 2:00 p.m.
The Okavango Delta is one of the richest ecosystems on Earth, but most of its creatures are rarely seen by human eyes as they stay hidden within its intricate submerged world. Diving in can also be potentially fatal with cantankerous hippos and man-devouring crocodiles constantly on the guard, attacking anything they perceive as a threat. With that, few humans have ever dared to venture below the surface – until now.
In UNDERWATER OKAVANGO, a team of experienced filmmakers armed with a deep knowledge of animal behaviour dived in to explore this unfamiliar territory; their experiences reveal a new, unexplored wilderness that is shaped by the passage of the delta’s epic winter flood.
Each summer, rain that collects in Angola surges down the Okavango River in a giant pulse. Just as the dry season draws near, that pulse reaches the delta and sets a chain reaction of life in motion. Landscapes flood as the pulse pushes through and drain in its wake, shaping the lives of all organisms in the UNDERWATER OKAVANGO.
The first to feel the effects of the flood are dwellers of pitch dark caves. Rising tides lift floating carpets of reeds and papyrus off the sand, creating a labyrinth of caverns beneath.
Squeakers or small catfish, and Mormyrids – also known as elephantfish – hunt at night by emitting tiny electrical charges, but live in fear of a far larger predator. Giant six-foot shark-toothed catfish are amongst the delta’s most voracious hunters; they plague the smaller fish but in turn are hunted by giant Nile crocodiles lurking in the caves. As the pulse pushes into the main delta, tiny fish are sucked into the deep channels behind.
|Fast facts about the Okavango Delta:|
|Area||15 000 sq. km|
|Variation in Depth||Approx. 2 metres|
|Amount of water that’s flows into the delta yearly||11 cubic kilometres|
|Where does all the water go?||60% – transpiration of plants
36% – evaporation
2% – percolates into the aquifer system
2% flows into Lake Ngami
|Wildlife||Approx. 200 000 large mammals, 400 species of birds, 71 fish species|
The waters fill with predators – such as shoals of Tigerfish – that congregate to feast on the soup of small fry; considered the African equivalent of the Piranha, Tigerfish will hunt for shark-toothed catfish and even baby crocodiles if they get the chance. The flood then continues to push further out into Botswana until the peak of the dry season when it breaks out over dry land.
In UNDERWATER OKAVANGO, meet the creatures that traipse across Botswana to seek sustenance from the life-giving tide. Huge herds of breeding elephants flee the drought-stricken Kalahari Desert and travel hundreds of kilometres to reach the flooded delta.
While the water offers life, it potentially harbours death as well; tiny elephant infants must navigate crocodile infested floodplains and courageously face lions in the dense reeds. Nowhere is safe, until the flood arrives at the end of its journey. Just as the rain threatens to bring the dry season to a close, the closing act of the UNDERWATER OKAVANGO delta launches into action.
Birds flock to the disappearing shallows to feast on trapped fish and fearsome catfish amass into an army. They charge down the channels by the hundreds and flush fish from the reeds. The stampede of hunters makes the water boil and entices a new killer to the feast; fish eagles swoop down one after the other to snatch catfish from the churning waters. The frenzy of predators builds to a crescendo, until the rain finally douses the feast.
The wet season marks the end of the flood, but it feeds the beginnings of another. As rain gathers once more in the Angolan highlands, the journey of a new pulse begins. Witness this spectacular evolution of life in UNDERWATER OKAVANGO.
Date: 13 July 2013