Despite the archaeological studies conducted in the Okavango Delta area, it is not possible to know for certain since when man populated these lands; it is estimated that his presence dates back to 100,000 years ago or even earlier.
Traces of human presence at different points of the Okavango Delta have been found, dating back to different periods; one of the places of great importance, both from an historical and anthropological point of view, are the Tsodilo Hills.
The Tsodilo Hills are at the West of the Okavango Panhandle, in the Northern Okavango area, where the river is still floating in its bed, before it enters the large delta.
On the walls and caves of these hills there are more than 4,000 rock carvings that have been made over the centuries by different populations; among them, the San, the Hambukushu, the Bugakhwe and the Xanikwe claim their paternity.
The Okavango Delta had a lot to offer to the first populations that settled in this area: water, hunting, fishing and vegetation; it was definitely a place to live without major supply problems.
The first populations who settled here were a group of hunter-gatherers, probably the ancestors of the San or of the Basarwa, they are thought to form small groups, frequently moving in the constant search for sources of livelihood such as water, wild animals and edible fruit plants.
Subsequently, in this area came populations of Bantu origin who introduced the practice of farming and livestock and built stable settlements.
These early farmers are related directly or indirectly to some populations who have settled in the Okavango Delta area in recent times such as the Bakgalagadi, the Wayeyi, the Hambukushu, the Dxeriku, the Herero and the Tawana.
In general, the history of the populations living in this area is characterized by frequent migrations to search for food sources and to find suitable land for cultivating and raising livestock; the seasonal flood of the delta, the periods of exceptional drought or, on the contrary, the occasional floods, influenced the localities that were chosen by these populations.
For example, the Tawana, who arrived in Ngamiland around 1800, moved their capital 8 times over a century, until they settled down in Maun in 1915.
Diseases have also played an important role in the displacement of the populations; in 1896, the rinderpest slaughtered the cattle, while the sleeping disease in the '40s and' 50s caused the abandonment of many villages in the delta area.
Finally, conflicts also played a decisive role, the raids of the Matabele, or Ndebele, in the second half of the 18th century forced some populations to flee; as well as the war between the German colonists and the Herero from 1904 to 1906 caused the arrival of many Herero in this delta area, escaping the attempted genocide planned by the Germans.
In the ‘60s, the Botswana government began to exert pressure on the populations living in the Okavango Delta to move their settlements to preserve nature; the San opposition resistance and the government responding by burning their villages obliging them to move from the opposite side of the Khwai River.
In 1963, the wife of the King of Batawana, to protect some of their lands from excessive exploitation due to breeding and farming, and to ban hunting, decided to create a reserve called "Moremi" in honor of King Moremi III; the Batawana spontaneously abandoned their settlements inside the Moremi Reserve to preserve nature more.
Over the years, the Moremi Reserve area was extended, including the Chief Island, to about one-third of the entire Okavango Delta area, that corresponds to just under 5,000 sq. Km.
More recently, between 1969 and 1970, the Hambukushu, fleeing from Angola and the war, established themselves in the specially formed Etsha settlements that lie West of the Panhandle.
Today, most of the people are moving to Maun in search for better economic conditions, but some continue to live around the Okavango Delta area by benefiting from the opportunities created by the seasonal flood and rains that make ground fertile.