The Kwando River has its headwaters in Angola, from where it flows south across Namibia's Caprivi Strip, forming one boundary between Namibia and Botswana. Progressing over the Kalahari's sands, it is thought that once it continued southeast, probably through the course of the present-day Savuti Channel, into the Mababe Depression to swell the vast Lake Makgadikgadi – around one or two million years ago.
Then, at some point in the last million years, tectonic shifts raised up a fault line running northwest which effectively 'captured' this river, and diverted it along the fault to flow into the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers, thus creating what we now call the Linyanti River.
Around the same time, a parallel fault – the Thamalakane Fault – is also thought to have halted the Okavango's course, trapping it and ultimately silting it up to form an inland delta. As the gradients in this part of the northern Kalahari are very small indeed (1:4000 is typical of the gradient in the Okavango Delta) the routes taken by these watercourses are very susceptible to the tiniest tilts in the earth's surface. As an aside, these faults probably mark the most southerly extent of Africa's Great Rift Valley.
Like the trapped Okavango, silting gradually allowed the Kwando/Linyanti river to spread out into a small inland delta, forming what we call the Linyanti Marshes today.
There is one further geographical feature of note in this area: an ancient river course known as the Magwegqana (spelled in various different ways), or the Selinda Spillway. This splits off from around the Okavango's Panhandle area, and heads northeast entering the Linyanti River system just north of the Zibadianja Lagoon. This doesn't seem to be the obvious product of any local fault lines – although it does roughly follow the line of the Linyanti-Gumare Fault. It's either some form of overflow from the Okavango Delta, or perhaps an ancient river course, or both. Either way it's highly visible from the air, and on the ground offers a rich and open environment for game.
The geography of the various parts of this area follows on directly from its geological history, and can easily be divided into four types of environment.
Firstly, there are the Linyanti Swamps, comprising of river channels, lagoons, reedbeds and banks of papyrus. Secondly, adjacent to these is a narrow belt of riparian forest that lines these waterways – on the northern edge of the Linyanti Reserve, and the eastern edge of Kwando.
Thirdly there are two dry riverbeds, the Selinda Spillway and the Savuti Channel. Both flood periodically, but both have been dry for a number of years. There are similarities as well as differences between them, most notably the sheer width of the Spillway as it approaches the Linyanti Swamp compared with the relatively narrow Savuti Channel.
Finally, and common to all the concessions, are large areas of dry woodland dominated by large stands of mopane trees, which cover most of the three areas but are usually of least interest to the visitor on safari.