Botswana, Okawango - Mobile Delta Safari
Okawango Delta Ride
Recently declared the 1,000th World Heritage Site, the unique Okavango Delta is a horse rider’s Eden: as the floodwaters spread down into the Kalahari sands, the herds and birdlife follow, and horseback is the perfect place from which to observe them.
This Delta Ride is unlike any other. Rather than a permanent riding camp, a lightweight mobile camp is transported by a flotilla of mekoros (traditional dugout canoes) poled by members of the local community, who live on the fringes of the Delta and know it intimately. When the water levels are too low for the mekoros to navigate, a train of pack donkeys takes over.
Both born and raised in Africa, David and Robyn (the owners) have a love for exploring the wildest places of Africa on horseback. David is recognized as one of Africa’s most experienced horseback safari guides. Together they have run their own horse safari operation since 1993, first in the Nyika National Park in Malawi and since 2008 their home has been in Botswana. Here they are able to combine their love of horses with their love of the African wilderness. Many of their horseback safaris are personally led by David who has over 30 years of guiding experience. If he is not available he will arrange another highly rated safari guide to lead your safari. The emphasis is on the experience, the loveliness of the Okavango, and top level guiding. The riding and the horses are unsurpassed, the wildlife is astonishing and the food (cooked over a log fire) is fabulous.
This is a big game area and you could be tracking huge herds of buffalo one day or viewing elephants as they bathe in the cool waters another. Follow hippo paths through the reeds and explore the dry islands for antelope, giraffe, zebra and a multitude of animal and birdlife. Lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog are also present in this area but this is a true wilderness safari and so sightings cannot be guaranteed.
The camp is extremely comfortable in lightweight tents with standing room, fully made up stretcher beds, bucket showers and short drop loos. No vehicles are involved, and this, along with working in partnership with the local community, guarantees a genuinely environmentally-friendly safari.
Exploring this water wilderness on horseback is absolutely exhilarating, in particular a first encounter with elephants – an experience very different from viewing them from a vehicle. This is a big game area and you could be tracking huge herds of buffalo one day or viewing elephants as they bathe in the cool waters another. Follow hippo paths through the reeds and explore the dry islands for antelope, giraffe, zebra and a multitude of animal and birdlife. Lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog are also present in this area but this is a true wilderness safari and so sightings cannot be guaranteed. Before the sun sets you ride into a secluded camp on a beautiful, remote island.
There is no set itinerary, with the location of the camp dependent on water levels, wildlife movements and the length of the safari (the longer the safari the more likely the camp is to move). Camp does not move every night (usually every second or third night), it will be moved in order to find the best wildlife sightings.
However every location is exquisite, there being a plentiful choice of shady tree-lined islands.
Guest will arrive into Maun and will be met by their guide or transfer driver where they will first be offered a light lunch and refreshment at the Jiko Airport Café where the guests can also change into their riding gear (so we suggest it is easily accessible out of their luggage). Once it has cooled down (approx. 3pm) the guests will be driven to the Xaraxao Buffalo Fence (approx. 35 min drive) on the edge of the Okavango Delta where the horses will tacked up and waiting. From here the guests will then take a short afternoon ride into Camp.
Departure day is a slightly later start with a cooked breakfast and a leisurely ride out of camp back to the Buffalo Fence where the transfer vehicle will meet the guests and drive them back to Maun for their onward journeys. Guests can once again change out of their riding gear at the Jiko Airport Café
A typical day starts with an early wake-up call and a light breakfast around the camp fire as dawn breaks. The morning is spent on horseback, following ancient elephant trails, searching for a variety of wildlife, enjoying the prolific birdlife, and cantering through the recently flooded plains.
Herds of buffalo may be in the vicinity, giraffe often saunter by and red lechwe splash through the water along side , whilst kudu peer out from the thickets.
You return to camp for lunch and siesta in the dense shade of the giant jackalberry or leadwood trees.
A meditative evening ride is spent listening to the sounds of the bush and the snorting and splashing of the horses, before returning to camp for dinner under the stars.
Occasionally guests (and horses) may need to rest, which is the perfect opportunity for a tranquil ride in a mokoro, the traditional way of traversing the glittering, lily-lined lagoons and waterways.
It is a chance too, to venture out on foot to appreciate the smaller creatures that inhabit the bush – or to learn some rudimentary tracking skills.
No two days are the same, but every day is astonishing and joyous.
Accommodation & Food
You stay in a mobile camp in lightweight tents (with standing room), fully made-up stretcher beds, bucket showers and short-drop toilets. Camp is transported by a flotilla of mokoros poled by members of the local community who know the delta intimately. The ability to move camp is a highlight and means you can traverse the delta to find the area with the best wildlife sightings.
All meals will be prepared over an open fire in camp and you will be amazed at the diversity and quality of the meals.
Breakfast is usually light as it's taken before dawn! Lunch will be something like cold meat platters with fresh salads, fruit, cheeses and homemade breads. Dinners will be hearty and three courses with plenty of fresh vegetables.
In total there are 38 horses, and they are mostly crossbreeds including Shire x TB, Boerperd cross and Appaloosa sport horses. Some purebred Appaloosas also.
They are sure footed and well trained and the height are 14.2 – 17 hh, 145-175 cm.
Weight limit: 95 kg, there are a few horses that can carry more weight as well.
We use South African trail saddles. These are incredibly comfortable saddles and each one has specially designed holders to carry 2 water bottles per rider. Saddles bags can also be fitted to carry larger camera equipment, however for the Okavango Delta Ride we recommend a dry bag to carry it in.
Best time to visit
The best time to come to Okawango – is when you can get away!
We are always being asked “When is the best time to come?” As this is such a complicated issue with many variables such as weather, water levels and game we have listed below some guidelines to help you decide what suits you best.
January / February
Weather: Warm / hot during the day with morning rides in a breeze – pleasantly warm at night. Small possibility of rain. Bush is green and lush – grass tall and green.
Temperature: Day: temps can reach 35°-45°C in the middle of the day Night: 10°-20°C
Water: Rain pools in the Mopane forests and on the open plains – but floodwater unlikely at this time.
Game: Cats around and plains game such as zebra, wildebeest, impala and kudu. Nomadic bull elephants and birds in breeding plumage.
Clothing: Lightweight riding gear, a raincoat and swimwear.
March / April
Weather: Warm / hot during the day – pleasantly warm at night. Small possibility of rain. Bush is green and lush – grass tall and green.
Temperature: Day: 25°-35°C Night: 10°-20°C
Water: Plenty of rain pools left over from the rainy season – but the floodwater is unlikely to be within riding distance of the camp.
Game: Because of the rain and waterholes, the game is dispersed all over the country – so not concentrated in herds yet. Possible still to see the plains game: zebra, wildebeest, impala etc as well as elephant, maybe buffalo and cats.
Clothing: Lightweight riding gear, a raincoat and swimwear.
Weather: Cooler at night, but still pleasantly warm during the day. Unlikely to rain. Bush still green but grass getting shorter.
Temperature: Day: 20°-30°C Night: 5°-10°C
Water: The Okavango annual floodwaters normally arrive in May or June – so are within riding distance for a couple of weeks before they actually reach camp. The floodwaters bring long shallow water canters on the floodplains and deeper channels to cross. As water levels rise, motorboat replaces vehicle game drives and mekoros are also in use into November.
Game: When the water arrives initially the birdlife is great as they feed off the shallow water areas. Game comes to drink from the water, with the buffalo and lechwe moving in as the water levels increase. However, there is a lot of water – so much of the game is still dispersed.
Clothing: A splash proof jacket, a fleece/sweater for evenings and swimwear.
June / July / August
Weather: This is our winter and can be chilly / cold in the early morning and evenings but warm in the middle of the day. Bush getting drier except around the edges of the islands where the green shoots start to come through.
Temperature: Day: 20°-25°C Night: 3°-5°C
Water: The water is at its highest levels, so plenty around to ride through and go boating on either in the motor boat or mokoro (canoe).
Game: Large herds of lechwe forming in the wetlands and perhaps hippo and crocodile in the area. Good potential for buffalo sightings with impala, tsessebe, kudu etc moving inland on islands.
Clothing: Splash proof jacket, a warm fleece/sweater for evenings.
September / October
Weather: Winter is over and it gets progressively hotter building up to the first rains, which clear the hazy days and the skies are big and beautiful. Trees come into flower and then leaves go green and fruits grow. Evenings are warm and the plunge pool gets a lot of use! Bush is dry and grass short.
Temperature: Day: 30-45°C Night: 15°-25°C
Water: The floodwater normally stays around the camp area until October – but this, of course, depends on how big the flood was to start with. As the floodplain water recedes, drinking pools of water remain – hopefully until the next rains come!
Game: The game now tends to concentrate as the water sources lessen – often big herds of buffalo, elephant and with shorter grass more plains game can be seen. More likely to see wild dog as well as the cats who favour dry savannah such as cheetah. Young giraffe and lechwe; hyenas more evident cooling off in the pools.
Clothing: Lightweight riding gear, a fleece/sweater and swimwear.
November / December
Weather: The rainy season is any time from November – but impossible to say exactly when and how much. Normally the rain comes for an hour or so every day and then often goes away for a week or more before it rains again. It is warm to sticky hot before the rain and cooler after each rain. Bush turns green with the rains and many of the trees and flowers come into bloom while the sunsets become increasingly dramatic.
Temperature: Day: 30°-40°C Night: 15°-20°C
Water: Depending on the flood level, there will be some water around with the rain topping up the pools.
Game: Very good until the first rain when it disperses again – the young antelope are born at this time and are very entertaining to watch.
Clothing: Lightweight riding gear, a raincoat and swimwear.
Ability description: Trail Ride level 3
You need to be a capable and experinced rider. This is big game area and you should be able to stay on your horse and stay calm and in control.
Included in the price: Rate is inclusive of 7 nights accommodation, riding, meals, teas / coffees, drinks and bush walks. Only tips and curios payable locally in cash.
Not included: International flights, tips, transfer, personal insurance and extras not mentioned.
Travel: Fly to Maun, in Botswana
Transfers: From Maun Airport it is only a 30 minute drive to the southern end of the Okavango where the safari begins. In the seven night safari transfer return Maun is included.
Season: Low season: January – Mars, Mid season: April – June, High season: July - September
No of riders: Min. 2 and max. 8.
Single tent: The first two single tent requests are free of charge. Any further requests are charged at US$450 per tent for the full safari.
Currency: We suggest you exchange your cash into dollars and some rand, you shouldn’t need local currency as your holiday is fully inclusive. Botswana tourism levy can be paid in dollars. Gratuities, onsite curio shopping can be paied in Rand and dollars both in Botswana and SA
Electricity: Bring extra batteries and it could also be good to bring a solar charger.
Safety: Hard hats are not mandatory but the insurance of the safari does not cover anyone not wearing one. You have to bring your own.
Luggage: Luggage is limited to 15 kg per person in soft waterproof bags including hand luggage, riding kit and camera equipment.
Visa: You must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months after your return date and has at least 3 blank pages. Visas are not necessary for most countries but we do advise that guests contact their local embassy and make sure they don’t need one.
Tipping: Appreciated, around US$ 35-50 per day per guest.
Misc: A Tourism levy of $30 pp payable on entry into Botswana. Please bring dollars to avoid inflated exchange rates and bring the correct amount as there is sometimes a lack of change at borders. Other costs such as souvenir shopping and gratuities in can also be done in dollars.