Blog: Riding in the Okavango Delta

13

Dec 2016

Where’s the best place to ride in Africa? Top of the Bucket List? It’s got to be The Okavango Delta in Botswana.

riding-with-eles-4

Riding in the Okavango Delta from Macatoo Camp

The reason? There’s nothing better than cantering alongside a mixed mob of 500 zebra and giraffe. Add in the simply incredible natural beauty of the Okavango, and the zest that comes from knowing lions are probably giving you the eye, and the recipe is nearly complete.

The horses love their work, the guides are fantastic and the accommodation is dreamy, not ostentatious, just spot-on for this environment. Nowhere else in the world has all these ingredients.

There are four stables in the Okavango, marked in red below:-

okavango-rides-map

Here’s a ready-reckoner about herd size, numbers of riders and young rider policy:-

Horses
Riders
Young riders

Number of
horses in herd

Max
group size
Minimum age
Macatoo/AHS
50
6
12 yrs
Motswiri/RAW
24
7
12 yrs
OHS
60
8
12 yrs
Thamalakane
20
10
No min age

Working out when to visit the Okavango is not quite so easy. We have prepared a guide to the seasons below, but it’s tricky to grasp, so please call us to talk it through and we can give you an impartial interpretation.

riding-group-in-lily-pond

Okavango horses love munch lillies!

The Okavango Delta seasons in a nutshell.

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the largest inland delta in the world at 15,000 Km². It’s sandwiched between two deserts, the Namib on the west and the Kalahari on the east.

Local rainfall, such as it is, falls between Christmas and February (about 3 inches per month).

Ibo Island. Mozambique

Okavango canters can be long and splashy

The rain in neighbouring Angola (to the north) falls in Feb and March and takes a good month or two to flow 1,000 Km to reach the Okavango Delta. Rainfall and flood-flow vary from year-to-year. Water levels vary within the Delta from area to area. So this is not a precise science!

Local rainfall causes a mini-peak in water level in February; the flood causes a larger peak in April. In between May and Christmas the waters gradually recede. The significance is that when local rainfall is zero, the Delta has abundant water which attracts animals from far and wide, contributing to Africa’s greatest concentration of wildlife.

So when to visit? Each month has its pros and cons and there isn’t one spectacular month, as there is for example in the Serengeti or Maasai Mara when catching the Migration is crucial. The Okavango Delta is good, for different reasons, every month. When you add calving and foaling, wild dogs denning, water levels and daily temperatures you have a bit of a Rubix Cube to solve. Here is a calendar with some of the variables marked:-

Mokoro

Mokoro down-time. There’s nothing more relaxing after a few days riding than poling along in a dugout (Mokoro) canoe.

What’s the budget?

Peak demand coincides with the summer months in Europe, when Okavango temperatures are particularly favourable, day and night. But the Okavango is enchanting at any time of year: for example, the diminutive Bell Frog, or “Painted Reed Frog” to give it its proper moniker, serenades you in the evening and is particularly vivacious immediately before the local rains come (Nov and Dec). As their name suggests, they have a charming call that sounds like a blend between a tinkling silver bell and an ever-so-dainty percussion instrument.

The Okavango Delta has hidden gems and remarkable secrets to reveal at every season.

Here’s a guide to the lodges’ seasons:-

Standard Mid Peak Open
Jan, Feb, March, 16th Nov and early Dec Apr, May, Jun,            1-15th Jul & 1-15th Nov 16th -31st Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct & Xmas Dates camp open
Macatoo/AHS £475 £550 £610 All year
Motswiri/RAW £525 £625 £730 All year
OHS £480 £570 £640 Feb to Dec
Thamalakane £415 £415 £455 All year

* Subject to exchange rates

* Transfers not included, except Ride Botswana

* Seasons quoted are approx

OHS (Okavango Horse Safaris) was the pioneer of riding safaris in the Delta in about 1995’ish. Next to establish was African Horse Safaris and their camp called Macatoo, then RAW (Motswiri Camp) and Ride Botswana (Thamalakane) which is handily placed close to Maun.

If you’re travelling with children under 12 then your decision is made for you: it has to be Ride Botswana.

OHS have a lovely camp called Kujwana where their stable is and from where you can ride to their sister camp Mokolowane and two fly camps (i.e. lightweight, fully mobile camps) which allows them to create a thrilling trail riding experience within the Delta.

Macatoo and Motswiri are further in to the Delta than OHS or Thamalakane which means the transfers are longer (35 min flight by plane) but once in camp you are unlikely to encounter other safaris.; though the same is true of OHS and Thamalakane.

The point to stress is that you are deciding between superlatives: all four camps are outstanding top-of-the-bucket-list places.

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