It’s no secret that I’m kind of a sap and a hopeless romantic… but you know when you read about a place, and you feel this sort of magnetic draw to go there? Probably more than any destination I’ve ever come across, Botswana fit that description. After seeing the beautiful Delta across Pinterest and CN Traveler magazine, I was determined to find a way to make it there! It was one of the best adventures I have ever had- the land and the people just had this energy about them that was almost spiritual. I was able to fall asleep in a tent each night to the splashing of elephants and roaring of lions and spend my days in a dugout canoe, going hours without seeing other humans! Perfect place for a solo trip as well: very safe, and very easily navigable. In case you missed my video recap of the trip, check that out here.
Botswana is said to be an African development success story, as it has built up its political systems and infrastructure dramatically in recent years to support a stronger economy and more sophisticated tourism sector. However, because of the ecological fragility of the Okavango Delta region in particular, the government has employed a “high cost, low volume” policy for tourism. Only a few (mostly five star) resorts and safari companies have licenses to operate in the Delta, with their outposts reachable only by private planes. I got crafty, though, and figured out how to make this trip happen without spending ~$576 million dollars! Enjoy the photos, and scroll down for a full explanation of how I did this.
Maun greeting me with a sunset.
Be a palm tree in a field of grasses?
My mokoro captain, Rejuvenate. We spent two days together in that little dugout canoe and really bonded.
Bracelets made by Rejuvenate from palm fronds. Beautiful.
The best outdoor showers at my hostel.
Hostel food that is actually edible! Amazing!
View of the Delta from the air.
Nighttime concert at my hostel.
My new friend Priscilla. We had just done our adventurous activity for the day and were rewarding ourselves with some sunset sips.
Probably the most low-tech boarding pass I’ve ever had, for the Delta scenic flight!
Ok, now for the nitty gritty. How do you spend a few days in the Okavango Delta for less than $300?
- Catch a flight from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Maun. I connected through Gaborone, which was a surprisingly beautiful, modern airport, with a coffeeshop and gift shop. Maun, not so much. But it’s charming 🙂
- Stay at Old Bridge Backpackers in Maun. A friend had recommended this to me and for that I am so appreciative. Old Bridge is just a special place, with everything a backpacker could need. There were families, solo travelers, and couples, from ages 2 to probably 82 there. I had great conversations with dozens of interesting people. There is a great communal area with a big bar, pool table, loungers, a library, and a TV where everyone congregates at night (even locals, for the bar scene!) It also has a fully equipped self-service kitchen, but I found that even with food allergies the Old Bridge restaurant turned out some great, inexpensive food for me every day. Old Bridge organized airport transfers, my mokoro (dugout canoe) trip, and my scenic flight.
- For the first two nights, I slept in a tent. It costs about $9 to rent this per night, including the bed roll and sleeping bag. For my last nights, I splurged and got a more structured canvas tent, with a hard roof and proper beds inside it. Loved the experience of both, although the latter was a bit more comfortable and convenient, with power strips and a lockable door 🙂 Bathrooms for both the soft and hard tent were separate and did not have drinkable water, but were super clean and fine for a few days!
- Pro tip: ask for a tent facing the river! Stunning views.
- Old Bridge is in a great location, just 15 mins north of the Maun airport, about 30 minutes from the Delta, and is super scenic on the banks of the Thamalakane River.
- Do a mokoro trip and scenic flight. These were the two splurges of my trip ($70 and $80 respectively) but were beyond worth it. Had I booked similar trips not through Old Bridge I would have paid maybe 5 times that amount. Old Bridge is very respected within the Maun community and has partnerships with operators to get you a great discount. I did the one-day mokoro trips but in hindsight would have loved to camp for a night out on the delta with one of their overnight trips. Bistor and Pearl in the office are a joy to work with and will get you all squared away to see as much of the Delta as you can while you’re in the area!
Old Bridge makes one of the best grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches I’ve had. Either that, or I was just about famished by the time I ate one each day! Too good.
Even after all this excitement, the highlight of my week was hands-down watching my friend Katie Ledecky tear through her world records in the pool in Rio (at 3am. Might have run into a croc on the walk from my tent to the TV but it was totally worth it!).
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Enjoy your week!