Over the past few years that we have lived in Botswana, we have travelled to most of the “main” wildlife/camping areas in the country. We’ve visited the Tuli Block in Eastern Botswana, Kasane and the Chobe river and national park in the north, Khutse in the South-West and so we figured it was about time we went to the North-West and visit the town of Maun, the Moremi Game Reserve and of course, the Okavango Delta!
We made use of the President’s Day long weekend (Monday & Tuesday), took the rest of the week off and planned out a week-long trip to see the North-West region of Botswana and explore as much of it as we could in the time we had. A unanimous decision had been reached to avoid the long-weekend traffic along the A1 up towards Francistown and instead we opted to head for Ghanzi. Google Maps will tell you that the Ghanzi route to Maun is 940km long and will take you almost 10 hours, while the Francistown route is 851km and will take you just under 9 hours to complete. The A1 is always a busy route to take, especially on holidays, with many villages along the way and sections where the road is littered with potholes, making the journey slow and tedious. So by 06:05 on Saturday the 15th of July we were on the road, in the dark to Ghanzi.
Once you pass Molepolole, the road smooths out and after Letlhakeng the road gets even better. It’s smooth sailing all the way to Kang, with very few trucks or buses or any other travelers along the way as well. The Kang-Ghanzi road is also in very good condition and after a couple of stops for fuel, once in Kang and again in Ghanzi, we passed Sehithwa and by 15:30, exactly 9 hours and 25 minutes and 952km later we were outside the gate of our accommodation in Maun.
The plan for the week was to spend two nights in Maun, followed by a couple of nights in Moremi and another two nights in Maun before heading back to Gaborone. We opted for an AirB&B option in Maun, as this meant that we could afford to spend a bit more on our accommodation in the Moremi Game Reserve where we chose the tented accommodation at Third Bridge Campsite (P571/$55/€48 per person, per night).
“Michele’s Cottage” is fully-equipped with a living room (satellite TV, wifi, cellphone), kitchen (fridge/freezer, all the necessary dishes (and more), gas cooker, washing machine, snacks, drinks), bedroom with air conditioner, bathroom and even an outdoor braai/BBQ/Grill area as well. We relaxed in our cottage for the rest of the afternoon and evening, watching the Wimbledon and World Cup finals and reading up on what to see and do in Maun in the very detailed and helpful “visitor’s guide” that the hosts had compiled and left in the cottage.
The next morning, after coffee and muffins, we chatted to our very friendly hosts, Michele and Louw and were soon heading off into town. Maun is bigger than Kasane, but it’s still very easy to get around as we quickly realized. The cottage is just off the main road, which leads you straight into the town centre. We drove around, checking out the stores, shops and markets along the way. It was a public holiday so many of the places were closed and there weren’t as many people around. We ended up in a small street near the airport that had shops and a few cafes around, so we spent the morning there, walking around, strolling through the shops, checking out the souvenirs and popped in to “Pizza Plus Coffee and Curry” (which is also a beer garden) for a refreshing cold beer and a coffee. As we relaxed in the shade, we watched the tourists come and go from and to the airport like ants running around their nest.
After a quick Google Maps search, we stopped by the local Spar supermarket to stock up on groceries for our trip into Moremi the next day. There’s also a Woolworths next door with a small food section as well. In the late afternoon we made our way to Marc’s Eatery, a restaurant on the edge of town that we had discovered on Facebook and Instagram in the months leading up to our trip. The restaurant is in a quiet part on the outskirts of Maun and has a very inviting atmosphere, friendly waiters and a tastey menu. Dina had the pork roast and I had a beef burger, washed down with wine and beer respectively. After lunch we crossed the Thamalakane river and made our way to the Old Bridge Backpackers camp and bar. It’s located on the banks of the river, has campsites and small tented accommodation and a funky bar & restaurant with a very chilled-out vibe. We relaxed there for a while, having sun-downers as some of the locals fished in the river and AC/DC played through the bar’s stereo. Rumour has it that the pizza here is fantastic, but we were told that their pizza oven had been out of action for the past 5 or 6 months. Oh well, maybe next time then.
We spent the early evening relaxing back at the cottage and preparing our gear and supplies for our trip into Moremi the following morning. We figured we’d fill up on fuel, ice and firewood in the morning, as we would have to pass through the town centre on the road to Moremi (big mistake, but more on that later)!
After packing we headed to a local Italian restaurant called Il Pommodoro, which is in fact, owned by Italians and has an indoor and outdoor seating area, the latter being more pleasant as the wood benches and tables are laid out on a beach of soft, white sand, almost as if you’re somewhere in the Caribbean. We had a couple of hard-hitting Long Island ice teas, and ordered a small but tastey pasta dish and a delicious authentic Italian pizza. We were soon ready for bed and even readier to head into the Moremi Game Reserve the next day.
Our early-morning departure to the Moremi Game Reserve was delayed by an annoying leak on one of the jerry cans, which we discovered as we filled them at the Engen petrol station in town and I was loading them up onto the roof rack. With my arms covered in petrol we drove around town looking for shops that were open to buy a new one. As it was still a public holiday, not many places were open, so we ended up going back to the cottage where Louw skillfully and quickly bent the cap back into place and stopped the leaking. We then dashed back to the Spar, bought a few bags of firewood (although you can buy firewood from the locals along the road side once you exit Maun, but were already running late), picked up our now-cold lunch packs from Marc’s Eatery that we had pre-orderd and were finally on our way to the Moremi Game Reserve.
15km or so outside of Maun the tarred road ends and we drove onto rather rough gravel and then veered left at the fork in the road and made our way on to South Gate. Chances are high that you will see wildlife along the way before you even reach the gate, as we did, seeing a hippo, an elephant, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest and warthogs. We reached South Gate at around 13:30 and made our way to the reception to sign in. You need to have a paid-for booking at one of the camps in Moremi in order to get in. You pay your park entry and vehicle fees, you can buy (as we did for P250) one of the map/guide books they have on sale at reception if want, and you’re done.
PS: If you are a Botswana resident (as we are) or citizen, make sure you tell the receptionist that, or they will just assume you are a foreigner and will charge you foreigner rates.
By 14:00 we were back in the Prado and had finally and officially entered the Moremi Game Reserve.
The drive through the reserve to Third Bridge Campsite took about 3 hours without stopping. The road is bumpy and sandy at times but is fun to drive. We saw more elephants, warthogs, giraffes and red lechwe along the way. There are a few signs along the way, but we made use of the guide book we bought and soon came to the First Bridge crossing. You have to actually cross a couple of bridges to get the campsite, which is located at the Third Bridge (hence the name). The bridges shake and creak as you cross them which is an experience all on its own. After we crossed Second Bridge we came out onto wide-open pans and grasslands where we saw more impala and even a hippo in a small waterhole near the campsite. We went around this waterhole and sure enough there was the entrance to Third Bridge campsite. More signing-in procedures followed, although this time much less formal and much quicker than at the main gate. We got our key and popped into the fully-stocked ‘tuck shop’ (a small store that stocks drinks galore, snacks, chips, milk, shampoo, matches, charcoal, firewood etc.) where we bought a bottle of Jameson whiskey (as we had forgotten our wine back home) and made our way to our tent, named “Hyena”.
The tented accommodation at Third Bridge comprises of five older meru-style tents and 6 newer ones. “Hyena” was part of the new pack and it boasts a large, comfy double bed, spacious veranda looking out on the bush, a toilet, outdoor bathroom (sink and shower) with hot water supplied by a solar-powered geyser, bedding, towels, soap, shampoo and a fire-pit and braai/bbq in the front as well. The tent has solar-powered lights but no electrical-sockets, kitchen or utensils, so you do need to be self-sufficient in that regard.
Dina “The FireMaster” lit one of her typical bonfire-esque fires, which was a good thing as that evening was quite chilly. As we were heating up the steaks we had made at home and frozen for the trip, we heard the sound of loud munching not too far in front of us. I directed our flashlight in the direction of the munching and we were surprised to see not one, but three hippos strolling around in the bushes by a nearby tree, grazing on the succulent grass around it. We ate our dinner as the hippos ate theirs and out of the nearby darkness we could hear lions roaring as the stars filled the night sky. As the hours passed and we got cosy by the campfire I dozed off in my camp chair but was awoken by Dina excitedly whispering “Wake up, wake up, there’s something behind the tent!". My eyes popped open and I too heard some rustling behind us. We aimed the flashlight into the bush behind our tent and just caught a glimpse of a lion and lioness sneaking off into the darkness, a mere 20 metres away from us. Sleep vanished from my eyes and we jumped up onto the veranda, trying to catch a glimpse of these amazing cats but they had vanished as quickly and as quietly as they had arrived. Our hearts thumping with excitement, we couldn’t believe our luck and then nervously laughed at how close they were and how oblivious we were to the WILDlife that was around us.
The post-lion morning was a cloudy and windy one. I was up around 6am (no alarm needed unlike when we are in the city), made us coffee and sat on the porch, looking out onto the bush, enjoying the peace and stillness, which was occasionally broken by the tapping of our neighborly yellow-billed hornbills who were perched on the side of the Prado, admiring themselves in the windows. As the sun warmed up we made sandwiches, packed some drinks and went off to explore the Game Reserve.
We crossed the infamous Third Bridge, which is half under water and half made of rattling gum poles, which form the bridge. The water wasn’t too deep and reached just below the top of the Prado’s bonnet but we easily made it through, albeit with a number of very nervous “No, no, no’s” from my co-driver :) We kept the Prado in hi-range through the sandy tracks and never had any difficulty along the way. The aim was to reach Xakanaxa gate a mere 15km to the north but were in no rush and took our time admiring the views and wildlife along the way. Our first encounter was with a small herd of buffalo, intermingled with some zebra, grazing lazily right by the side of the road. Shortly afterwards we came across a lone guide in his cruiser going the opposite way. We asked him if he saw lions and were told that they were spotted somewhere near the Magweqana camp site. We found the spot in our guide book, crossed Fourth Bridge and went to find our late-night visitors.
VIDEO: Water crossing of the infamous Third Bridge
The vegetation after Fourth Bridge gets rather dense in many places, but we veered off the main track in search of the Magweqana site and the lions. We meandered in and out of these areas, not seeing lions anywhere, but eventually came to the edges of numerous pools, including Hamerkop, Sitshi and Jesses pools. At one of these tranquil spots, amidst a spectacular forest of tall trees we came across a single male elephant, bathing in the shallow water and enjoying his “me-time”. We stopped a short distance from him, eating our sandwiches and admired him as he splashed water over his head.
We followed the various paths through the forest and eventually came to the Moremi and Xakanaxa campsites, which are close to the Xakanaxa gate. Along the way we saw more zebra, water buck, tsessebe and another three elephants that were foraging for food in the branches of a few trees just by the road side. We watched them for a while, listening to their rumbling and crunching of leaves and twigs and then headed off towards the Xakanaxa gate, before going back south, crossing Fourth Bridge and heading back to camp.
Back at our tent we relaxed on the porch, sipping our drinks, reading and listening to the hippos grunting not too far away. As the sun set we lit up our fire and listened out for lions roaring or rustling behind our camp, but this time there were none. We joked that tonight was the hyena’s turn…. And we weren’t wrong! As we prepared our pasta dinner we heard something moving through the bush to the front of our camp. I flicked on my head-lamp and saw two shiney eyes staring at us. Not sure what it was, we grabbed the large flashlight and shone it at the eyes and lo and behold there was massive brown hyena standing mere meters from our camp, staring right at us. We jumped up in surprise, which in turn surprised the hyena and it trotted off to check out the other campsites. A half hour later she walked past our camp again and disappeared off into the dark bush. We could hear other hyenas howling and cackling in the darkness nearby and we decided to move up onto the porch where we sat in silence, waiting to see if the hyena would come back. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later we heard some more rustling from behind the tent, and then heard it again, this time to the side of the tent and in the dim light of the dying fire we saw the shadows of two hyenas coming around to the front of the tent and sniffing around the fire. As we turned on our head lamps to get a better look at them, they both dashed off into the darkness again. We could see their silhouettes as they stopped to look back at us before disappearing into the night. With smiles on our faces, we went to bed and fell asleep to the howling of hyenas that lasted most of the night around the camp.
Day Three was a sad one, as we were leaving Moremi and our wildlife-filled campsite. We were on the road to South Gate by 10:45 and saw dozens of impala, wildebeest, some zebra and even a couple of elephants on the way out. We reached South Gate by 13:15, signed out and made the 99km drive back to the village of Shorobe and then on to Maun. Just on the outskirts before we entered Maun we stopped at the Motsana Arts & Cultural Centre, which we had noticed two days before on our way out of Maun. It’s a funky, steel structure that houses a café, some souvenir shops and a small stage where plays and performances are held and movies are shown on some nights. After buying a couple of trinkets at the curio shop we headed into Maun and made our way to Il Pommodoro for a well deserved pizza and refreshing Long Island Ice Tea (we highly recommend you try that combo after a long, hot drive through the bush)!
We had an early night as the next day we had planned a mokoro ride on the Okavango Delta. A couple of days before, we contacted Oscar from “Nxumu Adventure Safaris” (Contact (+267) 73902300), booked and paid for a “Mokoro Safari”. P800/$75/€66 is the price per person and includes boat-transfer from Maun to the Mokoro Station (and back), the mokoro ride, a nature walk and a packed lunch. We met up with Oscar’s team at 8am on the banks of the Thamalakane River, just by Audi Camp, settled into the speedboat and we were off by 8:15. Make sure to dress warmly as it gets quite cold during the brisk ride out to the Mokoro Station (although we were provided with warm blankets). We reached the Mokoro Station by 9am, met our designated mokoro poler and guide, a young fellow named Rucks, who helped us settle into the mokoro and off we went, leaving behind the noisy crowds of tourists that had come in truck-loads for their rides as well.
We entered the Delta and Rucks steered us skillfully through the reeds and various channels, past numerous islands littered with palm trees and countless bird species. Our poler was very knowledgeable and informative not only about the Delta, but about the animals, birds and vegetation in the area as well. Along most of the channels we rode through, the water was quite shallow, while in others it can get up to seven meters deep. In the shallow parts the water is very clear and we could see through the reeds and lily pads to the actual bottom.
VIDEO: Underwater view from our mokoro on the Okvango Delta
About an hour and a half later we reached a section of land where we ‘parked’ the mokoro and went for a nature walk across the bush plains. Make sure to wear long trousers or socks, a hat and put on sunscreen. Rucks led us along various paths, showing us hyena tracks and droppings (white droppings, because of the bones that hyenas can crush and eat) and droppings of elephant, zebra and wildebeest. The land is also littered with holes that were dug out by aardvarks but we saw none as all the holes were abandoned. We paused under a large shady tree for a break, drank some water (which was provided in the lunch pack), admired the savannah in front of us and then headed back in a continuous loop of a path to where the mokoro was situated. Along the way we saw a herd of zebra, a couple of warthogs and a red lechwe that scurried off as we approached.
We had lunch on the banks of the delta and then got back into the mokoro for our ride back. Dina had emphasized a number of times how she loves hippos, so Rucks took it upon himself to show us some, and soon enough we entered the “hippo pool” where we saw seven massive hippos lazily wallowing in the water near the shore. We also came across a couple of elephants that were wading through the shallow water and were able to take some photos of them as well before we headed back to the Mokoro Station.
By 16h we were back at the Mokoro Station, thanked our very informative poler and guide, and got back into Oscar’s speedboat which was ready to take us back to Maun where we thanked the team for a wonderful experience. We reached the cottage tired, a little sun burnt but very grateful for being able to see and experience such an amazing place and meet such friendly and welcoming people.
Our last evening of the trip was spent at our cottage, packing up all our gear into the car, filling up with fuel from our jerry cans (we hadn’t used a drop of the extra fuel we took into Moremi) and thanking our hosts, Michele and Louw for a lovely stay at their comfortable cottage. We were on the road by 8:30 the next morning (Saturday) and had a smooth and uneventful drive back to Gaborone, where we arrived by 18:00 (traffic was bad in and after Molepolole though, which slowed us down).
If you do plan on visiting the North-Western part of Botswana, Maun will surely be your stop-over point. It’s a small town, but has everything you need and the people are very friendly. Make sure to go at least for one day & night into the Moremi Game Reserve (the more, the better, of course :) ) and a trip to that part of the country, and Botswana in general, will not be complete if you don’t treat yourself to a mokoro ride on the fascinating, enchanting and soul-soothing Okavango Delta.
Visit the Xomae Group website to find out more about Third Bridge Camp Site and how to make camp bookings. Below is a gallery of some of our photos and videos from this trip. Feel free to post comments at the bottom of this page if you would like to visit and found this article and photos useful, or if you have visited Maun, the Moremi Game Reserve or have been on a mokoro ride on the Okavango Delta and feel free to share your experiences with us.
*Road Beneath Our Feet and its founders have no affiliation with the mentioned game reserve/camp/lodge/hotel/accommodation provider. All comments are based on our personal experience and we aim to inform other travelers based on that experience and our point of view only.*
Trip Video Gallery
See more videos from this trip on our YouTube Channel
Trip Photo Gallery
"We are a young, married, Botswana-based couple with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"