Looking at the length of this list, you'll realise that Maun is the safari capital of Botswana. Listed alphabetically, these range from large safari companies with many camps through to tiny operators which are little more than a guide and a vehicle.
Note that for most of the larger operators, the contact details listed here are simply their base for logistics and operations in Maun. Many do not have booking offices here, preferring to take all reservations, and answer all queries from visitors, from dedicated reservation offices elsewhere (usually Johannesburg in South Africa).
In contrast the smaller operations will often take days, or even weeks, to answer communications – sometimes because the whole team is out of the office and on safari. This kind of tiny outfit has both its advantages and disadvantages, as you'll realise. African Horseback Safaris
PO Box 20538, Maun; tel/Fax: 663154; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.africanhorseback.com
Specialist horse-riding safaris based out of Macatoo Camp on the western side of the Delta, in NG26. Afro Trek
P Bag 58, Maun; tel/fax: 6862574; tel: 686510; email: email@example.com; web: www.afrotrek.com
Run by Richard Randall, Allan Bimson and Janet Maruza, this relatively new company is based next to the internet café in the Sedia Hotel complex. (It has sprung up as Quadrum Safaris has been phased out.) They offer a variety of options, including some original short trips in and around Maun.
Afro Trek's shortest trip is a two-hour guided birding walk from the Sedia Hotel led by Richard Randall, who has been a keen birdwatcher in the area for many years, some of them spent guiding and running camps in the Delta. With more time, Richard's three-hour trip usually takes in the birds of the Maun Game Sanctuary, while his four-hour trip is long enough to reach the reedbeds and pools of the Boteti River, south of Maun. These cost about US$10 per person per hour, for a minimum of two people.
Afro Trek also offers budget mokoro trips in NG32. These involve road transfers to/from Ditshipi Village on the Santantadibe River, and then taking a poler and mokoro from there. (Alternatively, going from a launch on the Boro River is also possible.) These cost around US$55 per person sharing for a day-trip, US$85/130 per person sharing/single for a two-day/one-night trip, and US$110/170 per person sharing/single for a three-day/two-night trip. Travellers supply all their own camping kit, food and drinks.
They've a range of good value mobile trips which cost around US$120 per person (based on a minimum of four people) per day. Trips typically last between three and five days (two and four nights), and camping kit is supplied. All the usual areas are offered – Chobe/Moremi, Makgadikgadi/Nxai, and even the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.Afroventures
see CC Africa, below.
Audi Camp Safaris P Bag 28 Maun, Botswana; tel: 6860599; fax: 6860581;
email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.audicamp.bizland.com
Based out of Audi camp north of Maun, Audi Camp Safaris have their town office next to the Bull & Bush, on Mathiba I Road. From here they organise shuttle transfers between Maun and Windhoek – and also run fully-fledged budget mobile trips, and drive-in mokoro trips in the Delta, in conjunction with the local polers of the Ditshipi area in NG32.
Their simple mobile trips run with a minimum of two people and include meals, park fees, vehicle, guide and camping equipment – but travellers are expected to bring their own drinks and sleeping bags, and muck in with all the camp chores. Typical prices would be US$725 per person for a four-night Moremi/Chobe trip, scheduled to start every Thursday; US$395 per person for a two-night Moremi trip; and US$755 per person for a four-night trip to the Central Kalahari.
Mokoro trips depart from Audi Camp around 07.45 and return around 17.00. You're driven by 4WD for about two hours to the poling station at Morutsa or Ditshipi, on the lower reaches of the Santantadibe River. There you meet your poler and head off up the river for your trip – later returning downstream, and being driven back to Maun the same way. (See my comments on budget trips in the section on NG32.)
If you take all your own camping equipment and food supplies, then this costs US$65 for a one-day trip – though this is hardly worth the effort for the minimal time that you get on the water. Better to take a one-night/two-day trip for US$110 per person sharing, or a two-night/three-day trip for US$145. Alternatively, Audi Camp can provide all the food and camping equipment – but then the two-night/three-day trip costs US$220 per person sharing.Botswana Safaris & Tours
P Bag BO46, Boseja, Maun; tel/fax: 6864845; home: 6862656; cell: 0721518; email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Run by Guy Symons (a guide trained in South Africa) and Edurne Martinez (who is also a partner in Africa Pride Botswana Tours & Safaris has been running mobile trips to all the parks and areas of interest in northern Botswana since about 1989.
They have a number of fixed departure dates and their standard 10-day/9-night camping trip from Maun to Victoria Falls costs US$2,000 per person. They will also organise private mobile trips, usually concentrating on Chobe, Moremi, the Central Kalahari and the great salt pans area.Bush Ways Safaris
P Bag 342, Maun; tel/fax: 6863685;
email: email@example.com; web: www.bushways.com
Established in 1996, Bush Ways Safaris operates small-group mobile trips with guaranteed departures, as well as tailor-made trips. Their scheduled trips cover Chobe, Moremi, Nxai, Makgadikgadi and the Central Kalahari, whilst their tailor-made mobile trips go anywhere. Their custom-built vehicles have canvas tops, open sides (with covered sides for wet or wind), and take a maximum of twelve passengers.
A typical guided trip like their 6-night/7-day 'Buffalo' itinerary spends three nights in Moremi, two in Chobe and one in Livingstone, and costs around US$825 per person sharing. It has the advantage of being on fixed dates and will run even if there's only one person booked onto it.
Bush Ways' scheduled trips are 'semi-participation' – where travellers pitch their own tents and assist with catering duties 'if they wish'. The costs include accommodation in two-man tents with mattresses, all meals and park entry fees. It doesn't include drinks or some of your meals at the lodge in Livingstone, and you should bring your own sleeping bag and pillow.
Their private mobile trips can be more luxurious, though the cost of these will be significantly more, as you'd expect. Note that they have guides who can speak French, German, Spanish, English and Afrikaans, and if you're organising a private safari then specify that you want a guide who speaks your language.Butler & Lindstrom Safaris
PO Box 236, Maun; tel: 6860994; fax: 6860995; cell: 716 56455; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This company has been run since the early 1980s as Soren Lindstrom Safaris – owned by the eponymous, well-known professional guide. In the last few years it's been renamed, as Soren has been joined by Greg Butler – another top professional guide – and his wife, Kelly. Soren has now retired from most of the guiding, which is these days usually led by Greg.
This is a top-end company offering expert-guided tailor-made private safaris in both the national parks and a few of the region's private concession areas (where they can offer walking and night drives). Expect very comfortable camping: the large walk-in tents have en-suite showers and flush toilets; the cuisine is impressive and served in style by candlelight; the guiding is amongst the best around.
Vehicles are custom-built Toyota 4WDs (some open and some fitted with roof hatches), which take a maximum of five people. Expect costs of around US$350 per person per day, regardless of group size – including all meals, activities, drinks and park fees.Capricorn Safaris
P Bag 21, Maun; tel: 6861165; fax: 6862991; email: email@example.com
Run by Adam and Brigette Hedges, who have a long pedigree from running safaris in Kenya and Tanzania with Dick Hedges' Safaris (Adam's father), Capricorn is a reliable operator with fixed-date trips across northern Botswana. They can also organise private mobile trips anywhere you want to go.
Capricorn's most popular trip is a 13-night/14-day mobile that usually starts with a night in Maun at Riley's Hotel or Crocodile Camp. Typically this continues with two nights in a mobile tented camp either in Nxai Pan or the Okavango (depending on the season); then four nights in Moremi, including a boat trip and a night fly-camping on an island; then five nights split between two different areas in Chobe; before ending with a night at Victoria Falls.
Transport is by custom built Toyota LandCruisers (maximum of six travellers plus a driver/guide in each) which have large roof hatches for photography, a drinks fridge and a small reference library. The camp is erected by the back-up team, so visitors have no chores to do. Tents are Meru-style in which you can stand. They have twin beds (with duvets, pillows and towels) and bedside battery lights. Hot bucket showers and long-drop toilets are shared. Food includes full three-course dinners, which are wholesome but not fancy, served at a candlelit table in the dining tent. All wine, drinks and bottled water are included.
Capricorn offers good-value, fairly traditional mobile safaris without too many frills, and with the emphasis firmly on game viewing. Travellers from the UK often come through the large, world-wide British operator, Kuoni – and this is often their first taste of southern Africa. Crocodile Camp Safaris
PO Box 46, Maun; tel: 6860796 or 6860265; fax: 6860793; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.botswana.com
From its base in the Bull & Bush building, near the airport, CCS run Semetsi Camp and Gunn's camps in NG27B, on the southwest side of Chief's Island. They also manage Swamp Air. Until about 2001, they ran Gomoti, in NG32, but this has since been closed. They have some of the best, or at least the most visible, marketing of any of the smaller Maun-based safari operators – with a large variety of possibilities on offer.
CCS have their own infrastructure and guides for mobile camping trips around Botswana, and these they build into a variety of small low/mid-budget packages. They also market mid-budget fly-in trips, often combining their own camps with other mid-range options like Okuti at Xakanaxa, or Chobe Safari Lodge.
If you're in Maun and looking for something relatively inexpensive and last-minute, then CCS should certainly be high on your list.CC Africa
Sir Seretse Khama Rd, DDS Complex; tel: 661979; fax: 661972; email: email@example.com; web: www.ccafrica.com
Originally called 'The Conservation Corporation', CC Africa made its name with a vision for conservation through super-luxurious lodges like Londolozi and Ngala, based on private land adjoining the Kruger National Park, in South Africa's Eastern Transvaal (the area now called Mpumalanga). Their prices were high, but they promised top-class levels of food, service and guiding at a time when most of their competition had only just discovered en-suite toilets. Now they have lodges throughout east and southern Africa, including Nxabega and Sandibe in the Okavango – two very high-quality lodges in private photographic reserves.
In 1999, the Conservation Corporation merged with AfroVentures, a large established company which focused on mobile guided trips around the subcontinent. Under the AfroVentures name, they still run high-quality mobile trips in northern Botswana, including some innovative, original itineraries.
CC Africa's Maun office doesn't usually take bookings.Desert & Delta Safaris
Lot 851, Opposite Nhabe Museum, Desert & Delta Complex,
P Bag 310, Maun; tel: 6861234/6862246; fax: 6861791; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.desertdelta.com
Operating only in Botswana (plus Lianshulu, just over the Kwando in Namibia), Desert & Delta was originally started by Jessie Neil, in 1982. Now it runs Chobe Game Lodge, Chobe Savanna Lodge, Lianshulu Bush Lodge (actually just over the Kwando River in Namibia!), Savute Safari Lodge, Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango and Xugana Island Lodge.
A typical six-night package, including two nights in each of six lodges starting and ending in Maun costs around US$2,760/3,540 per person sharing/single from July to October; US$2,400 per person sharing or single for the rest of the year.Drumbeat Safaris
PO Box 20228, Maun; tel/fax: 6863096; email: email@example.com
Run by Johan Knols and Annelies Zonjee, who are of Dutch origin and ran camps for Ker & Downey for many years, Drumbeat started in 1995. It offers high-quality mobile safaris for individuals and small groups throughout northern Botswana. Trips are usually guided personally by Johan (who speaks English, Dutch and German), whilst Annelies manages the camps with a small team of staff. The vehicles used are open 'safari outfitted' Toyota Landcruisers, with extensive radio communications. These take a maximum of seven visitors plus the guide, so the camp's equipment and staff accompany the tour in a separate DAF 4WD truck.
Safari accommodation is in large Meru-style walk-in tents with two proper beds, a private bush shower and private long-drop toilets. There's also a separate dinner tent used in these camps, where impressive three-course meals are prepared and served. Camps are usually set up on private 'Mobile Operator' campsites within the parks and the trips include park fees, activities, all meals, all drinks and laundry – and welcome children as part of a safari party.
As all trips are private safaris, costs depend on how many people are travelling together. A typical six-night/seven-day safari into Moremi and Chobe would cost around US$2,595/1,665/1,345 per person for each of 2/4/6 people from January to mid-June, or mid-October to December. During the busier season, from mid-June to mid-October the same trip would cost US$3,115/1,995/1,615 per person for each of 2/4/6 people.Eco Africa Botswana
(PTY) Ltd P Bag 371, Maun; tel: 6862427; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Run by Roger and Sophie Dugmore, Eco Africa Botswana specialises in small mobile safaris and specialised photographic expeditions around all of Botswana's national parks and wilder areas. Typical ball-park costs for fully-inclusive trips would be around US$620 per night for an individual travelling alone, US$550 per person per night for two people, US$495 for three, or US$450 for four or more people.Elephant Back Safaris
P Bag 332, Maun; tel: 6861260; fax: 6861005; email: email@example.com; web: www.elephantbacksafaris.com
The booking and logistical office in Maun runs the ultra-upmarket Abu camp, on the west of the Delta in NG26.
Game Trails Safaris
P Bag BO13, Maun; tel: 6862405; fax: 6862405; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Game Trails operates exclusive, tailor-made mobile safaris throughout Botswana's main parks and wilderness areas. Some are more basic, others less so. Typical costs for their three levels of trips are around US$120 per person per night for their adventure safaris, US$200 for their serviced safaris and US$260 for their semi-luxury safari.
Gunn's Camp Safaris see Crocodile Camp Safaris, above.Island Safari Lodge
PO Box 116, Maun; tel: 6860330; fax: 6862932;
Based out of the lodge north of Maun, are a variety of budget mokoro trips and participation safaris – all of which can often be booked at short notice when you're in Maun.
Island Safari have been very supportive of the Okavango Polers' Trust, and their trips based out of Mbiroba Camp and so usually have packages which include flights there and back, and time in the Delta. You'll need to take all your food and equipment, yet stay within a modest 10kg luggage allowance.
They also run their own trips on the Boro River in conjunction with the local polers in NG32. These trips start from Island Safari Lodge at around 08.00 and normally return around 17.00. You're driven by 4WD for about two hours to the poling station at Morutsa, on the lower reaches of the Boro River, where you meet your poler and head off up the river. After your trip you'll return downstream, and be driven back to Maun the same way. (See my comments on budget trips in the section on NG32.)
For these you need to bring all your own food and camping kit. Costs are around US$70 per person for a one-day trip – though this is hardly worth the effort for the minimal time that you get on the water. Better take a one-night/two-day trip for US$150 per person sharing, or a two-night/three-day trip for US$210. A trip very like this, from Island Safari Lodge, was my first view of the Okavango, about 15 years ago – and whilst it has its limitation, I'd still regard four or five days in the Delta like this as remarkably good value.
Island Safari's participation safaris are squarely aimed at backpackers who haven't got the transport or the kit, but want to see something of the parks on an inexpensive trip. They'll supply an open-topped 4WD (usually with optional canvas sun shade) which takes up to six passengers and a professional guide. Also dome tents, mattresses, cooking equipment, crockery, gas lamps, cooler boxes and ice, and basically all the rest of the usual paraphernalia that goes with a trip to the bush. Food is included, but soft drinks and alcohol are not.
The costs for these trips varies with the destination and group size. To hire just the 4WD and driver/guide is around US$300 per day (from experience, they won't let you drive their vehicles yourself!). Budget safaris around the parks of northern Botswana, including camping equipment, food and park fees cost around US$210/130/100 per person for two/four/six people. If you're booking any of their trips during the green season, from December to March, then sometimes there's a discount available of up to 20%. Ker & Downey
Airport Box 27, Maun; tel: 6860375 / 6861226; fax: 6861282; email: email@example.com; web: www.kerdowney.com
Now based out of offices near the airport, behind the Duck Inn, Ker and Downey are two of the oldest names in the Delta. As far back as 1945, Donald Ker and Syd Downey founded a hunting safari company in Kenya, only to be joined in the mid-1950s by Harry Selby – who started their Botswana operations in 1962. Around 1979 they bought Khwai River Lodge, as a photographic camp, and in 1985 the photographic company 'Ker, Downey Selby' was split off from the hunting company, Safari South.
Today it's known simply as Ker & Downey, and they run Camp Okuti, Kanana, Machaba, Shinde and its neighbouring walking trails, known as 'Footsteps across Africa'. These are all quite different camps and experiences, and the costs vary too. Reservations for Ker & Downey camps can be made through their Maun office, above, or their Houston office in the US.
Expect a 6-night/7-day trip, visiting two of their camps to cost around US$2,950/4,150 per person sharing/single from July to October, or about US$2,500/2,800 for the same trip in the rest of the year. Including all internal transfers, activities, meals, laundry and local drinks.Kgori Safaris
P Bag 146, Maun; tel: 6862049 or 6861073; fax: 6862048; mobile: 72152596; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.mankwe.com
A relatively new company on Botswana's scene, they own and run Mankwe Bush Lodge, in NG45, just south of Chobe and east of Moremi, and also manage the boat station on the northwest tip of Mboma Island in Moremi. Their reservations are administered from South Africa at tel: (27) 12 3617464; fax: (27) 12 3617464; email: email@example.com.Kwando Safaris
PO Box 550, Maun; tel: 6861449; fax: 6861457;
email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.kwando.co.za
Based here in Maun, Kwando is a small, independent operator running three first-class camps in Botswana, as well as Songwe Village, a small camp in Zambia near Livingstone which overlooks the Zambezi's gorge, just below Victoria Falls.
Lagoon and Lebala are primarily dry-land camps beside the Kwando River in NG14, and Kwara has a full range of dry and wet activities, on the north side of the Delta. All are different, but all three operate game drives with both a tracker and a driver – a real advantage when it comes to tracking the predators. Their focus is on enthusiastic wildlife spotting rather than excessive frills in camp, although their camps are of a very good standard.
Expect a 6-night/7-day trip, visiting two of their camps to cost around US$3,450/4,890 per person sharing/single from July to October, or about US$2,490/3,510 for the same trip in the rest of the year. Including all internal transfers, activities, meals, laundry and local drinks.Linyanti Explorations
Based in Kasane, from where they run Selinda and Zibalianja camps adjacent to the Zibadianja Lagoon on the Kwando/Linyanti system.
Lodges of Botswana The Power Station Building, PO Box 39, Maun; tel: 6861154; fax: 6860589; email: email@example.com; web: www.okavango.bw
This Maun-based company is run by irrepressible Peter Sandenbergh, who was one of the first to see the area's potential for backpacking tourism as well as the more usual up-market variety. Today they own and run Delta Camp and Oddballs, in NG27B. They are based in the Power Station Building and have particularly close links with the General Trading Company, the Power Station, the airline Delta Air and the Maun-based travel agent, Okavango Tours and Safaris.Masson Safaris
P Bag 257, Maun; tel/fax: 6862442; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.masson-safaris.com
Physically located at Plot 855, Tsanokana Ward, Masson Safaris runs mobile photographic safaris which concentrate on game and bird life, with a general appreciation of Botswana's more remote areas. (Especially keen on the more offbeat bits of the Kalahari – the Great Salt Pans, Tsodilo, and the Central Kalahari.) They're a small, family operation. Ewan Masson, who has been guiding in Botswana for 15 years, leads most trips. The mobile camps have walk-in dome tents, complete with linen, washstand, reading light and a private chemical flush loo. Game drives are taken in extended Land Rovers, taking a maximum of eight guests.
The costs for private tailor-made safaris vary depending on the itinerary and the number of travellers. Expect a trip across Moremi and Chobe, with seven-days and six nights spent in the parks to cost around US$250/200/150 per day per person sharing between July and October for a group of 2/4/6 people. For the rest of the year this would be nearer US$200/150/125 per day per person sharing
They also run several scheduled safaris every year, with some details of these posted on their website (but few prices). Prices vary, but a typical 14-day trip costs around US$150 per person sharing per day. Maun Rest Camp Safaris
PO Box 250, Maun; tel: 6862623; tel/fax: 6863472 (with answerphone); email: email@example.com
Based from Maun Rest Camp owners Simon & Joyce run fairly small, low-budget mobile safaris. Their mobiles use adapted Toyota Landcruisers and are led by either Simon or Joyce – both of whom are qualified guides. A staff member comes along with each trip to help with the camp chores. For accommodation they use bedrolls inside dome tents (in which you can stand), and make an effort with the catering to provide good, wholesome meals. Don't expect glossy brochures or silver service here, but do expect a swift and efficient response to any queries and a budget safari at a very fair price.
They cover the Moremi and Chobe areas as well as the Central Kalahari, Nxai Pan, Baines' Baobabs, Makgadikgadi, Tsodilo Hills and even Drotsky's Caves. Costs depend on the number of participants – but a larger group means lower prices. Expect a typical
2-night/3-day trip to Moremi to work out at about US$525/350/300 per person when there are 2/4/6 people travelling together, or US$1,000/625/500 per person for a swift 4-night/5-day trip across Chobe and Moremi (in either direction). Their costs include all guiding, fuel, park fees, camping kit, food, wine, beer and cold drinks. You'd be wise to make arrangements in advance if you can, simply so they can secure bookings for your trip with the National Park's campsites.Moremi Safaris
P Bag 26, Maun; tel: 6860222
Runs: Xakanaxa Camp.
New Moon Safaris P Bag 210, Maun; tel/fax: 6861665; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Okavango Polers' Trust PO Box 24, Seronga; tel: 6876861.
Based on the northern edge of the Delta, at Seronga (a village of about 3,000 people), this is a village co-operative of mokoro polers who have joined together to offer budget trips in the north of the Delta. You can get to Serong yourself, or book flights and a package there with the local operators in Maun. Okavango Wilderness Safaris
Mathiba I Road, P.Bag 14, Maun; tel: 6860086; fax: 6860632. Note that to make reservations or enquiries you should call their Johannesburg office.
Started by safari guides Colin Bell, Chris MacIntyre (not the author!) and Russel Friedman in Botswana in 1983, this has since grown into one of the subcontinent's leading safari organisers – with operations in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia (The River Club in Livingstone) and, most recently, on the North Island in the Seychelles. They have close business links with Sefofane, the flight company.
In Botswana, their operations office is virtually opposite the airport, slightly set back on Mathiba I Road. From there they run Botswana's largest selection of safari camps. These are mostly in private reserves and include: DumaTau, King's Pool, Linyanti Tented Camp and Savuti Camp in NG15; Kaparota, Vumbura and Little Vumbura in NG22; Duba Plains in NG23; Kwetsani, Jacana, Jao and Tubu in NG25; Pom Pom in NG27A; Chitabe and Chitabe Trails in NG31; and Mombo, Little Mombo, Xigera and Zepa in the Moremi Game Reserve. The style and standard of these do vary, and recently have been marketed as either 'platinum', 'classic' or 'vintage' camps – with prices which vary slightly accordingly. However, despite this, Wilderness effectively set the 'base-line' standard for the high-quality camps in Botswana, by which other operators tend to be measured.
Expect a 6-night/7-day trip, visiting three of their rustic 'vintage' camps to cost around US$2,335/3,485 per person sharing/single from January to June or in November and December. From July to October the same trip would cost about US$3,300/4,4450 per person sharing/single. A similar trip using the 'classic' camps would be US$3,880/5,352 from July to October, whilst 6 nights at the two 'platinum' camps (Mombo and Jao) would cost around US$5,758/7,606 from July to October.
The Maun office doesn't usually take bookings. Note that Wilderness actively advises travellers to book through their local tour operator rather than making direct bookings.Orient-Express Safaris
(formerly Gametrackers) PO Box 100, Maun; tel: 6860302; fax: 6860153; email: email@example.com; web: www.gametrackers.orient-express.com
Originally an old safari company run by a couple in Maun, Gametrackers was bought in the early 1990s by the Orient Express Group. They not only own the famous Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, but also a string of top hotels around the world including the Mount Nelson in Cape Town, Hotel Splendido in Portofino (Italy), and Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in the UK.
In Botswana, their office is situated very close to the airport, on Airport Road, between the Department or Surveys and Mapping and Merlin Air Service. Gametrackers now have Savute Elephant Camp (which used to be two camps, Savuti South and Allen's Camp), Khwai River Lodge and Eagle Island Camp. Their roots in the hotel trade show through in a very similar style for all of their camps, and virtually identical room designs: basically very high specification hotel rooms built on wooden platforms with canvas walls.
Expect a 6-night/7-day trip, visiting all of their camps for three nights each, to cost around US$2,740/3,460 per person sharing/single from January to June or in November and December. From July to October the same trip would cost about US$3,370/4,090 per person sharing/single. Penduka Safaris
PO Box 66, Maun; tel: 6864539; fax: 6864540; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Based at Sitatunga Camp Penduka Safaris was started as long ago as 1963 by Izak Barnard, and has been run by his son, Willem, for the past ten years. Penduka operates fully inclusive safaris throughout Botswana; all camp duties are taken care of by permanent staff. Excellent meals with fresh fruit and vegetables are served daily, and they provide large spacious tents with camp beds and mattresses. Vehicles are specially-adapted 4WDs with pop-top roofhatches.
Penstone Safaris PO Box 370, Maun; tel: 6861721; fax: 6861722;
Penstone have an office opposite Audi's (on left of power station). They used to do mobiles, though rarely do now – but will lead the occasional drive-between-camp trip for travellers who know them well and have been on safari with them in previous years. Phakawe Safaris
Shorobe Rd, P.Bag 385, Maun; tel/fax: 6864377; email: email@example.com; web: www.phakawe.demon.co.uk
Run by Sarah and Steve, Phakawe Safaris is based about 3km north of the centre of Maun, in the Sedia area. It's clearly visible on the left as you drive towards Moremi or Chobe. It is a very successful operation offering some of the cheapest budget safaris around; some with scheduled departure dates, others tailor-made to suit groups of four people or more. Costs for either are usually US$120 per day. This includes transfers and transport (usually a maximum of six people per trip), parks fees, ingredients for all meals and use of simple tents, mattresses and camping kit. It doesn't include sleeping bags, drinks or any 'optional activities'.
Their website covers a lot of information, and their trips are long – typically eleven days. However, if you want to really understand where they go, you'll have to quiz them carefully. Find out exactly what is, and what is not, included – and where their trips stay each night.
Looking carefully at their eleven-day 'Northern Parks' trip, you'll find the first night is spent camping in Maun. Then three days/two nights on a budget mokoro trip in NG32 – the type of trip that's offered by many budget operators at an average daily rate that's lower than US$120. Then you return to Maun, for another night camping before heading into Moremi (again, camping at South Gate would have been better – but is more costly.) The next night heads you north again for five nights through Moremi and Chobe. Then there's a night at Ngoma and one camping at Kasane – both of which would be more interesting spent at Ihaha campsite, in the park … although the park fees would make that option more expensive.
So whilst US$1,320 is quite good value for the whole trip, when you look carefully at the finer details, with even a modicum of local knowledge, they are not amazing value. It's not only the luxuries that have been cut to make these trips cheap, it's also the time spent in prime game areas.Planet Okavango
Mophane Rd, PO Box 236, Maun; tel: 6864575; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Run by the helpful and efficient Sarah Collins, Planet Okavango don't run any lodges – but they do oversee and co-ordinate all of the budget poling trips in NG32.
They also run their own mokoro trips into NG32, though these are a slight cut above the rest. Their day-trip to mokoro here includes a picnic lunch, and costs US$45 per person sharing. For overnight trips they pre-arrange small bushcamps, complete with a cook and a camp attendant, dome tents, bed-rolls, linen and blankets. These are set for you in advance, before you arrive, near the river along which you're being poled. Their 2-day/1-night trip costs US$190 per person sharing, while a 3-day/2-night trip is US$285 per person sharing. These costs are good value for what they offer, as they include transfers, food, soft drinks, equipment (and staff help!) and mokoro trips, but exclude any alcohol.
With very close connections to the communities in NG32, Planet Okavango has also been running some simple camping mobiles in that area in the past – though it's uncertain if they will continue to do this. Contact them if you're interested.
Quadrum Expeditions – now seems to have been 'phased out' in favour of Afro Trek, see above.Sanctuary Lodges
P Bag 45, Maun; tel: 6862688; fax: 6863526
Abercombie & Kent's lodges in Botswana and East Africa – including Chobe Chilwero and Chief's Camp – are now being marketed by this apparently new company. However, the style of the lodges remains firmly that of A&K, and as Geoffrey Kent (A&K's founder and owner) also owns Sanctuary Lodges, this has left some people alleging that this is simply an exercise in 'rebranding'. Observers note that in the past there has been a reluctance amongst other tour operators to book visitors into A&K's lodges; they were perceived as belonging to a competitor. It remains to be seen if this change of name will make a difference.
Whatever the company background, expect a 6-night/7-day trip, visiting their lodges to cost around US$2,850 per person sharing or single from January to June or in November and December. From July to October the same trip would cost about US$3,750/4,650 per person sharing/single. Wilderness Dawning
P Bag B017, Maun; tel/fax: 6862962; email: email@example.com
Wilderness Dawning is a reliable small mobile operator that boasts that its guides all have a minimum of ten years' guiding experience in Botswana. They offer a mix of scheduled and tailor-made safaris, some aimed at mid-level budgets, and others more luxuriously accommodated trips, taking in all the usual wildlife areas of northern Botswana.
Costs start at about U$170–200 per person per day for comfortable camping trips, where back-up crews do all the work (and all the food, activities and equipment are included.) The tents on these trips are walk-in dome tents about 2.4m x 2.4m, and 1.8m high, with proper beds and all linen including sheets, blankets, pillows and sleeping bags. Toilets and hot bucket showers are shared; one between three tents.
They also have an innovative range of luxury mobile safaris where you sleep at lodges, but you drive between them, and go on game drives, with the same experienced guide for the whole trip. This offers the best of both worlds in some ways – comfort of accommodation and continuity of guiding – but costs from about U$390 per person per day.
Wilderness Dawning use custom-made Toyota LandCruisers, which take a maximum of eight guests in individual bucket seats. The vehicles have roll-down canvas sides and tops. Wilderness Safaris
See Okavango Wilderness Safaris
Wild Lifestyles PO Box 66, Maun; tel: 6863664; fax: 6861045; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.wildlifestyles.com
Mike Penman isn't a guy that shrinks into the background easily, but when on good form he can be exactly the kind of large, slightly wild, old-style guide that you'd want to have between you and a charging buffalo. He's been guiding in Botswana for many years, and knows northern Botswana well. His trips range from the normal Maun-Chobe routes, through to more esoteric options of the Bushmen at Xai Xai and some of the private concessions. These are usually a mixture of luxury mobile trips, and also specialist trips for film-makers and photographers. Recently Mike has collaborated on several trips with another guide who is well-known locally, Mark Tennant (from Kwando Safaris).
Mike's wife, Anglie, runs most of the logistics and keeps the camp standards very high. Accommodation is usually in dome tents with beds, mattresses, high-quality linens, and down duvets and pillows. These have private bucket showers and long-drop toilets. The vehicles used are Toyota HiLuxes with raised seats on the back, beneath a canvas sunshade, usually accompanied by a back-up vehicle carrying the camp. Meals are a highlight, with excellent food and wine; expect crystal glasses and china on white tablecloths served by lantern-light.