Before heading off to Mozambique in 2019, I worked and rode horses in the north of Botswana. The popular town of Maun was just ten kilometers away and the immense Okavango Delta was right at our doorstep. Horse riding through the nature around Maun, with wildlife sparsely populating the harsh land, and training lovely horses while cantering along the endless Thamalakane river was absolutely amazing. Botswana will forever be in my heart and in this post I will tell you all about my time there, and I hope this inspires you to experience this magnificent country for yourself.
This article contains links, some of which are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I earn a commission which allows me to fund this blog. I only post links of products and services I have used and enjoyed and that have truly benefited me on my travels!
The Thamalakane river is at the southern end of the famous Okavango Delta in Botswana, and offers incredible opportunities for horse riding. The Thamalakane river feeds the Makgadikgadi Pans in the rainy season, making the beautiful, but dry, area come to life during that time. The Okavango Delta feeds the Thamalakane river and it’s an amazing moment every year at the start of the wet season when the first floods reach the river again. Maun is right on the river and is also called the touristic capital of Botswana, as almost all safaris leave from here. We stayed just ten kilometers outside the lovely town of Maun, but even being that close to the town, it still feels like you're on another planet.
We didn’t have cars or other modes of transportation as they were not necessarily deemed important. To be fair, we had a few horses to take care of and ride, so I guess we did have transport! We slept in safari tents, without any cell signal, and didn't have electricity except one solar power outlet that barely ever worked as the horses and other animals were constantly digging out the cable and dragging it around. We stayed in a fenced off area together with the small herd of horses that lived outside day and night. The bushes were the bathroom, the big water trough was our shower, and yes, we were filthy. When the sun came up, we brought the horses into their open stables, fed them, and released most of the horses again. Some we would take for fitness and training rides. We were disgusting, and I feel so very sorry for the person that sat next to me on the plane back to South Africa after weeks of living like this, but it was the most incredible time of my life. I came back again shortly after leaving because I simply couldn’t stay away.
At night, elephants occasionally roamed through our camp, and we listened silently to them breaking branches around us as we cooked dinner on the fire.
Botswana is a country that really touched me, and I just can’t very well explain why and how deeply. It feels ancient and I constantly felt privileged to ride amazing horses through this incredible area. You really need to experience it for yourself to truly understand what I’m saying. We would ride our horses out to a bar in the middle of nowhere, on the other side of the Thamalakane river one or two days a week. It was two hours there and back by horse. Here, they had electricity! We would come over to charge our phones and have lunch at the bar. The place wasn’t much, but to us it was a haven of luxury in the middle of nothingness.
As we simply didn’t have electricity at our camp, we obviously also didn’t have a refrigerator, so we couldn’t keep our fresh food for very long, or had to eat plain noodles once more. We rode our horses into town a few days a week to do our shopping (literally taking our horses to the old town road... ha ha.). The road into town was a dirt road, which meant we were able to trot and canter quite a lot. It was fantastic to get those horse fitness rides in, but it was long. It took us at least an hour and a half to get there, where I would wait outside with our horses as every single person living in Maun stared at me in disbelief, and over two hours back. The way back is much slower as the horses need to relax for a bit if their fitness isn’t top notch yet, and we were always fully packed with our groceries. We usually lightened up the load by snacking and having a few lovely cold beers as we walked back to our camp though.
The most incredible place to go horse riding in Botswana and around Maun is with Ride Botswana, owned by David and Robyn Foot. We often rode past their beautiful house on the Thamalakane river and occasionally had a quick chat with the lovely Robyn before continuing our trails. Their horse riding holidays are out of this world, and this family-run horse riding company is well known to be the best in Botswana, and the only company to offer safaris on horseback in three stunning locations across the country. David Foot has guided throughout Africa and for anyone that has done any guiding training in Africa, David Foot is a household name.
Ride Botswana offers horse riding safaris in these locations: the Thamalakane river, the Kalahari, and the Okavango Delta. Guests are welcome, and encouraged to combine these rides. You can find all the info on David and Robyn’s horse riding holidays here.
Last but not least, I leave you with this video of the horse ride along the Thamalakane river, created by Ride Botswana. This is something every horse rider and nature and wildlife enthusiast has to experience at least once in their life (but preferably a bunch of times…).
It is an honour and a privilege to be able to ride horses in an area where the nature is wild and wildlife still roams freely, unfenced and unfazed by human interference. Don’t mind me as I tear up once again while watching the videos in this blog for the millionth time.
Subscribe to our newsletter