Horse riding safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Botswana

While on a road trip through Southern Africa, which took us from Swakopmund in Namibia, through Etosha National Park and across Botswana to Maun, we had the plan to fulfil our lifelong dream: going on a horse riding safari with the Big 5 in the Okavango Delta.

Our upcoming trips in Botswana are from 13 to 19 January (6 nights) and 4 to 8 March (4 nights) 2025. Make sure to contact Ride Botswana and let them know you want to book one of the Hooves trips! 

This blog is written by Luzia Montag. Feel free to reach out to Luzi with questions about her time in Botswana, or bookings for our Lesotho trip. You can contact her on Instagram, or on luzi@hoovesaroundtheworld.com.

Campfire at sunset in the Okavango delta surrounded by green plains

The Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of Africa, impresses with its unique natural beauty and biodiversity. Criss-crossed by a labyrinthine network of waterways and seasonal floodplains, the Delta is home to impressive wildlife, including the Big 5, a variety of antelope, hyena, cheetah, huge herds of zebra and giraffe and a breathtaking array of bird species. For this once in a lifetime experience, we chose the Cha Cha Mtesi Lodge, which offers multi-day horseback safaris in the Delta together with safari icon David Foot and Ride Botswana.

Black horse with rider crossing a river in green plains of Okavango Delta

Also read: Horse riding in Botswana

Arrival in the Okavango Delta

We were picked up at our campsite in Maun in the morning by a driver in a strikingly beautiful and modern safari vehicle. The drive to the camp is an experience in itself, as half of it is already a game drive through the delta. With a bit of luck, you can see a lot of animals and we were definitely lucky. After just a few minutes in the delta, we passed three huge, majestic bull elephants. For me, encounters like this will always be absolutely breathtaking. No matter how many elephants you have seen in your life, they are always fascinating and I could watch them for hours.

After a total of 2 hours of driving, we arrived at the camp, which is perfectly nestled in a small forest in front of one of the arms of the river. It blends in so perfectly with nature that we didn't see the camp from the outside. It was only when we drove into the small jungle that we realised that there was a small, extremely idyllic camp there.

We got out of the game drive, followed a small path while our driver told us that he had only seen a leopard here that morning and came across the reception. Probably the most beautiful reception I have ever seen.

Reception at lodge in Okavango delta, Botswana

The Cha Cha Metsi camp

The path led through to the main tent, which you enter from the back and directly into a very stylish yet authentic and slightly rustic living/dining area, which opens onto the terrace with stunning views. The view falls directly onto one of the pools, which is filled with water all year round and is therefore a permanent home to hippos. You can watch and, above all, hear them all day long.

In addition to hippos, sooner or later all the animals that live in the Okavango Delta pass by here, such as elephants, buffalo, all kinds of antelopes and at night lions, leopards and hyenas probably also hang around here.

Giraffe at sunset on the plains of Africa

In any case, we were absolutely blown away by the welcome, the view and, above all, the beauty of the camp. The entire camp consisted of very comfortable and spacious living tents built on wooden foundations. The heart of the camp was the main tent and from there narrow paths led through the forest to the living tents, which were no less spacious and cozy. I shared the family tent and we were absolutely overwhelmed. It consisted of a small terrace, also with a view of the water, a huge living room and bedroom and an adjoining bathroom with a free-standing bathtub, flush toilet, open shower and of course a washbasin with mirror. The design was really cleverly chosen, as it was very luxurious on the one hand and yet blends in perfectly with nature without being obtrusive.

The horse riding safari in Botswana!

That same evening, we took our horses and set off on a relaxing sunset ride. The afternoon rides were usually very relaxed and slower for the simple reason that, logically, fewer accidents happen at a walking pace and, as we were in the middle of the wilderness, we naturally wanted to avoid having to transport a guest to the nearest town in the event of a fall in the dark.

Our following days were therefore always divided into a long, faster morning ride and a shorter, very relaxed sunset ride. In my opinion, both rides complemented each other perfectly, as you could cover more distance in the morning, we could see more of the beautiful landscape and wildlife. In the afternoon, when you were already a bit tired anyway, you could soak up the wonderful atmosphere of the sunset perfectly in a relaxed walk ride and enjoy nature to the full.

Horses with riders in the Botswana flood plains at sunset

The first sunset ride was absolutely amazing and we were really extremely lucky. We had barely set off when the sky slowly but surely turned from golden yellow to orange pink.

After just five minutes, we came across the first giraffes, which walked calmly alongside our horses and didn't feel disturbed by us at all. Whenever we observed animals, we let our horses graze to signal to the other herbivores that there was no danger from us and that they too could relax. This usually worked very well. The giraffes were definitely more curious than anything else and after a while we wondered who was actually watching whom.

Antelopes by a river at sunset

A magical sunset ride

The whole scene was just absolutely magical. In front of us were three giraffes, in the distance was a large herd of zebras, which were arguing loudly and after a while galloped directly into the sunset, which had turned red-pink in the meantime. Somewhere behind us, we heard a fish eel calling and to our right, letschwe antelopes waded through one of the river branches.

To be honest, we didn't get very far, but we didn't need to. The moment was just so wonderful that we didn't need any more. We must have spent half an hour here, following the giraffes for a while, letting our horses graze again and watching the sunset. Finally, the giraffes moved off into the red horizon and when the sun had disappeared, we also made our way back to camp. Because as soon as the sun sets behind the horizon, it gets dark very quickly in Africa. And especially in a Big 5 region like here, you definitely want to be back at camp by then at the latest.

An evening of stories around the campfire

We spent the rest of the evening around the campfire with gin and tonics, listening to David's stories about life in the bush and everyday life as a horse safari guide, interrupted only by a truly outstanding dinner in the main tent. But even after that, the adventure wasn't over. As our camp was located right next to a pool full of hippos, which leave the water at night to graze, we were lucky enough to be woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of them smacking their lips. And that's exactly what happened that night and every other night.

I had a deal with my friend that as soon as one of us heard something outside, we would wake each other up to see what was going on outside our tent. In the nights that followed, we were visited by several hippos grazing right outside our tent. One night I was woken up by a buffalo chewing next to my ear, which came back three more times the same night. We also had elephants, giraffes and zebras in our camp. So we definitely didn't get bored. Only our sleep suffered a little, but we loved it. It was one of the greatest adventures ever.

Safari tent in the bush

Viewing large herds from horseback

We started the next morning and the mornings after that with a coffee and a small snack at sunrise and then it was off on the horses. You see the most animals in the morning and evening, so we also escaped the intense midday heat. We then had a proper breakfast after the ride. This ride didn't disappoint us either. We rode past hundreds of antelopes, galloped across wide open spaces with zebras and wildebeests and repeatedly came across huge herds of giraffes, which usually always had babies with them. And then we suddenly came across a huge herd of buffalo. There were several hundred animals, which were initially very skeptical when they saw us. I was very glad at that moment that we had David with us as a very experienced guide and also a backup guide. Buffalo can sometimes be in a very bad mood.

We let our horses graze as usual and kept a relatively large distance for the time being. After a while the buffalo relaxed a little, some of them started to graze and so we ventured a few meters ahead and stopped again to let our horses eat. We did this again and again as the buffalo continued to relax and after a while we were able to get really close to the herd without them feeling the slightest bit disturbed. In the end, they were so relaxed that most of the herd even lay down to chew their cud and we had one of the best animal sightings ever. Once again, this was proof that you simply experience nature and wildlife differently on horseback. We actually became part of nature, the animals felt comfortable in the presence of the horses and we had a much more intense experience as there was no metal separating us from the animals and we were not cut off from the environment by the hum of the engines.

Antelopes drinking from a river in the green fields at sunset

More highlights of the horseback safari

Every single ride was absolutely special and each time we had a truly unique experience. We had impala bulls putting on a huge show for us as they fought loudly with each other. However, there weren't just two, but at least seven or eight at a time, while giraffes stood on the edge of the action and watched them just like us. We crossed deep stretches of the river so that the riders on smaller horses even had to swim just to follow a small herd of elephants, which eventually left us behind. We spotted an osprey that had killed a much too large prey in the water and we assumed that it would never manage to pull it ashore, but with enough patience it did.

We found a huge tusk of an elephant that had died a long time ago and the fact that it was still in place and hadn't been taken away by any people for the ivory showed us once again how incredibly wild and lonely the place was. We lifted the tusk and were shocked at its weight. It weighed at least 30 kg, which we were told was still very little. There are supposed to be tusks that weigh over 100 kg per tooth, simply unimaginable. Of course, we then put the tooth back exactly where we found it.

Horse rider carrying elephant tusk

And then a real highlight was waiting for us.

It was the third day and as we hadn't had much luck with elephants in the last few days, we wanted to look for them today. Of course, this is easier said than done, as we were in real wilderness. Here, the elephants didn't wear tracking devices and there were no fences to prevent them from simply wandering off, so it was actually pure luck to find any, as nobody could predict where they were.

We rode very far that day, always in the direction of the mopane forests, as elephants absolutely loved these trees. We didn't see a single animal for quite a while, which was really unusual for this region. Normally, not a minute went by without us seeing at least a few antelope. We were almost a little disappointed until we rode into a particularly dense thicket and David suddenly made the sign for elephant (we mainly communicated via signs rather than talking so as not to spook the animals).

Horse riders sitting on a riverbank in green floodplains

We rode out the other side of the thicket and suddenly we found ourselves in a real David Attenborough scene. A huge area opened up in front of us, in the middle a lake populated by thousands and thousands of birds, with around fifty hippos cavorting in the water. And on the opposite side, a true paradise opened up. We counted 51 elephants with babies, in between over 105 buffaloes, countless zebras, antelopes and warthogs. It was a more beautiful picture than could ever be described and we felt like we were standing in the middle of a nature documentary.

We tied the horses to the trees, looked for a termite mound, leaned against it while we ate the snack we had brought with us and enjoyed the scenery for ages. We probably lay there for an hour and just watched. We just couldn't get enough of this scene and when we finally had to leave and ride back towards camp, we all found it hard to leave this magical place. Cha Cha Metsi is really special to me. I've never been to such an idyllic, peaceful and wild place before and I can't describe how much I'm looking forward to going back.

Silhouette of giraffe at sunset
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