Flying over the delta in a light plane or helicopter is the experience of a lifetime. Yes, prices can be steep, but the views are unforgettable.
To join a scenic flight you can either contact a charter company or simply ask at the front desk at your accommodation. But plan ahead, as it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to contact a charter company and join a scenic flight on the same day.
Prices can depend on the length of your flight (usually 45 minutes or one hour) and the number of people on board (planes are generally of the three-, five- or seven-seat variety). Sample prices start from P2900/3600 per plane for a 45-/60-minute flight. One alternative to the fixed-wing flights, and one that many travellers prefer since they take the doors off, is a scenic helicopter flight with Helicopter Horizons.
The offices for all air-charter companies in Maun are either in or next to the airport. Bring your passport when making a booking.
Booking a Safari in Maun
Most visitors to Maun have their safaris organised long before they arrive in town, but in case you haven't, Maun is brimful of travel agencies and safari companies. It can be a little daunting at first, but if you take your time and keep a few simple rules in mind, you shouldn’t have too many problems.
First of all, it helps to know that most delta lodges are affiliated with specific agencies, so it pays to shop around and talk to a few different tour operators. Second, if you’re planning an extended trip into the delta, or intend to stay at a luxury lodge, contact one or more recommended agencies or operators before you arrive if possible. While the cheaper lodges can usually accommodate guests at the drop of a hat, don’t come to Maun and expect to jump on a plane to a safari lodge, or embark on an overland safari the next day.
Booking a Mokoro Trip
A day trip from Maun into the Eastern Delta usually includes a two- to three-hour return drive in a 4WD to the departure point, two to three hours (perhaps longer each day on a two- or three-day trip) in a mokoro (dugout canoe), and two to three hours’ hiking. At the start of a mokoro trip, ask the poler what he has in mind, and agree to the length of time spent per day in the mokoro, out hiking and relaxing at the campsite – bear in mind that travelling by mokoro is tiring for the poler.
One of the most refreshing things about booking mokoro trips is the absence of touts wandering the streets of Maun. That’s because all polers operating mokoro trips out of Maun are represented by the Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust. This trust sets daily rates for the polers (P180 per poler per day, plus a P68 daily membership fee for the trust) by which all safari operators have to abide. Other costs include a guide (P200 per day) and a camping fee (P50 per person per night) if your expedition involves an overnight component.
In terms of pricing, catering is an important distinction. ‘Self-catering’ means you must bring your own food as well as cooking, sleeping and camping equipment. This option is a good way to shave a bit off the price, though most travellers prefer catered trips. It’s also easier to get a lower price if you’re booking as part of a group or are planning a multiday tour.
A few other things to remember:
- Ask the booking agency if you’re expected to provide food for the poler (usually you’re not, but polers appreciate any leftover cooked or uncooked food).
- Bring good walking shoes and long trousers for hiking, a hat and plenty of sunscreen and water.
- Water from the delta (despite its unpleasant colour) can be drunk if boiled or purified.
- Most campsites are natural, so take out all litter and burn toilet paper.
- Bring warm clothes for the evening between about May and September.
- Wildlife can be dangerous, so make sure to never swim anywhere without checking with the poler first.