Don’t worry, you don’t have to shimmy a mokoro past monster crocs to get personal with the Okavango. The Okavango Panhandle is the name given to the section of the river before it branches out into the Delta. This is Botswana’s value-for-money corner, wit
ETSHA Nguma Island Lodge
Nguma Island Lodge is north of Etsha 13 (there are a few turn- offs to the elongated settlement called Etsha) on the banks of Guma Lagoon. You’ll need a 4x4 for the last 12 km to the lodge, but you can arrange for a transfer if you don’t have one.
Camping costs P176 (R230) per person; self- catering units from P1 398 (R1 828) per night for two people; luxury en suite safari tents P1 644 (R2 150) per person sharing, including dinner and breakfast.
Tigerfishing P865 (R1 131) per hour; tackle hire P146 (R191) per day. GPS: S18.95396 E22.37329 Contact: 00 267 683 0159;
Guma Lagoon Camp
This camp is just south of Nguma Island Lodge. Canvas en suite “chalets” P1 036 (R1 355) per night for two people; camping P135 (R177) per person. You can cater for yourself using the communal kitchen or eat at the camp restaurant: Dinner costs P182 (R238) per person.
Hire a motor boat, mokoro or fishing rod and head for the water. They can also organise an overnight mokoro trip where you camp on an island in the Panhandle. GPS: S18.96272 E22.37328 Contact: 00 267 687 4626;
SEPUPA Sepopa Swamp Stop
This popular lodge offers affordable accommodation. They’re under new management and difficult to reach on the phone. Still, you should be okay just dropping in.
The campsite has been enlarged and there are stands at the water’s edge. Camping P160 (R206) per person; en suite chalets from P920 (R1 271) per night for two people. They have a restaurant and bar, and you can hire mokoros and motor boats to go exploring or fishing. Boat hire P750 (R982) per hour. Ask about overnight trips to a private island. GPS: S18.74674 E22.19922 Contact: 00 267 726 0071;
SERONGA Okavango Houseboats
Seronga is on the less-accessible eastern bank of the Panhandle and can only be reached by car if you cross the river at Mohembo using the free government ferry.
It’s easier to get to Seronga by boat: You can organise a transfer from Sepopa Swamp Stop.
Okavango Houseboats keeps four of their boats moored in a main channel of the river near Seronga. A houseboat holiday is great for a big group of people. It’s a unique way to see the Delta and, best of all, someone else does the driving for you.
Houseboat hire from P7 800 (R10 216) per day: affordable if you share the boat with your 20 best friends. You can bring your own food, which will be prepared by the on-board staff, or you can pay extra for food. Contact: 00 267 686 0802;
NCAMASERE Nxamaseri Island Lodge
Contact this exclusive lodge directly for prices and further details. GPS: S18.63548 E22.04674 (turn-off from the A35) Contact: 00 267 71 326 619;
TSODILO HILLS Tsodilo campsite
Rising to 1 400 m, Tsodilo Hills are the highest “mountains” in Botswana. Tsodilo is a World Heritage Site thanks to its incredible rock art: more than 2 000 paintings have been discovered. It’s a place of great spiritual importance to the people living nearby. Sir Laurens van der Post, after whom one of the rock art panels is named, wrote of Tsodilo: “I had a feeling that I was in a great and ancient temple.”
Tsodilo is about 35 km west of the A35 tar road and perfectly positioned for a day trip from any of the places mentioned here.
Day visitors: P50 (R65) per adult; P10 (R13) for kids under 15. There are walking trails of various distances (the shortest takes about an hour) that lead to different rock art sites. It’s compulsory to go with a guide, who will tell you more about Tsodilo’s history and Bushman culture. There’s also a small museum on site.
If you want to do one of the longer trails, consider staying over. The campsite is basic: P130 (R170) per adult; P70 (R92) for kids under 15. Bring your own drinking water. GPS: S18.76005 E21.73761 Contact: 00 267 68 00 419 ( Tsetsana)
SHAKAWE Shakawe River Lodge
There’s a wonderful campsite here, situated on a bend in the river. You’ll camp under massive trees close to nurking hippos.
Camping P200 (R262) per adult; P130 (R170) per child aged 4 – 12. Dome tent with a bed inside P500 (R655) for two people. Chalet accommodation P1 530 (R2 004) per night for two people.
Eat at the restaurant and do a sunset cruise: P150 (R196) per person, plus extra for boat hire and fuel used. You can also do fishing or birding trips. The birding around Shakawe is excellent, especially if you take a walk to the nearby forest of wild fig trees. GPS: S18.43435 E21.90539 Contact: 00 267 684 0403;
This is one of the oldest lodges in Botswana, situated about 10 km south of Shakawe. The surrounding area offers excellent birding – it’s one of the best places to see the elusive Pel’s fishing-owl.
Family chalet P1 685 (R2 259) per night for two adults and two kids. Camping P150 (R196) per person. There’s a restaurant on site and you can do fishing trips and boat cruises. One of their boats is called Lawrence of the Okavango – it has seating for 12 people and costs P500 (R655) per hour to hire.
Drotsky’s also operates the more exclusive Xaro Lodge, 9 km downstream. Enquire for rates. GPS: S18.41397 E21.88577 Contact: 00 267 683 0226;