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An Okavango Delta Safari in a Mokoro

Seeing African animals from a traditional mokoro (boat) in the Okavango Delta is an amazing experience.

On our road trip through southern Africa, our main goal was to experience as many safaris as possible. We saw the most wildlife as we drove through the country of Botswana.

The Okavango Delta has a unique ecosystem that doesn’t follow normal rules, and in the middle of a northern hemisphere summer is the perfect time to see all kinds of birds and mammals. We couldn’t wait to be right there with the hippos and crocodiles on our Okavango Delta safari in a mokoro.

A Bloat of hippos with just their eyes and ears above water; they are a favorite Okavango Delta wildlife sight with visitors.
A bloat of hippos.

The Okavango Delta was just recently (2014) inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its unique flooding pattern and how the flora and fauna has adapted to it. In the middle of what would normally be the dry season, the Okavango River floods, fanning out to form a marshland that is home to many endangered species.

Polers Trust Lodge and campground in Seronga where we stayed during our Okavango Delta safari.
The Polers Trust Lodge.

There are not many ways to access the delta, but most people fly into the small city of Maun. We were driving, and we did spend the night in this dusty town, then another night along the way, and finally we arrived in the village of Seronga where we were able to find our accommodations for a couple of nights.

Our lodge was everything we’d hoped it would be. Organized by the Okavango Polers Trust, the camp solely exists to provide locals a way to make money doing mokoro safaris for tourists.

Mokoros lined up along the water’s edge ready for an Okavango Delta Safari.
Mokoros in the Okavango Delta.

A Mokoro Safari in the Okavango Delta

We rented one of the chalets and were quite comfortable, and the meals were very well done too. One night we ate kudu, which I may not ever repeat, but it was interesting. We booked our mokoro safari for the next day, and we were off to bed early with anticipation.

Guides prepare the traditional dugout-like boats, for our Mokoro safari.
Guides preparing the Mokoros for our safari.

Down by the water’s edge there were about 20 mokoros scheduled to go out. Mokoros traditionally were hollowed out from hardwood, but in the present day and in order to preserve the trees, they are now fiberglass.

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Other drivers came up and saw us there, asked us what we had seen, waited for a few minutes, then left without waiting around to see what would come in next to drink.

Each mokoro poler owns his own boat, and each person belongs to the Trust. The polers grew up in the delta, learning to maneuver their craft by navigating the waters to get somewhere or for fishing. For the majority of the day, we were out in the delta completely on our own except when a mokoro full of locals poled by us.

A group of locals poling in the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Locals poling through the wetlands.

For anyone who has kayaked, getting into the mokoro was just what would be expected. It seemed at first to be a little wobbly, but once everyone was settled it was quite stable and even a bit comfortable.

We wasted no time leaving the banks of the river and soon were splitting the papyrus reeds as we poled off. This part was probably the most unsettling. The poler stands and can see where he is taking us, but as the passengers, the view is from very low and you can mostly see plants.

A female hippo keeps watch on us as we traverse the delta in our traditional boat.
A hippo with just the top of its head above water, in the Okavango Delta.

A relaxing “swish” and “splash” was all that was heard as we quietly made our way through the wetlands. At one point, we did come across a bloat of hippos and spent some time talking to them, photographing them, and keeping our distance as these are the most territorial and potentially vicious animals.

The guides have added padded seating to the dugout-like boats, and we’re ready for a Mokoro Okavango safari.
The Mokoros are outfitted with padded seats.

Around lunchtime, we stopped on hard ground, an island, and our guide pulled out our cold lunch of spaghetti and salad, which had been kept cool and was perfect for the middle of an African day. We found shelter under a tree where we ate our lunch.

We stuck very close to the poler as we were in the middle of the wilderness, but the only threatening thing we saw was a massive termite mound. We wandered close enough to take a look, but chose to have a lunch away from the millions of insects.

A huge anthill on a very small island in the Okavango Delta.
Big anthill on a small island.

It was an amazing day boating through the delta, with reeds folding down in front of you to expose the bright blue sky, with birds fishing, and just knowing that this place is special; special for its people, its animals, and its ecosystem.

Really close-up view of a hippo with just the top of its head above water.
This seems to be a hippo’s preferred position.

Pro Tip – Camping in Botswana can be a hit or miss deal.  When we were there, we were very happy with our accommodations, our meals, and our guides, but I’ve read that many of the places have gotten run down.  No matter what, going on the cheap and camping out in the African bush will be an adventure!

A Malachite kingfisher sits on a papyrus reed in the Okavango Delta, a great location for birdwatching.
A Malachite kingfisher in the papyrus reeds.

How to Get to the Okavango Delta

Most people fly into Maun, then have their lodge send a van to pick them up. However, we can’t stress enough how fun self-driving through Botswana is, and even though the miles are long, the views are amazing.

Driving times:

  • Johannesburg to Maun – around 700 miles or 12 hours
  • Gabarone to Maun – 580 miles w 9.5 hours
  • Victoria Falls to Maun – 420 miles or 8 hours
A beautiful water lily blooming in the Okavango Delta wetlands.
Water lily.

Best Time to Go to the Okavango Delta

July through September is the perfect season for this type of adventure. Some of the swamps have lessened and the water has started to go down, so it’s easier to see wildlife. There are not as many mosquitoes since it’s considered the dry season. It’s much easier to view the animals as well.

The Okavango Delta’s rainy season begins in late October and goes all the way through April. This is important to the health of the wetlands, and it provides such a fertile area for sheltering and feeding the various and abundant wildlife. It does make it harder to travel in the region, though.

The sun sets over the wetlands in Seronga Bostwana.
Sunset over the wetlands in Seronga.

The flooding season is November and December, and adventurers will want to avoid those months. The shoulder months of October, January, February, and March is a tourist low season, and lodges and tours will be discounted, but if you are traveling there by car roads can be washed out or closed. The breeding season begins in late December, so if you are in the delta around January – March, you might be able to see some babies.

Sunset in Seronga Bostwana with beautiful pink streaks fanned out across the sky.
Sunset in Seronga.


If you love the water, especially kayaking, then you will enjoy a mokoro safari through the amazing world heritage Okavango Delta. Full of flora and fauna, there is so much to see as you glide through the gorgeous papyrus.

Have you been on an Okavango Delta safari?

Stay Tuned! If you are enjoying reading all about our road trip through Southern Africa, we’ve got more. You can read all about our next stop, exploring the rock paintings and world heritage site, Tsodilo Hills here.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Okavango Delta

Stefanie Zimmermann

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

I hope it was Kudu that you ate - not Kubu! Kubu is the Tswana word for Hippo and Kudu is a type of antelope! ;-)

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

Wow, what a mistake. Thanks.

Agness of Fit Travelling

Monday 19th of June 2017

I am definitely adding this place to my bucket list! Thanks for the idea, Corinne!

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 21st of June 2017

Agness, I absolutely agree. It's so high on our list of best's gorgeous.

Ursula (myVideoMedia)

Saturday 11th of June 2016

Thanks for the article and photos. I have been to Kruger National Park years ago, but I think the next time I want to experience wildlife I would go to Botswana

Corinne Vail

Saturday 11th of June 2016

Ursula, Yes! We loved it, and we saw so much!

Sand In My Suitcase

Tuesday 24th of March 2015

So glad you enjoyed your Botswana safari! We were blown away by all the wildlife we saw in South Africa and Zambia last year on our safaris there. Not sure about the mokoros in Botswana though - we canoed in Zambia with enough crocodiles and hippos to last us a lifetime, and we hear the mokoros are less stable than canoes (more prone to croc attacks!).

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 25th of March 2015

Janice, Luckily we didn't see any crocs, so we really enjoyed our ride. It felt stable enough as well.


Thursday 12th of March 2015

Hi Corrine! What a great adventure. I think I'd have been a little queasy so close to the hippos in that little boat! :) Thanks for linking up last week, and sorry I am slow in getting around. School is keeping me hopping right now. #TPThursday

Corinne Vail

Thursday 12th of March 2015

Nancie, Yes, we're busy at school as well. Thanks!