20 - 25 May 2018
Thamalakane River Lodge is situated on the banks of the Thamalakane River, 19kms from Maun, and en-route to Moremi Game Reserve.
Where to start with Thamalakane River Lodge, I suppose the best place it right at the start when I was busy planning our Botswana Trip.
Every email I sent was responded to in a friendly & professional manner and every question was answered (trust me, there were many). Thamalakane River Lodge offer many & various activities from Boat Cruises to Game Drives. They have a Beauty Spa and at their restaurant you have a choice of à la carte or Buffet. Though I have to be honest that in the 5 Nights we stayed there everything that was available on the Al le Carte Menu had also been served at the Buffet at some point or another. We chose the Buffet every night except for one night, their Buffet is honestly top notch.
I would only order from the à la carte menu if you are there for one night and you really feel like something specific that is not served at the Buffet that evening.
We had a wonderful stay at Thamalakane. Staff are friendly, courteous and attentive. They go out their way to make you feel at home and special. One evening we arrived for supper, to find our usual table not set, confused we looked at our waiter. She smiled and asked us to follow her, they have made a special table for us, she told us. We were shown the way across the lawn towards the river, oh my word! They had set a table for us on a floating deck, on the river!
What an amazing experience to be totally secluded from every other guest at a private table on the river! Wow!
If that was not already enough, our waitress serenaded us with her beautiful angel voice after supper. It truly was a very special experience. One of many special experiences we had during our stay here.
The lodge is owner run by husband and wife team Leana & Cornel Ries. Leana is in charge of the lodge’s day to day running and Cornel looks after all the Game, Boat & Mokoro Safaris. Truly a special couple who have clearly invested their heart and soul into this lodge. They popped around during dinner every night and went around to every table, chatting with guests, asking how the day was and helping with suggestions, answering every question a guest might have. We really enjoyed our end-of-day chats with them and also listening to one or two of their personal stories and adventures they have experienced.
Upon arrival we were introduced to Abraham, he was allocated to us as our personal guide for our entire stay. I don’t know about the other guides, I am sure they are also great, but we just thoroughly enjoyed Abraham. What an amazingly well-spoken, wise and interesting man.
Our Chalets were lovely and spacious. Beautifully clean and the linen crisp. The units were also very well ventilated, which helped at night to cool us down when the breeze came through. The only thing missing was maybe a few more clothing hooks in the bathroom to hang things on. Their laundry service was great and garments sent in for washing, drying & ironing was on your bed the next morning. Every day upon arrival back to our chalets, our rooms had been serviced and a new flower message was awaiting us on our bed. At night after supper when we got back, our beds were turned and the mosquito nets put down.
We had booked quite a few activities during our stay at Thamalakane river lodge. For most of their activities they are very dependant on the water having reached them at the time of the activity, which when booking they can’t guarantee for it to have come down. As you well know, nature likes to make up its own mind.
With that said, we had to make a few changes to our itinerary once there as upon our arrival the water had just started trickling into rivers here but the mass water had not arrived yet. Leana, Cornel & Abraham were amazing with helping us with all of this.
We couldn’t go on any of the Boat Cruises as the water was too low and could also not do the Makgadikgadi Pans Overnight Camping as there was too much water on the pans to get access to them, Cornel's advice was that it really wasn’t worth going as it would not be pleasant, he felt it would not be worth our money to go whilst the situation was as such. We appreciated his honestly and frankness! We opted to do the Mokoro overnight excursion, which was absolute bliss.
The lodge transported us from Maun to the Boro Farm Cultural Village - about an hours' drive, everything was so clean & tidy. The Mokoro outings are done in conjunction with the local community who arrange the mokoro’s, the camp site, guides, polers, cooking and Island Walks. At the village we were introduced to Trust and his team who were responsible for just about everything. The lodge had supplied our tents, stretchers, bedding and Abraham.
Soon we were in the Mokoro’s, I have to say, they are rather comfortable – didn’t expect them to be at all. Going down the Thamalakane River into the channels, stopping at different islands and seeing some of the smaller creatures that live in these waters was so peaceful, tranquil and just therapeutic. We could see in places how the water was starting to weakly trickle into the channels as we got higher up.
The Mokoro’s are driven by polers, we had Trust with us and our friends had a girl by the name of Tiny. Let me tell you, Tiny had arms on her that most of us girls dream of. Think I must take up poling!
Arriving at the camp site we found a fully set up camp with all our luggage already offloaded
We were shown around camp and the rules explained. We even had a toilet (hole dug in the ground with a toilet over it and closed for a bit of privacy with some canvas all around, as well as a mobile basin with soap and a towel to wash our hands in. There were probably about a team of 6, excluding Trust, Abraham & the cook.
Late that afternoon we went for a Guided Island walk on Chiefs’ Island, what an experience to walk in nature like that, knowing anything could come across our paths. We had to follow the rules and stay in the middle of our guides. We thoroughly enjoyed this walk. If I could swim in that river I would’ve! In that heat, I was over-heating in no time and ready to dive into the Hippo pond, luckily my senses came to and I opted to have some water thrown on my head to cool down. Not a walk to be done if you are unfit or have tendencies to overheat.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening on the island, Trust & Abraham sat chatting with us and we had a stunning bush supper prepared by our cook. Trust waited for us to have a few drinks before he started with his riddles that had all of us in stitches! We were caught out properly but enjoyed every moment of it. We learnt a lot from them about Botswana and it’s people.
One comment that will stay with me forever, was Trust’s answer to a statement I made…
The sun was setting and as we were looking out over the river, a dove was coo-ing above us somewhere…. I said to him that in Afrikaans we describe the birds’ sound as “Werk Staa-dig, werk staa-dig”, translated to English “Work Sloow-ly, work sloow-ly”, Trust looked at me shaking his head, “That can’t be right! It must be Work-haar-der work haar-der”
Early the next morning, we headed out for a walk on the island that we were camping on and came across some interesting sights. Trust shared quite a bit of his knowledge of the plants on the island. We returned to a prepared breakfast, after which we headed back to the lodge, down the channels in our Mokoro's. Bliss!
Arriving back at the village, the lodge’s vehicle was waiting for us. Back at the Lodge we had a lovely welcome back by all the staff, makes one feel a bit self-conscious but in the end, we enjoyed just listening.
Another memorable day we had was the Moremi Game Reserve Full Day trip. We saw many animals, most special for me must’ve been the White-backed Vultures and the breeding herd of about three hundred buffalo that we drove through. We were amazed by all the different biomes present in the Moremi, definitely on our to do list when we visit Botswana next. We have decided that during that trip we will be camping in the Moremi for some time and experience it fully.
It was a stunning day and a really long one. We left early morning at 5:30am, on an open game drive vehicle. Mornings were rather fresh here, myself & Helena thought we were prepared for the two-hour drive to the reserve on an open vehicle in the morning cold, needless to say, we were not!
We enjoyed being out there so much that when Abraham suggested during our lunch-time picnic, that we turn around and head back to the lodge, we said no, we should carry on through the reserve, forgetting about the two-hour drive back! Silly Fools!
The drive back was a nerve-wrecking one in the dark with animals all over the roads. Myself and Helena both were hoping to be air-lifted back to the lodge and eventually praying that the lodge would come sooner. Arriving back to the lodge around 20:30, we were finished, totally exhausted, cold and sore from a long day on bumpy sand roads. The staff had again arranged the private table over at the river for us, but it was just too much effort to walk there. We thanked them, requested to sit at the nearest table as long as it came with wine and a meal.
Lesson learnt, we decided over supper. When making decisions all factors have to be considered, by all parties before just saying yes, let’s do it.
We did a few of their other activities, but also enjoyed sitting on the stoep of our Chalets, sipping gins, watching the squirrels playing and listening to the African Mourning Doves –
I think this was my favourite new sound while I was in Botswana, just loved their calls.
On one of our 'off' days, we ventured into town and explored all the shops and found a lovey restaurant where we enjoyed lunch and drinks under the trees in a court yard. Corne arranged a flight over the Okavango in a helicopter for us, which is also a must-do when here, I felt like Indiana Jones, was amazing!
We heard Fish Eagles, The Voice of Africa, calling every morning and at sunset every day. What a sound to wake up to! One afternoon we were having drinks over looking the river when we heard them calling again.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! Four Fish Eagles right there!
I have heard them calling many times in my life, but it was a first time seeing them up close. I ran to fetch a camera and sat on the grass taking photos of them calling and sitting on the broken tree stumps in the river. I have to admit, I had a bit of ‘bok koors’, I could hardly keep the camera still!
Time went too fast and soon it was time to leave Thamalakane, it had become our haven and home so quickly. We were sad to go, but vowed to be back and also do the Trans Okavango with Corne.
We look forward to returning - ‘Till next time Thamalakane family!'
GPS co-ordinates: 19°53’2.44″S 23°33’16.04″E
Physical: Sexaxa Ward, Maun, Botswana
Office hours: +267 680 0217 or +267 686 4313
After Hours: +267 7534 6314
Bookings can also be made through these other channels: