The river is the result of the Thamalakane fault which began forming about two million years ago. There's a geological process called rifting which is still going on. It's slowly splitting Africa apart. Very slowly though, so don't panic.
Located north of South Africa, Botswana has a population of about 2.3 million and is arguably the world's best safari destination nicknamed 'Africa’s last Eden'. And eco-tourism is big business. As are diamonds, Botswana is now the site of De Beers's largest diamond mining operation.
Old Bridge is not a traditional backpackers but it is for people who choose to self-drive where possible rather than join a package tour.
There's a place to eat with an a la carte menu. It opens at 7 in the morning and closes at 8 at night. You can self-cater too as there's a fully equipped kitchen. And there's a bar set between old, weathered lead-wood logs. It opens at 11am and closes at 9pm. Evenings are dimly lit and there is often music. If it's cold they have a fire and they do have a TV lounge which you can use if you ask.
10 furnished tents made up as either doubles or twins. 5 have their own shower and toilet. They also have private verandas overlooking the water.
The other five are set back from the river and near the ablutions. These are between the main building and the campsites. Open air hot showers and flush toilets - built from natural materials.
There are also campsites for travellers with their own tents, a few of which are drive in sites. These have power points. There is one site for larger groups.
The nearby Maun Rest Camp is now under the management of the Old Bridge Backpackers. It’s a 5 minute walk away and you’ll have full use of the restaurant and bar facilities.
There is free WiFi too - the signal is strongest in the area around the pool, bar and kitchen but it does reach a lot of the campsites and accommodation. Restaurant; bar, kitchen; lounge with TV (available on request); swimming pool
The backpackers run a range of activities in Maun, as well as safaris to the Okavango, Moremi and all the wildlife parks in the area.
You can do mokoro trips. These traditional dug-out canoes have become a very popular way to experience the Okavango Delta. There are options for all budgets too. The Old Bridge Backpackers runs all its Mokoro through the “Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust” who control the use of a large area of the delta and who set the guide and community fees for the activities.
This community traditionally use this part of the delta for fishing, reed cutting and the harvesting of water lily bulbs. The mokoro is an integral part of all these activities.
They run trips from one to six days, for groups of anything up to 12 people. They will even help you go it alone if you’d rather. Remember to take your own food and equipment. If you need to you can hire a tent and other items from the backpackers.
If you go with a guide your days will be spent gliding down the silent waterways, chilling in camp during the mid-day heat and taking early morning and late afternoon game-viewing walks. You’ll camp at the fire-side on nearby islands. Please consider taking food for the guide.
Okavango boating safaris are great too. You’ll have a full day of viewing game and birds immersed in the Okavango delta. At midday you will reach the turning point near Chiefs Island where your guide will take you for a 1 hour game walk. Then it’s back on the boat for lunch. Depending on water levels you may use a different combination of water channels to meander back for the rest of the afternoon.
Want to go for longer? They have a longer name for this one. It’s a ‘Multi-day Inner Delta Boating Safaris & Trans-Okavango expedition’. You’ll stay in various Botswana Guides Association campsites on Chiefs Island. They’ll be guided walks, mokoro trips and boating tours.
You can also hire your own boat for short river trips outside the Okavango swamps.
Had enough of the water? A basket weaving workshop is interesting. If you like the idea of basket weaving. You’ll spend an afternoon with local Thitaku people learning how to weave.
You can horse ride too. Early morning and sunset rides are available through African Animal Adventures.
Or take a scenic flight and see this world from above.
Now you’ve had the bird’s eye view why not go bird watching next? There’s even a ‘bird watching walk and Mokoro trip’ combo available.
And when you’re done with your day take a sunset cruise. An hour and a half of bliss, floating down the Thamalakane river towards Maun.
Just remember, as the old song sings, ‘With the wind in your face there's no finer place
Than messin' about on the river’. Indeed.