Thamalakane River Lodge

Thamalakane River Lodge: Our full report

18 chalets
Traveller's rating
Good (79%) From 27 reviews
All ages
All year

Thamalakane River Lodge lies along a peaceful stretch of the Thamalakane River, just 19km north-east of Maun, Botswana’s main safari hub. Within easy reach of the airport, it provides a comfortable, mid-range option for those needing to overnight in Maun. Eighteen chalets with views across the river offer a choice of accommodation, while a large restaurant and bar caters for guests and locals alike, and wooden decks provide a popular spot to watch the sunset.

The sandy track to Thamalakane River Lodge leads into a large and dusty cobbled parking area where you’ll find thatch-and-stone buildings that house the reception, curio shop, guest internet station, booking centre and office. The rest of the extensive grounds are far more attractive. Stone steps and sandy paths lead through landscaped gardens surrounding the chalets and main area, and sloping lawns continue to the river’s edge. A uniquely shaped swimming pool set in stone paving lies in a grassy clearing beside sunloungers and a shaded seating area. Tree squirrels and a variety of birds are at home in the lush setting, whilst frogs and hippos make themselves heard from the river.

The split-level, open-plan main area is entered over a wooden bridge across a man-made moat. A large thatched roof supported by huge tree trunks combines with rustic stone floors and ceiling fans to keep the space cool. An eclectic mix of African objects decorates the edges. The first level is dominated by a wood-topped bar, flanked by two lounge areas. The lower dining level, set with simple metal tables and cushioned chairs, is enclosed by canvas and plastic ‘walls’ that can be rolled up for an open view over the river. Thamalakane’s restaurant, with its varied à la carte menu and good wine selection, is locally recognised as one of the best in Maun.

In front, a concrete patio and three wooden decks jutting out over the lawn provide a relaxed outdoor dining space and a great spot to enjoy the riverfront setting. There’s also a sandy clearing with central firepit for evening drinks or outdoor catering.

Thamalakane’s 18 stone-and-thatch chalets are spread out on either side of the main area. To one side are three ‘Jacana chalets’, two ‘Fish Eagle chalets’ and the one ‘Lilac-breasted Roller honeymoon suite’. To the other side are ten ‘Babbler chalets’ in two rows, spaced so that each overlooks the riverfront – with the front row affording the clearest views. Just beyond these, furthest from the main area, are two adjoining ‘Kingfisher family units’.

All the chalet interiors have feature stone walls, basic tea- and coffee-making facilities, 220-volt universal plug points, a ceiling or standing fan, mosquito net, digital safe, free-standing wardrobe or hanging space, a desk and an en-suite bathroom with shower. The furnishings are simple, slightly worn in places, but certainly adequate, and the beds are comfortable. Each chalet also has a small patio with outdoor seating and a river view. Limited toiletries are provided (soap, body lotion and conditioning shampoo) as well as insect repellent and spray, mosquito coils, tissues, bottled water, blankets, an umbrella and a shoe-polish kit.

  • The lowest-priced Babbler chalets have a reasonable- sized bedroom and an adjacent en-suite only partially screened by three-quarter stone walls and a wooden divider. A single handbasin with overhead mirror sits between a glass-doored shower and a toilet.

  • The en-suites in the more spacious Jacana chalets offer better privacy. Though there is no door to the bathroom, it is situated behind a wall in a semi-circular shape. Against the outer wall are twin handbasins, a long but low wraparound mirror and a toilet. On the inner wall is a walk-in shower screened by a curtain.

  • Otherwise similar in layout to the Jacana chalets, the Fish Eagle chalets differ by having their own outdoor plunge pool.

  • Designed for honeymooners, the Lilac-breasted Roller suite has a four-poster bed, an en-suite bathroom with bath and twin handbasins, an outdoor shower and a private plunge pool.

  • The two Kingfisher family units, each catering for a family of four, are semi-detached in one long chalet. They are entered through a small lounge area, off which doors lead into two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. The lounge and one bedroom have views over the river.

Situated slightly away from the lodge, there’s also a camping area with powered sites, two permanent furnished tents and shared ablution facilities.

Our view

We’ve always liked the setting of Thamalakane River Lodge and considered it to be one of Maun’s best value mid-range accommodation options. This was reaffirmed on our most recent visit in June 2012, though a few tatty furnishings were in need of replacement. A new management team had already begun renovations, with many positive plans. Hence we’re optimistic that the lodge will continue providing a comfortable stop for travellers in an attractive location.


Location: Maun, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: For pre- or post-safari accommodation on the outskirts of Maun, we’d recommend one night at Thamalakane River Lodge.

Directions: Thamalakane River Lodge is situated 19km north-east of Maun, off the main road leading to Moremi Game Reserve. From Maun Airport it’s about 20 minutes drive; airport transfers are available at extra cost.

Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Privately owned

Food & drink

Usual board basis: B&B

Food quality: The restaurant at Thamalakane River Lodge serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open to both guests and the general public. There’s a choice of indoor and outdoor dining.

An extensive à la carte lunch and dinner menu caters for a wide variety of tastes – from salad, vegetarian and seafood to meat, pizza and pasta dishes. A children’s menu is also available. The ‘Thamalakane Pizza’ we had for dinner was very tasty and a generous size.

Breakfast is a continental buffet with cooked options prepared to order. The buffet featured a fairly standard but sufficient spread of cereals, porridge, yoghurt, fresh and tinned fruit, muffins, bread, cold meat and cheese.

Breakfast is included in the accommodation rate.

The cost of lunch ranges from about US$6-12/GBP4-8. Starters are around US$5-10/GBP3-6, salads from around US$6/GBP4 (garden salad), mains from around US$8-26/GBP5-17, and desserts from roughly US$4/GBP2. (2012 prices)

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Drinks included: Drinks are not included and can be ordered from the bar or waiting staff.

Further dining info: No


Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at Thamalakane River Lodge.

Equipment: Thamalakane River Lodge has two family units, each accommodating a family of four. A highchair can be provided with advance notice.

Notes: Child-minding is also available on request, though note that children are looked after by staff members who are not professionally qualified or trained in childcare.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: There is a central telephone (landline) and guest computer at reception. Cellphone coverage is good. Complimentary WiFi is available in the main area.

TV & radio: No

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The camp managers are trained in first aid and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept in camp. There are doctors and a clinic located nearby in Maun.

Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk

Security measures: Thamalakane River Lodge is enclosed by a fence to one side and the river to the other. There are security guards on duty at night.

Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are kept in the common areas of the lodge and outside each of the chalets.


Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available at extra cost, with items returned within 24 hours.

Money: There’s a digital safe provided in each room.

Accepted payment on location: Payments may be made by credit card (MasterCard, Visa, Diners and American Express), travellers’ cheques and in cash (South African rand, British pounds, US dollars, euros and Botswanan pula).

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