Thamalakane River Lodge

Thamalakane River Lodge: Our full report

21 chalets
Traveller's rating
Good (79%) From 27 reviews
Fine for all ages
All year

Thamalakane River Lodge lies along a peaceful stretch of the Thamalakane River, just 19km north-east of the centre of Botswana's main safari hub, Maun. Within easy reach of the airport, it’s a comfortable, mid-range option for those needing to overnight in Maun, with a range of chalets set in attractive grounds. The large restaurant and bar caters for guests and locals alike, and wooden decks are ideally positioned to watch the sun set over the river.

For the most part, the extensive grounds of Thamalakane are attractively landscaped, if let down by the dusty parking area where you'll find the reception, curio shop, booking centre and office. Stone steps and paved paths lead through the 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.

Thamalakane's 21 stone-and-thatch chalets, spread out in two wings on either side of the main area, come in three types, but all are similar in concept. The interior walls are of stone, and furnishings are simple but comfortable, if slightly worn in places. Each room comes with basic tea- and coffee-making facilities, 220-volt universal plug points, a ceiling or standing fan (but no AC), mosquito net, digital safe, free-standing wardrobe or hanging space, a desk, and an en-suite bathroom with shower. You’ll also have a small patio with outdoor seating.

  • 17 Babbler chalets – with six more planned for 2018 – are built in two rows, spaced so that each overlooks the riverfront – with those at the front afforded the clearest views.

  • Two adjoining Kingfisher family rooms are set a little back from the river, and furthest from the main area. With two bedrooms sharing a bathroom, the family rooms are entered through a small sitting room with views of the river.

  • The Lilac-breasted Roller honeymoon suite, at the other end of the lodge, has its own plunge pool, a four-poster bed and an en-suite bathroom complete with bath, and both indoor and outdoor showers.
Situated slightly away from the lodge, there's also a camping area with powered sites, two permanent furnished tents and shared ablution facilities.

A wooden bridge across a narrow stream/water feature leads to the split-level, open-plan main area, whose thatched roof is supported by huge tree trunks. Rustic stone floors and ceiling fans help to keep the space cool, while décor comes in the form of an eclectic mix of modern and more traditional African artefacts.

Dominating one level is a wood-topped bar, flanked by two lounge areas, while lower down is Thamalakane's restaurant. Most of the time, this has an open view over the river, but canvas and plastic 'walls' can be rolled down should the weather turn cold or wet. Simple metal tables and cushioned chairs spill out onto the decks in front which, along with a concrete patio and manicured lawn, provide a relaxed outdoor dining space and a great spot to enjoy the riverfront setting. There's also a paved area with a thatched structure that houses a second bar – which sometimes doubles as a serving station.

With its varied à la carte menu (or buffet in busier periods), pizza oven and good wine selection, the restaurant is considered locally to be one of the best in Maun. It is also open to the general public, so even if you’re staying here it’s a good idea to book a table in advance.

For an additional cost Thamalakane offers a selection of activities, including motorboat and mokoro trips when water levels permit. That said, Maun isn’t the best location for these and ,most travellers will wait until they are closer to the Delta to enjoy them. Guests can also arrange in room-massages on request.

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 September 2017. The current management team is well on the way to updating and expanding the lodge, and we're optimistic that it will remain 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, weather permitting.

Breakfast, which is included in the rates, is a continental buffet with cooked dishes 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.

An extensive à la carte lunch and dinner menu caters for a wide variety of tastes – from salad, vegetarian and seafood to meat, generous pizzas and pasta dishes. A children's menu is also available. On our last visit, in October 2017, the place was quite busy so a filling and delicious buffet was served in place of the à la carte menu. Ours included a starter of spicy tomato soup, followed by a variety of salads, chicken, beef and kudu kebabs, sweetcorn fritters, potato wedges and creamed kale. This was rounded of by a choice of apple strudel with custard or a chocolate mousse, and cheese and biscuits.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £15-20

Drinks included: With the exception of a couple of water bottles supplied in your chalet each day, drinks are not included.

Further dining info: No


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

Property’s age restrictions: None

Special activities & services: Childminding is available on request, though note that children are looked after by staff members who are not professionally qualified or trained in childcare.

Equipment: Thamalakane River Lodge has two family chalets, each accommodating a family of four.

Notes: See above


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator in case of a power failure.

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

Water supply: Other

Water supply notes: The tap water here is drawn from the river and treated so it is fine for washing, however it isn’t suitable for drinking.

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 positioned in the common areas of the lodge and outside each chalet.


Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available at extra cost (itemised laundry lists are provided), cloths are returned within 24 hours.

Money: There's a digital safe in each chalet.

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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