How to Book Scenic Flights and Air Tours of the Okavango Delta
The view from above the world’s only inland delta and herds of wildlife is a priceless experience many visitors call the highlight of their African safari trips. Yet, finding and booking one of these scenic tours feels nearly impossible or unreasonably pricey because you must charter a flight.
Here is how to find and book a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta, as well as some insider info and questions to ask before going so you can make your tour the best part of your African trip.
*Please note that due to COVID some of the operators listed have modified their web presence and business operations. AOTS is working to keep this page up to date and some links may not work as we do so. Thank you for your patience.
Insider Tip 1: There Are No Pre-Scheduled Flying Tours
The reason you can’t find the dates and times anyone provides a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta is because there aren’t any scheduled. These scenic flights get scheduled when people reach out to the providers and set one up.
You can reach out to your provider of choice, via phone or email, and discuss the dates and times you are looking for a tour. If they have a scenic flight scheduled and available, they will let you know how you can join it.
If they do not have anything scheduled for your requested date, but have the personnel and aircraft available, they will schedule one for you. You’ll be the first on the passenger list!
Because tours are not prescheduled by the airline, technically you are joining a chartered scenic flight someone else has scheduled and the plane isn’t full yet, or you are scheduling one.
The word “charter” makes the flights sound pricey and expensive, but you can charter these scenic flights over the Okavango Delta for as little as $67/ person.
Insider Tip 2: Finding a Tour Provider
So, which airlines can you reach out to to set up a tour date and get pricing?
It’s not too hard to find a list of airlines out of Maun airport, but it is difficult to find the contact information for them and even harder to know if they offer scenic tours. Chartering sounds expensive and airline websites do not explain what each airline is willing to offer or charge.
We went through various Trip Advisor reviews, and blog postings from those who had completed Okavango Delta scenic air tours.
Here is a list of providers who have given a scenic flying tour over the Okavango Delta; and someone liked it enough to post a rave review about their experience; or the airline is recommended as a verified vendor via our travel agent.
Most frequently noted scenic flight provider in Trip Advisor reviews, Air Shakawe has a fleet of small planes with a capacity of around 6 people. They offer 45 min or 1 hour flying tours from Maun, as well as flights to nearby areas like Kasane near Chobe National Park.
Air Shakawe is also a 2019 Trip Advisor Circle of Excellence award winter.
Unlike many travel providers in Africa, they have an active Facebook presence and responded to emails within two business days- Sometimes within an hour.
Their website: https://airshakawe.com/
How to Book: Email them at email@example.com with the subject line “email enquiry”
Matriarch Africa provides helicopter tours to those who book full safari trips with them. They are open to the occasional exception to that rule depending on flight demand. They, too, were very responsive via email.
They offer 1 hour flying tours with optional 15 min add on where you will land in the middle of the Okavango Delta for a nice French Champaign drink.
The helicopter doors can be removed to provide better photography and filming opportunities at the flyers’ request. Max capacity is 3 people per flight.
How to Book: Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wilderness Air has a fleet of over 30 planes across four African nations, including Botswana. They offer 1 hour scenic flights over the Okavango Delta.
How to Book: Wilderness Air has a contact form on their website for tour inquiries. https://www.wilderness-air.com/contact-us/
Kavango Air focuses on Okavango Delta scenic flights, and offers transfers and med evacs. Their website says they average about three scenic flights per day and primarily operate in the morning or late afternoon for the best game viewing.
Their fleet has capacity ranging from 3 to 7 passengers.
How to Book: Email at email@example.com
MACK Air is a bit more structured in their routes and schedule than some of the other providers, but offer scenic tours as a primary offering with larger capacity planes. Their planes have a capacity of up to 7-12 passengers depending on the aircraft and some models include wifi.
How to Book: email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Insider Tip 3: There is No Price Per Person
Scenic Flights over the Okavango Delta are provided at a “flat rate” for the tour, not a rate per person. The provider will quote you the rate to conduct the scenic flight and the maximum number of seats available. You could then split that total price amongst the number of people traveling with you.
For example, we scheduled a one-hour scenic flight with Air Shakawe for a flat rate of approx. $400 USD after currency conversion. The plane could hold up to 6 people.
If we had 6 people, the rate would have been $67 per person ($400/6).
For the two of us, the $400 rate resulted in $200 per person ($400/2).
Essentially, what you are doing is chartering the flight for the date and time you want, then dividing the costs amongst the number of people traveling with you.
The two exceptions would be 1. if you are lucky enough to join a pre-scheduled charter tour. You’d be factored into the size of the other passengers already booked plus yourself; and 2. to offset the increase in weight (carrying more weight from more passengers requires more fuel) there may be a minor fuel add on to the overall price based on the number of people.
Important Information To Know About Okavango Scenic Flights:
All scenic flights are out of Maun Airport just outside the Okavango Delta unless specifically scheduled otherwise. Maun’s airport is just 5-10 minutes from Maun’s downtown and a 10-15 minute flight from the Okavango Delta.
Like all flights, you must arrive prior to your scheduled take off time and check in and the airline must clear the passenger list ahead of time.
Your 1-hour flight time includes takeoff and landing time each way and the time it takes to travel from the Maun airport to the Delta.
An hour-long scenic flight will result in about 30-40 minutes of time over the Okavango Delta because you will need 10-15 minutes to take off and travel to the delta, and another 10-15 minutes to return to the airport and land.
Chartering a 1 hour scenic flight means take off to landing is 1 hour. It does not mean 1 hour over the delta.
If you want or need more time over the delta, ask your provider about extension options and rates.
Questions to Ask Your Scenic Tour Provider Before Booking
Question 1: How far in advance do you need to arrive at the airport before the scheduled take off time?
I’d love to live in a world where my limo pulls up to the door of the aircraft, I walk up the plane’s stairs, and fly off into the sunset…
Truth is, that’s just not reality for chartered flights. Like any flight you take, you need to check in a certain amount of time before the flight to be able to board.
Scenic flights out of Maun require check in 30 mins- 1 hour before takeoff and you’ll want to account for that time in your itinerary.
Be sure to ask your tour provider how early you need to check in before your flight. You wouldn’t want to arrive for the tour of a lifetime only to find out you missed the boarding window because you arrived too close to take off!
Question 2: Will You Need Your passport?
While you are not taking an international flight, many scenic flight providers require you show your passport to board your tour. Confirm what information and paperwork is needed on the tour date and ensure all passengers are ready.
Question 3: When and How is Payment Due?
If you want to explore adding additional people to your flight, knowing when payment is due is crucial. Are you paying a lump sum up front or on the date of the tour? Can everyone pay individually, or is one single payment required by you and then you collect everyone’s payment?
By knowing when and how you can pay for the scenic tour, you can best prepare and plan with those in your travel group.
Question 4: What Currency Will Payment Be in?
It can be helpful to know what currency payment will be in because you can watch conversion rates and avoid additional fees. Some credit cards charge a foreign currency conversion fee others, like Chase Sapphire and American Express Travel cards, do not.
You may want to know if there are currency conversion fees or card payment processing fees and factor it into your total flight cost before telling everyone how much their share of the flight is.
Question 5: What Happens if There is Bad Weather?
Botswana has a low amount of annual precipitation certain times of the year, but storms happen. Ask your provider what happens if there is bad weather and your flight cannot take off as scheduled.
Can you wait and take a flight later that day, or reschedule?
While no one can control the weather, some areas have weather patterns making certain hours better for flying. The local pilots will know the best times to fly.
It may be helpful to ask the airline what times of day storms are more likely to happen and can they recommend a tour time outside that timeframe.
Question 6: What is the Cancellation Policy?
No one wants to cancel a trip of a lifetime, but stuff happens. What if you get sick or miss your flight to Maun?
What if you decide you were meant to be a safari guide, and quit your job to live with the zebras?
Whatever the reason, it may be helpful to know your tour provider’s cancellation policy. Many offer free cancelations up to 24 hours before your scheduled flight.
How to Save Money When Booking an Okavango Delta Scenic Flight Tour
There are two easy ways two save money when booking your Okavango Scenic Flight Tour:
1. Book Directly through the Airline.
Skip third party providers like Travel Advisor or Viator when booking a scenic flight. If you book through your hotel, tour company, or even Trip Advisor, they are adding their booking fee or commission to the rate.
Trip Advisor had one Okavango Delta Scenic Flight Tour option, here. However, we did not like how vague the listing was nor could we tell who the provider was. The rate is $250/ person no matter how many people are on the flight. No thank you!
We saved at least $50 each by reaching out to the airlines directly and getting a rate of $400 for a private flight- that was $200 each for 2 people. We also got our first choice of tour time and date. If we added people, the cost per person was less.
By booking directly with the provider, you not only reduce booking costs, you also reduce miscommunication between providers and lost bookings and get your first choice of tour time and date.
2. Fill the Flight
As noted above, the cost of the scenic flight is nearly a total flat rate (except modified fuel prices for weight) no matter the amount of people. Ask your provider the capacity of your aircraft and whether they can help you fill any extra seats.
Our provider gave us the option of leaving the tour private to us only, or opening it up to others also looking for a scenic flight.
The providers cannot guarantee other travelers will reach out looking for a tour on the same date and time, but even if they find one additional person to join the flight, it drastically cuts back on the per person cost.
You can also work to fill those empty seats yourself!
One of the best things about travel are the people you meet. If you meet someone fun on your travels, offer them a seat on your scenic flight! Even if you offer them a super discounted rate of $40, it’s $40 saved. Just be sure to clear the added passenger with the airline first.
Time to Book!
Now that you’re a pro armed with insider info, you can confidently book your scenic flight over the Okavango Delta!