The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Maun

Welcome to Maun, Botswana, the charming gateway to one of the world's most spectacular natural wonders—the Okavango Delta. As the fifth largest city in Botswana, Maun boasts a population of 84,993 inhabitants as of 2022 and offers a unique blend of cultural richness and natural beauty. Let's dive into what makes this city a must-visit destination for travelers.

Maun, founded in 1915, is located in the northern part of Botswana, on the southeastern edge of the Okavango Basin.

This strategic location has earned it the nickname “Gate to the Okavango Delta.” Spanning approximately 150 square kilometers, Maun serves as the most important starting point for safaris into the breathtaking Okavango Delta.

In this article, I share all you need to know when when planning to visit Maun.

The Thamalakane River: Lifeline of Maun

Central to Maun’s charm and significance is the Thamalakane River, which runs through the town. This river is a key feature in the intricate water system that makes up the Okavango Delta.

A Boat Cruise Along the Thamalakane River
A Boat Cruise Along the Thamalakane River

The Thamalakane River is formed by the confluence of the Boro and Gomoti rivers, which carry the seasonal floodwaters from the Okavango Delta. As these waters flow through Maun, they continue to shape the landscape, providing sustenance to the local flora and fauna and creating a lush, green environment amidst the otherwise arid region.

The Thamalakane River not only enhances the natural beauty of Maun but also supports a variety of recreational activities. Visitors can enjoy leisurely boat trips on the river, providing a peaceful way to observe the diverse birdlife and enjoy the scenic views. The riverbanks are perfect for picnics, walks, and photography, making it a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

Maun: A Growing Tourism Hub

Maun has grown rapidly from its early days as a small, rural frontier town and has now spread along the wide, usually dry Thamalakane River.

The town now boasts good shopping centers, hotels, and lodges, as well as car and four-wheel drive vehicle hire. Despite its growth, Maun retains a rural atmosphere and a raw edge, reflecting its role as the hub of the Delta’s safari industry.

Two of the most recent developments in Maun includes the launch of the Delta Palms mall and the latest addition Mall of Maun which bring in more options of stores to buy from in Maun.

Mall of Maun During Opening
Mall of Maun During Opening

Grizzled hunters and khaki-clad guides amble from supply stores, big 4×4 trucks grind their way into the bush, and local tribesmen still bring their cattle here to sell to either Botswana Meat Commission or other private abattoirs.

You might see antelopes grazing the quieter riverbanks and certainly dodge donkeys and goats on the main road.

Things to Do in Maun

Despite its relatively small size, Maun offers a variety of activities that cater to different interests.

Here are some highlights:

Helicopter Scenic Flights

One of the best ways to appreciate the vastness and beauty of the Okavango Delta is from the air. Helicopter tours provide an unparalleled bird’s-eye view of the intricate waterways, lush landscapes, and diverse wildlife.

Elephant haven Trip with Helicopter Horizons
Elephant haven Trip with Helicopter Horizons

It’s an unforgettable experience that should be at the top of your list. Helicopter Horizons offers some great packages to Elephant Havens you can enjoy.

Cultural Excursions

For those interested in immersing themselves in local culture, Maun offers several options:

  • City Tours: Explore the charming streets of Maun, visit local markets, and discover the town’s unique blend of traditional and modern elements.
  • Museums and Shops: Delve into the history and culture of Botswana by visiting local museums. Shop for traditional crafts and souvenirs in the bustling markets.

Mokoro and Boat Trips

Experience the tranquility of the delta up close with a traditional mokoro (dugout canoe) ride or a boat trip.

Glide through the serene waters of the Thamalakane River, surrounded by lush vegetation and the sounds of nature. It’s a peaceful way to observe the wildlife and take in the stunning scenery.

Accommodation in Maun

Maun offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences:

  • Basic Accommodations: For price-conscious travelers, there are several budget-friendly options that provide comfortable and convenient stays.
  • Luxury Lodges: For those seeking a more lavish experience, Maun has luxurious hotels and lodges that offer top-notch amenities and services. These accommodations often provide stunning views and easy access to the delta.

Maun’s Infrastructure and Amenities

Since the town’s establishment in 1915 as the tribal capital of the Batawana people, Maun has had a rough and ready reputation as a hard-living ‘Wild West’ town servicing the local cattle ranching and hunting operations.

But with the growth of the tourism industry and the completion of the tar road from Nata in the early 1990s, Maun has developed rapidly, losing much of its old frontier town character. It is now home to over 84,000 people.

Regular supplies of almost everything can be bought in Maun, and the town boasts several good shopping centers, filling stations, a choice of hotels and lodges, as well as car and four-wheel-drive vehicle hire.

Maun’s airport, which was officially opened in 1996 after extensive renovations, is one of the busiest airports in Southern Africa, especially if one counts the light aircraft charters to the various Delta camps.

Best Time to Visit Maun

Maun is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit, especially if you’re planning to explore the Okavango Delta, is from May to October.

During these months, the southern hemisphere experiences winter, which brings more pleasant temperatures compared to the hot summer months from November to April. This period is also ideal for wildlife viewing as the delta’s water levels are higher, attracting a wide variety of animals.

Highlights of Maun

Maun’s strategic location makes it the perfect starting point for exploring the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world. Whether you’re embarking on a safari or spending a few days in town, you can look forward to a range of leisure activities that offer a taste of the local culture and natural beauty.

The city’s unique landscape, characterized by scattered clay huts and modern shopping facilities, provides an authentic glimpse into the heart of Africa.

Other areas of interest in and around Maun include the small Maun Educational Park, which covers just 8 km² of woodland. It follows the Thamalakane riverbank upstream from the Cresta Riley’s Hotel and includes the original “Place of River Reeds” from which the town takes its name. The reserve is open every day and is traversed by numerous walking trails for which a small entrance fee is charged.

Visit Maun and Enjoy The Gateway to The Okavango Delta

Maun is more than just a gateway to the Okavango Delta; it’s a destination in its own right. With its blend of cultural experiences, stunning natural landscapes, and a variety of activities, Maun offers something for every traveler.

Whether you’re taking to the skies in a helicopter, exploring the town’s cultural treasures, or embarking on a peaceful boat trip, Maun promises an unforgettable adventure. Plan your visit and discover the magic of this unique Botswana city.