Maun

Botswana’s tourism capital lies on the southern fringes of the Okavango Delta, and still, despite recent modernisations, carries the feeling of a dusty, frontier town. For many tourists, Maun is the point of entry into the Delta, and often into Botswana, with direct flights from both Johannesburg and Gaborone.

Maun is the administrative centre of Ngamiland District and the seat of power of the Batawana people. The Batawana are an off shoot of the Bangwato of Serowe. Following a chieftainship dispute in the late 18th century, Kgosi (chief) Tawana and his people left Serowe and settled in Ngamiland, first establishing their capital at Lake Ngami, then Toteng,then Tsao and finally, in 1915, in Maun. Ngamiland District comprises a fascinating variety of ethnic groups: the Hambukushu, Basubiya and Bayei – all of central African origins, who know the Okavango intimately, having expertly exploited and utilised its abundant resources for centuries. There are also the Banoka – the River Bushmen, who are the Okavango’s original inhabitants, the Bakgalagadi, and the Baherero, who originate from Namibia, and whose women can be seen wearing brightly coloured victorian style dresses as they stroll along the town roads, or sit outside their traditional rondavels.

Frequently, the ‘people’ side of the Okavango is overlooked, with tourists merely using Maun as a transit point to embark for the Delta. However, exploring the traditional villages along the western fringes of the Delta, in the panhandle area, is worth the time and effort, and for many tourists, becomes a real highlight of their travels in Botswana.

The dramatic surge in the numbers of tourists coming to Botswana in the 1980s brought equally dramatic changes to Maun. Safari companies abound, and their signposts dot the sandy parking lots. Modern malls, shops, hotels and guesthouses have sprung up everywhere; and now virtually any food item – from champagne, French cheeses, and chocolates down to commonplace necessities – can be purchased.

Today you can enjoy wilderness and wildlife by day and watch high tech DvDs by night, or walk into old government offices straight out of the colonial era.

Meanwhile, the timeless Thamalakane River meanders lazily through the town, setting the scene and mood for what lies ahead.

Wildlife Viewing

Maun Wildlife Educational Park
This small reserve, situated on the outskirts of the town, holds a variety of antelope and small mammals, but no predators; visitors do their gameviewing on foot.

Okavango Swamps Crocodile Farm
Adult, juvenile and baby crocodiles can be seen up close and personal at this commercial farm about 15 kilometres from Maun, on the Sehitwa Road.

Cultural Tours

Bayei Cultural Tours
A two to three hour tour to Sixaxa, a Bayei village about 30 minutes drive from Maun, familiarises visitors with traditional village life; they are invited to participate in typical chores, such as pounding maize or cooking over an open fire. Demonstrations are given on traditional tool-making, craftmaking, basket-making, music and dance, and visitors may be invited to try traditional cuisine.

Natural History

Nhabe Museum
This small but interesting museum has displays on the arts, crafts and natural history of Botswana.

Arts And Crafts

Shopping options are constantly expanding in Maun, and it hosts a number of conventional arts and crafts shops that sell a variety of products from Botswana and other African countries. Most are situated in the centre of Maun or at the airport. At the town’s outskirts, there are cottage industries where visitors can shop and watch village craft-makers at work.

 

Botswana Quality Baskets

Shoppers can watch village basketmakers at work, and buy quality hand-woven baskets; situated at Matlapaneng, just outside Maun.

Sibanda's Crafts

Sibanda’s crafts produces handpainted, hand-stitched cotton textiles, such as tablecloths, table runners, cushion covers, placemats, rugs and wall hangings; situated on the Shorobe Road, just before the Sedia Hotel.

Okavango Ceramics

Pottery, both hand-made and handpainted, along with paper and soaps provide an unusual array of products; situated on the Shorobe Road.

The Velvet Dust Might

This factory produces a wide range of hand-dyed cotton clothing, household items, bead and wire arts,metalwork and silver jewellery. it also has a coffee shop selling home-made breads and cakes; situated on the Shorobe Road at the Okavango River Lodge turn-off .

Dune

Dune sells locally made clothing, jewellery and accessories; situated in Maun’s old Mall.

 
Photographs
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