Empty mokoro on the Okavango Delta at runrise
travel guide

Maun, Botswana: wildlife, safaris and local crafts

Deb Hendricks

Contributing writer

Planning a trip to Maun? Here are our top picks...

Stay: Boteti Tented Safari Lodge

Experience: Okavango Delta mokoro tour

Safari: 3-day Okavango Delta safari

One-day safari: Moremi Game Reserve

Maun, Botswana is an entryway to the world of Northern Botswana. It lies on the edge of the spectacular Okavango Delta, and is often overlooked as a destination in its own right.

As well as having easy access to the Okavango Delta, which contains the incredible Moremi Game Reserve, Maun is a starting point for other wildly popular excursions.

These include the famous and exquisite Chobe National Park and the equally irresistible Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It’s easy to see how the village of Maun can get lost in the shuffle.

But there is a lot to see in and around the town itself, and this guide to exploring Maun is going to make sure that you see it all!

A family of elephants at a water hole in Chobe National Park

Why Maun is a don’t-miss destination

The village of Maun is located on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, about 850 km (528 miles) northwest of Botswana’s capital city of Gaborone. This puts it in the northern quarter of Botswana, where the desert transitions into the lush green wonderland of the Delta.

Though it used to have a bit of a lawless “Wild, wild west” sort of reputation, in the last few decades Maun has settled well into its position as the centre of the safari industry. 

If you are planning a safari into the Okavango Delta and the Moremi Game Reserve, or a trip through Chobe National Park, Maun will be your starting point. It might be a stopping point midway, as well, if you’re also touring the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Now that Maun has grown out of its backwater-town beginnings, it’s home to a wide selection of accommodations, restaurants, and shops. You should be able to find whatever supplies you might need if you’re planning an independent trip into the Delta.

Unfortunately, many people do just bounce through, spending only enough time in Maun to meet up with their tour group or to load their rental vehicle up with food and water. This is a mistake and you won’t regret setting aside at least a few days to spend exploring the town and its surrounding area. 

A pub and trees along a street in Maun, Botswana

You’ll get the opportunity to meet some of the friendly Tswana people, become familiar with the town that more than 85,000 of them call home, and have a chance to say that you stopped on the highway to watch an elephant or a giraffe snack nearby.

You can expect to see donkeys milling around town, and wake up to the sounds of their braying. And nobody bats an eye if a small family of horses wanders along a side street or is seen grazing along a centre median.

Maun is a town with an interesting degree of dichotomy in other areas, as well. While it has modern lodges, homes, and rental accommodations, with conveniences like indoor bathrooms with running water, it also has areas of tin-roofed, cinder-block houses. These may have electricity, but no indoor plumbing. Although, you’ll only rarely see one without a satellite dish outside. 

You can learn a lot simply by wandering around Maun and chatting to the people you meet, but there is also the option of doing a cultural tour if you prefer.

A kingfisher with a fish at the Chobe River, Botswana

Best time to visit Maun

There really is no bad time to explore Maun! There are year round water sources and perennial wildlife populations, if that’s where your interest lies. Saying that, depending on what you’re looking for, there are better times to visit for certain activities.

May though August brings cool, dry winter temperatures. The lowest temps tend to be in July, when temperatures will be around 9-26ºC (48.2-78.8ºF). At times they can even dip below freezing. 

At the other end of the spectrum, November through March is all summer heat and rain. You can expect summer temps of about 21-38ºC (69.8-100ºF), though highs of up to 44ºC (111ºF) do happen. January and February see the heaviest rains.

The rainy months are not a constant deluge every day, but if you’ll be driving on dirt roads, for example, things do get a little sloppy. But if you’re hoping to see the amazing birdlife in the area, this is the perfect time to do it.

Peak tourism season in the area is wintertime, from July through October. This is when the weather is the best and the animals are easiest to spot. It’s also when there is the largest selection of activities available at the lodges, and the most need to book them as early as possible

Although, prices go up, safari vehicles are plentiful throughout the Okavango Delta and the national parks. 

During these months, the streets of Maun are teeming with safari goers, shopping for supplies and killing time until their tour starts.

An aerial view of elephants in Okavango Delta, Botswana

Things to do in Maun

See the Okavango Delta with a scenic flight

This is an amazing way to explore Maun and see the Okavango Delta in its entirety. The sight of the nearly 5 million acres of waterways and floodplains that make up the world’s largest inland delta is heart-stoppingly beautiful.

Whether you choose a small plane or a helicopter tour, it’s an incredible experience. In addition to the stunning scenery, there’s no end to the possible wildlife sightings you could have while you soar through the air.  

Nhambe Museum

While you explore Maun, a great first stop is the small Nhabe Museum on Sir Seretse Khama Road. Its purpose is to encourage current local artists and to conserve the Ngamiland culture that their creations are built on.

Here you’ll find historical crafts, traditional clothing, and musical instruments, as well as artwork and photographs. The museum is also the location of Bailey’s Art Centre, a workshop for local artists and outlet where they can sell their creations.

Experience the Okavango Delta from the water

A mokoro trip along the waterways of the Okavango Delta is an something you don’t want to miss!

A mokoro is a local canoe, traditionally carved from an African ebony or sausage tree, though now usually made of fiberglass. Local tribes use them to navigate through the Delta and along the Chobe River.

You can arrange a trip through your accommodation or directly through the community trust, and see what it’s like to float through the papyrus, tall reeds, and water lilies.

Your poler will do all the work while you relax and enjoy listening to the birds and keeping a lookout for wildlife!

Craft shops in a bright yellow building in Maun, Botswana

Check out the Local Arts and Crafts

Directly across the road from the Maun airport is the upscale African Arts and Images shop. You can get some beautiful photographic prints, African carvings, art, and a small selection of lovely books on Botswana.

Right next door is the more casual Bushman Craft Shop. In addition to the crafts and the tourist T-shirts is some good quality safari wear, hats, and sunglasses, and some useful books and maps.

The Craft Centre, on Mophane Road is also worth a stop. The centre has workshops and occasionally small exhibitions, and there is a kiln on site. 

Paper is also made on the premises. You can buy the locally made pottery and paper products, as well as textiles and paintings.

Meet the baby elephants at Elephant Haven

This elephant orphanage is a 35 minute drive - or taxi ride - outside of Maun. This is amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with their little charges.

You can also learn about the baby elephants and their stories, and hear what goes into their care from their expert care givers. 

See meerkats in the wild!

Take a trip out to Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, about a 2 and a half hour drive southeast of Maun. Here you will find wild meerkats who are accustomed enough to the presence of people that you can walk among them and they won’t run away.

This is an incredible opportunity to observe these funny little creatures yourself and see the antics they get up to.

You can take a drive through the park yourself, or arrange a trip through any of the lodges in the area. Planet Baobab is a favourite!

A cow crossing the road in Botswana

How to get to Maun

Getting to Maun, from elsewhere in Botswana or from your home country, couldn't be easier.

Its position as the centre of tourism for the area means that Maun has its own little international airport. The airport is located right at the edge of town, and you might even be able to walk to your accommodation when you arrive. 

If you’re travelling to Maun from Gaborone or elsewhere in Botswana, another option is to ask a local taxi driver to take you to Maun. This is a service that some drivers offer, and is a great way to go if you can negotiate a price that suits you both. It’s about a 600 km (360 mile) trip.

Public buses are also available to travel to Maun from Gaborone or other African towns. There are a few choices when it comes to bus service, including AT and T Monnakgotla Transport and NKK Express.

Another popular option if you’re already in Botswana is to rent a car and drive yourself. A few words of advice if you decide to go this route.

First, watch for wildlife on the road! Second, try not to be on the highways at night. Animals like elephants are incredibly difficult to see in the dark. In fact, some rental companies include a clause stating this in their contract.

And finally, get the tire insurance. Botswana’s potholes are epic, and can cause real damage to a car, even beyond a puncture. That damage can get expensive.

An outdoor lounge at a safari lodge near Maun, Botswana

Where to stay in Maun

Make it easier to explore Maun by staying close by. There are many lodges, guest houses, and campsites in and around town for every budget.

Boteti Tented Safari Lodge is an excellent choice on the banks of the Boteti River, and is only 14.5 km (9 miles) from the centre of Maun.

Aside from having an airport shuttle, a pool, and free WiFi, they offer a fantastic range of activities, from mokoro trips and game viewing to scenic flights and spa procedures.

A more budget friendly option is Staymorr Boutique Guesthouse. This highly rated spot is only 5.5 km (3.4 miles) from the town centre. They too offer free WiFi, pool and free parking.

You can also make use of their barbeque grills or the self-serve laundry. The rooms are clean, cool, and comfortable; a lovely respite after busy days of exploring.

Final thoughts

Don’t make the mistake of bouncing through Maun without seeing what it has to offer. If you don’t have time to visit each place on this list, pick one or two. And then try to squeeze in one more!

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Deb Hendricks

Author - Deb Hendricks

After years of travelling, Africa is the one place that Deb can’t get enough of. According to Deb, there’s no place in the world that has more to offer a traveller.

Last Updated 4 September 2023

Herd of gemsbok with pink storm clouds at sunset in Nxai Pan, Botswana


Renowned for its wildlife, culture and contrasting landscapes, Botswana one of the most exciting countries to visit in Africa.