Maun is a dusty, touristy town and gateway to the Okavango Delta with many day trips, accommodation options, shops and vehicle repair centres. Read this guide to find out what to do, where to eat, where to sleep and where to stay in Maun.
Maun lies in central northern Botswana. It’s 10 hours from Gaborone, 13 hours (plus ~1hr for the border) from Johannesburg and 9 hours from Windhoek. Coming from Johannesburg, Khama Rhino Sanctuary is a popular stop-off camping spot roughly halfway. Maun is well-connected by tarred roads, though the A3 highway to Nata is very potholed in places.
Maun Botswana Map
Tips for Maun
- Maun can be busy in high season (July-August) – book accommodation in advance.
- Maun is an affordable place to book a safari since the competition drives down prices (often cheaper than Kasane).
- You can rent an equipped 4×4* in Maun.
- The Tracks4Africa Botswana Map* is very useful.
- Maun is one of the best places to stock up on groceries and fuel and to organize any further plans.
- Prepare for hot days in summer, and freezing nights in winter.
- Shorts and T-shirts are fine in Maun, but the small surrounding villages are more conservative and it’s best to cover your knees.
- If you meet a local chief be respectful and remove your hat.
- Maun is a great place to relax and read some Botswanan books.
- Check out the nearby Moremi Game Reserve, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, or the Botswanan Salt Pans.
- We stopped in Maun in the middle of our two-month Botswanan road trip which you can read more about in my book*.
Maun is a town of 55,000-60,000 inhabitants. There can be numerous tourists, though the town isn’t overwhelmed and traditional Botswanan life goes on. It’s well placed to go south for the Kalahari, east to the Salt Pans or north to the Okavango Delta. It’s a good place to chill, chat to other adventurers and get advice about road conditions.
There’s accommodation for both budget and luxury tourists and several fuel stations. There are also many supermarkets to stock up on food, cafes and restaurants with good (including vegetarian) food.
The town centre is very small, clustering shops near the airport. In contrast, the lodges are spread out far along the banks of the Thamalakane River. For example, it’s unlikely you will be able to walk from your lodge to the supermarket. Be warned that if the rains are bad and the flood arrives late, for some months of the year the Thamalakane River may be very dry with just a few pools remaining.
Understand the Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is a huge inland delta composed of permanent marshes and river channels, and seasonal floodplains dotted with islands that remain dry year-round. Today a million people live in the delta region, with indigenous communities continuing their traditional lifestyles.
The water that fills the delta comes from the Angolan Highlands, with the floodwater travelling roughly 1 km per day. The water used to continue to what’s now the Botswanan Salt Pans, but was blocked through tectonic activity. Thousands of years ago, faults within and parallel to the Thamalakane River that runs through Maun caused uplift of the land to the southeast. The Okavango River reached this cliff-like barrier and could flow no further. The water backed up, bursting its banks onto the surrounding land and creating the delta.
The Three Regions of the Okavango Delta
To understand how to visit the Okavango Delta, it helps to divide the area into three regions:
- The Panhandle – a roughly 10 km wide marshy region around the Okavango (or Cubango) River. It stretches from Namibia 100 km downriver until the wetlands where the river spreads out and the delta proper begins. The tarred A33 highway runs conveniently on the western edge of the panhandle. There’s a scattering of relatively affordable lodges and camping along dirt tracks leading off from the main road. This is a great place for birdwatching and fishing though outside the protected area of the delta. This means big cat sightings are not likely but you can still have amazing encounters with elephants, hippos, crocodiles and antelope. You can also see how traditional river communities live and this can be a real highlight.
- The Inner Delta – far from any roads and only accessible by boat or plane. A true wilderness, but one reserved mainly for the rich who can afford the very steep prices of the luxury lodges that dot the islands and banks of the inner delta. There is no easy way to visit this region on a budget. For a glimpse of this animal paradise, take a scenic flight from Maun.
- The Outer Delta – relatively accessible and easy to visit from Maun. Guided mokoro (canoe) trips and game drives within Moremi Game Reserve are the best way to experience the outer delta. On mokoro trips experience the deltas watery world, and in Moremi hope to see big cats, wild dogs and more. Overnight mokoro trips involve basic camping on an island, and there are several campsites within Moremi. Bear in mind that many tracks within Moremi can be flooded and mokoro trips only happen if water levels are high enough.
Best Time to Visit the Okavango Delta
The delta floods seasonally, with water arriving in March-June and peak flood around June-August. This coincides with the middle of the dry season in Botswana, so animals flock to the delta for water.
Confusingly, the rainy season in Botswana is November-March, with afternoon thunderstorms common. The level of water in the delta and rivers can be very low at this time, though in a particularly wet rainy season these local rains can fill the delta long before the normal peak of the flood in June-August.
Okavango Delta with the Seasons
The best time to visit the Okavango Delta is in the dry season when the flood has arrived, generally from May to August. The tracks will not be wet due to rains (though could be flooded with water) and the density of animals will be high, with the concentration of game increasing towards the end of the dry season in September-October.
May and June will have pleasant temperatures, though these will drop in the night, while in September and October the heat becomes excessive but thirsty animals will constantly be around the water.
If you’re a birder, December to April, known as the ‘Green Season‘, can be the most rewarding time – it’s when migratory birds make the delta their home. Although many days may end with thunderstorms, the days can be brilliantly sunny, with none of the dust that sometimes accumulates in the dry season.
The ‘Green Season‘ is also the best time to go if you want to see the fewest other people, and many lodges have discounted prices. There are definitely still animals around, just in lower concentrations. It can be a great time, though parts of the delta may be inaccessible.
We spent six nights in Maun in the middle of our two-month overlanding trip around Botswana. We planned a long break here in case our car had issues that needed fixing, though luckily everything with our car was fine. It was also nice to have a rest, eat delicious food at the cafes and visit some cool bars. We spent most of the day relaxing at camp (we stayed at Croc Camp), reading and swimming. One day was spent on a mokoro tour into the Okavango Delta (see below), and one evening we went on a sunset cruise from our lodge along the river.
There aren’t many specific things to do in Maun, it’s mainly a hub to stock up on supplies, relax between adventures and plan further activities.
Facilities in Maun
Maun is one of the best places in Botswana in terms of facilities you might need. There are fuel stations, supermarkets, bars, cafes, restaurants, camping supplies, car repair, car hire (including fully equipped 4x4s*), travel agencies, an international airport, banks, hospitals, and laundry available. Maun and surroundings are well covered by mobile signal, and most accommodation has decent enough WiFi.
Supermarkets in Maun
There are several supermarkets in Maun. Choppies, Spar, Woolworths and a bottle store are all very close together in the centre of town. For braai meat, head to Beef Boys (+267 686 4771) or Delta Meat Deli (+267 686 1413).
Car Mechanics in Maun
There are a couple of decent car mechanics in Maun. A good first stop is Rileys Garage and Autozone. They aren’t mechanics themselves but sell many useful spare parts. They can also recommend somewhere for you to go based on your problem. Land Rovers should head to Lesedi Motors, the official Land Rover garage and dealer. It’s basically the only option in northern Botswana for serious problems. Toyotas and others should visit Delta 4×4. Other useful places include PG Glass, Tyre World, Supa Quick Tyre Experts and OME 4×4 Fitment Centre.
Things to do in Maun
Activities and Short Trips from Maun
- Boat rides on the local Thamalakane River (see below)
- Take a scenic flight from Maun airport (see below)
- Walk along the river (watch out for hippos and crocodiles). Ask your accommodation where to go and don’t walk when dark
- Bird watching (see below)
- Buy traditional crafts – wood carving and wall hangings, but mostly weaving is popular in Botswana.
- Take a weaving class at Botswana Quality Baskets or just come to admire the beautiful woven baskets in all shapes and sizes.
- Check out Motswana Cultural Centre which contains a cafe, art and curio shops and more. It also hosts events such as outdoor films and theatre with a farmers market too.
- Relax and read a book set in Botswana
Day Trips from Maun
Day trips can often be booked in Maun just a couple of days in advance. It’s easiest to book through your accommodation or one of the many safari companies in town that cluster near the airport. You can get an idea of tour options and prices here*.
- Mokoro (Canoe) trips on the delta (see below)
- Boat cruise on the delta
- Game drive to Moremi
2-3 Day Trips from Maun
2-3 day trips can also be booked in Maun with a few days’ notice. In the busiest times (July, August) it might be worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment. Again, booking through your Maun accommodation or the safari companies in town is the easiest option. You can get an idea of tour options and prices here*. You can also find longer trips that include Moremi*.
- Mokoro camping trip in the Okavango Delta – glide across the delta in a Mokoro to spend a night (or two) camping on an island. Spend the evenings and mornings on guided walks through the bush. These trips can be all-inclusive (you don’t have to provide anything) or substantially cheaper if you bring all your own gear including tents, food and camping stove.
- Overnight safari to Moremi Game Reserve – with a fully-equipped 4×4 (your own or rented), driving yourself and camping can be the cheapest option. Staying in a lodge within the Game Reserve is very expensive – ask safari operators if they have any trips where you can camp.
- Visit the beautifully stark Botswanan Salt Pans – either with an equipped 4×4 and camp within the pans, or a standard car and visit the lodges around the edges of the pans which can organize game/scenic drives to see the pans themselves.
Scenic Flights over the Okavango Delta
Scenic flights over the Okavango Delta are rather expensive, though prices can be reduced by finding a larger group. If you’re flying in to a lodge in the inner delta, you will experience similar scenery on your transit flight.
The flight operators all cluster by Maun Airport so it’s easy to walk between them to find the best deal. Remember to bring your passport for these flights. There are three real choices you need to make when considering which flight to book: 1 – plane or helicopter, 2 – for how long, 3 – what time of day.
- Helicopter tours are more expensive and often shorter, but you can get better photos because they leave the doors open – no photoing through glass.
- If you choose a plane, minimum flight times are 45 minutes, but it takes a little while to reach the most scenic areas of the delta so a 1-hour tour lets you see a lot more. Some operators have a standard flying time so you may not have a choice.
- Mornings and later afternoons are best for the light conditions. Scenic flights often only depart at these times anyway. In bad weather flights will be cancelled.
Boat Rides on the local Thamalakane River in Maun
A nice morning or late afternoon activity in Maun is a boat ride on the Thamalakane River, the one flowing through Maun. These boat trips start from several lodges and last between one and several hours. Don’t expect to see loads of animals, but waterbirds, crocodiles and hippos can be seen. You can also just enjoy being out on the water, watching the world pass by.
Mokoro Trips from Maun on the Okavango Delta
I really enjoyed the mokoro trip I went on – being on the water and hiking through the bush with a guide – seeing the animals on foot instead of our vehicle.
A mokoro (canoe) trip is a great, affordable way to get on the waters of the Okavango Delta. You can choose a one-day or multi-day trip which involves camping on an island. These mokoro trips can be organized by your lodge, or at one of the many safari companies in town. You often don’t have to book more than a couple of days in advance. Prices don’t vary much, since there’s a central organization of polers (the people who push the mokoro along with their pole) who charge a fixed fee.
Most of the time in the mokoro you won’t see much game because you have a very low vantage point and the density of wildlife isn’t that high near where the mokoro trips start. You also won’t get very far because it’s quite slow going and hard work for the polers. What you do get is a closeup of the water, pushing through thick reeds, finding pods of hippos and beautiful lilies.
Tips for a Mokoro Trip
From November to March the water levels in the delta can be too low for mokoro trips so they don’t happen. If it has rained a lot locally, it may still be possible.
Make sure to take a sunhat – there’s little shade out on the water and the sun will beat strongly down in the middle of the day. Also put on a lot of sunscreen and wear sunglasses – water can reflect the rays back into your face.
You might prefer to wear long trousers: various insects and many (harmless) spiders tend to drop on your legs from the reeds. Insect repellent is also important. Remember binoculars and camera, though if you’re concerned about splashing from the water (of which there’s a little), bring a secure waterproof bag.
You can potentially go swimming in certain areas. Obviously check with your guide beforehand as there could be crocodiles and hippos lurking close by. Your guide will know where it’s safest.
On a day trip you’ll be driven from your lodge to the starting point of the mokoros in a traditional Botswana village close to Maun. You’ll be on the mokoro for a few hours before reaching an island. You’ll go on a walk, ranging from 30 minutes to two hours, looking for game.
After the walk you’ll probably have a simple lunch before returning to the mokoro for the return trip. We did a day mokoro trip and saw a gorgeous male red lechwe, tsessebe, wildebeest and three large male elephants that were very interested in us and our lunch!
2-3 Day Trips
Overnight trips are possible, sleeping in a very basic camp on an island. These allow you to go on walking safaris early morning and late in the evenings when the animals, predators especially, are more active. The rest of the trip is similar to the one-day trip. It’s a very affordable way to spend the night out in the bush, far from any vehicles and surrounded by animals.
You can either book an all-inclusive trip where food and tent will be provided, or you can bring your own and cook for yourselves. This second option significantly lowers the cost, but you do have to have the necessary items. You can’t sleep out without a tent.
Birdwatching in Maun
We saw many birds at our own campsite. These included a Bennetts woodpecker, woodland kingfishers, red-headed barbet, Merves starlings, Black-collared Barbets, crimson-breasted shriek, crested barbets, mynahs and many more. Many of the lodges have lush vegetation so you don’t have to go far for the birds.
On a boat cruise along the Thamalakane River we saw fish eagles, spoonbills, a giant kingfisher, spotted thick-knees, white-faced whistling ducks, many other ducks, geese and wading birds.
Additionally, birdwatching walks (4 hours) are organized by The Old Bridge Backpackers and take place on the outskirts of Maun.
Restaurants, bars and cafes in Maun
Cafes – open for breakfast and lunch
- Dusty Donkey Cafe (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Near the airport, coffee, cakes, salads, burgers, all delicious. Homemade bread on some days. Not open evenings.
- Marc’s Eatery (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – delicious food, including vegetarian, reminiscent of a hipster cafe in Cape Town. Good WiFi. Not open evenings.
- Motsana Cafe (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Cafe in a cultural centre with good coffee, many light dishes and free wifi. Not open evenings.
- Hilary’s (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Hidden just off the main road by the airport, great restaurant serves coffee and delicious food (including vegetarian). Not open evenings.
- Akacia Cafe (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Lovely cafe with everything from coffee to pizza. Open early evenings.
- The Duck Cafe and Bar (Website) – Just opposite the airport, good service, nice food, lots of drinks to choose from, free wifi. Open later than most other cafes.
Restaurants and Bars – open evenings
- Tandurei Indian Restaurant (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Great food, good atmosphere.
- Okavango Craft Brewery (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – great beer brewed onsite, nice outdoor seating and good food.
- Il Pomodoro (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Italian restaurant near the airport.
- Runway 08 (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Meat-heavy restaurant, also plenty of other options.
- Old Bridge Backpackers (see accommodation below) bar and pizza oven, good vegetarian options, nice river views.
- Crocodile Camp (see accommodation below) – cool vibes at the bar with great river views, food available.
- Permanently closed: Pizza Plus Coffee & Curry (open in Kasane), French Connection, Tshilli Cafe and Farmstall, Chutney Indian Restaurant
Accommodation in Maun
Affordable Hotels & Lodges without Camping
There are many accommodation options in and around Maun, from hotels and guesthouses in the centre to bush camps, farms and more luxurious lodges out of town. All can organize activities.
- Cresta Hotel (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – A hotel with a slight conference feel rather than a lodge vibe, but has a nice pool and good WiFi.
- Cresta Riley’s Hotel (Website, Booking Reviews*) – hotel with pool and restaurant near the centre of town.
- Maun Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*) – slightly conference feel, but bar has vibes and great river views.
Guesthouses & BnBs
- Maun Studios (Website, Booking Reviews*) – nice rooms, delicious breakfast and many birds in the garden.
- Queness Inn (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – Small inn with self-catering rooms with DSTV and WiFi.
- Discovery Bed and Breakfast (Website, Booking Reviews*) – 16 km from Maun on the way to Moremi, rondavels and chalets set around a central outdoor campfire, with pool, bar, coffee, WiFi. Near the river, many birds, can be a little noise from the campfire at night.
- Enviro Villa (Website, Booking Reviews*) – Nice hotel with good WiFi right in front of a lagoon in the river.
- Jump Street Chalets (Website, Booking Reviews*) – chalets, pool, restaurant, WiFi.
- Acacia Cottage (Booking Reviews*) – self-catering cottages with good wifi and a nice outdoor area and pool.
- Phazama Farm (Website, Booking Reviews*) – Self-catering chalets in the relaxing countryside with lovely views, 20 km along dirt roads from Maun.
- Tshima Bush Camp (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – a small lodge with meru-style luxury tents, 30 km southwest of Maun in the bush yet close to the highway. Great food.
- The Waterfront Guesthouse (Website, Booking Reviews*) – Lovely guesthouse on the banks of the river with pool, wifi, TV, tasty breakfasts, activities include horseriding.
- The Tshilli Farm Lodge (Website) – Boutique lodge with lovely chalets and nice views in the countryside, 20 km along dirt roads from Maun.
- Boteti Tented Safari Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*) – Nice lodge in the bush 16 km south of Maun.
- Thamalakane River Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*) – 19km out of Maun in relative wilderness on the way to Moremi, on the expensive side of affordable. Lovely riverside views and rather fancy restaurant. WiFi, pool.
- Semowi Farm (Website, Booking Reviews*) – 30km from Maun on the way to Moremi with luxury tents overlooking the river, on a farm with dogs, goats and chickens.
- Royal Tree Lodge (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – All-inclusive luxury lodge in the bush in a private nature reserve, horseriding a speciality.
Affordable Lodges with Camping
Classic affordable lodges aimed at self-drivers, with camping available and many activities on offer.
We stayed at Crocodile Camp, which is slightly pricier (P220 pppn compared to around P110 at some other places) but all campsites have private ablutions and washup facilities, and they have a great bar. Their WiFi was fine most of the time. Next time in Maun I think I would choose Island Safari Lodge* because it’s in a small private reserve and they have walking trails and offer guided night walks.
List of Lodges with Camping
- Old Bridge Backpackers (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – overlooking hippo pool, cool bar, restaurant with pizza oven, well-equipped kitchen for self-caters. Some chalets overlook river, can be loud on weekends.
- Audi Camp (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – 12 km from Maun on the way to Moremi on the banks of the river. Lodge includes camping, and basic to luxury pre-setup tents and rooms. Bar, restaurant, pool, good WiFi.
- Crocodile Camp Safari & Spa (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – long-time lodge with chalets (some overlooking the river) and grassy campsites. Lovely bar with great river views that’s popular on the weekends and nice swimming pool.
- Sitatunga Camp (Website, Booking Reviews*) – 12km southwest of Maun with Meru-style tents, chalets or camping.
- Island Safari Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*) – Nice, shady lodge with chalets and camping on the banks of the river in a protected reserve, 10 km from Maun. Restaurant and bar, walking trails and guided night walks.
- Sedia Riverside Hotel (Website, Booking Reviews*) – Rooms, cottages, camping with a good restaurant and beautiful pool.
- Drifters Maun Camp (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – 30km east of Maun on the A3 by the banks of the Boteti River. Pre-setup tents or camping, bar and restaurant.
- Mochaba Crossing Lodge (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*) – 30 km north of Maun near Moremi, with ensuite rooms, pre-setup tents and camping.
- Semowi Campsites (Website, Booking Reviews*) – next to Semowi Farm lodge and sharing facilities such as a pool.
Guidebooks & Maps to Explore More of Botswana
The Lonely Planet Guidebook* covers all of Botswana, but not in much detail. The Bradt Guide* has a wealth of information and is great for planning a safari around northern Botswana, but doesn’t cover southern Botswana. The Tracks4Africa Map* is an essential item for driving around the country and its national parks. For more information, see our Best Botswana Guidebooks article.
We stopped at Maun in the middle of our two-month road trip around Botswana. You can find out more by reading the travel adventure book I wrote, No Footprints in the Night: On Safari in Botswana*.
FAQS – Maun
Maun comes from ‘maung’, a word in the local Seyei language meaning ‘the place of river reeds’.
Maun is generally quite safe, but don’t walk alone or in a small group at nighttime along the river. Crocodiles and hippos are the biggest danger, but theft can sometimes occur.