This dusty, sprawling town has been the start of expeditions into the wilds since the turn of the century, and it is now the safari capital of the country. Maun's elongated centre is
dotted with modern shops and offices, while its suburbs are mainly traditionally built, thatched rondavels. Look carefully amongst these and you'll find quite a lot which
incorporate old tin cans from drinks into their mud walls.
In the 1980s everywhere and everything here seemed geared towards the tourism bonanza. Maun had a rough-and-ready frontier feel, as contemporary cowboys rode into town from the bush in battered 4WDs. Its focal point were the camps north of town – Island Safari Lodge, Crocodile Camp, Okavango River Lodge and, of course, the Duck Inn opposite the airport.
However since then Maun has changed. Government departments moved here en masse, as Maun became the administrative centre for the northern and western parts of Botswana. The town's roads became sealed tar, rather than pot-holed gravel tracks, which opened the door to an influx of normal saloon cars from the rest of the country.
Finally the tourism product itself changed. The pendulum swung away from last-minute budget trips bought in Maun, to upmarket safaris bought in advance from overseas. The new breed of visitors just change planes here; they seldom spend more than a few hours at Maun Airport. The town is no longer the place to book a top safari; that's usually done before you arrive.
However, for those who are driving themselves, Maun remains a centre to get organised, and perhaps a place to look at what cheaper safari options are available. Thus the aim of this chapter is to help you find your way about, with the basics of where to stay and eat, and to get organised. There are banks, including a Barclays, First National and Standard Chartered, garages, well-stocked supermarkets and a number of travel agents and operators.