Maun: the pearl of Botswana and the gateway to the Okavango Delta
Traveling to Maun is as refreshing as the vivid image painted by Adam and Eve in the The Garden of Eden as seen in the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, the Book of Genesis. Well, let’s assume you’ve been leaving under a rock, and you absolutely have no clue where Maun is, or you may simply be a tourist fresh from overseas visiting our landlocked country Botswana! Maun, often referred to as the main gateway to the Okavango Delta is Botswana’s primary tourism hub, with good accommodation and a reliably mad mix of bush pilots, tourists, campers, volunteers and luxury-safari-philes, situated 861km away from the capital city, Gaborone via Serowe and Letlhakane.
Maun is a town on the Thamalakane River in northern Botswana. It’s the jumping-off point for the vast inland Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush wildlife habitat during the seasonal floods. In the delta, safari camps dot the Moremi Game Reserve, which is home to hippos, lions and rhinos. In the town, the Nhabe Museum features local art, plus history and culture exhibits about the surrounding Ngamiland region.
Saturday, 30th December 2017
But why Maun?” My colleague, @MadisaFils asked me as we excitedly loaded all our gear preparing to embark on this highly-anticipated adventure.
But…why not!?” I replied, reminding him that for us bloggers every lesser-known destination is a beautiful gem waiting to be discovered.
Our journey began in Gaborone on December 30th, around 0500hrs, traveling on the A1 road, branching off in Palapye headed towards the Bangwato capital and President Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s hometown, Serowe. It is traveling to Maun by road that one truly gets to appreciate the vastness of our country, Botswana. The landscape also changes from time to time.
A quick refuelling was done in Serowe, before we got back on the road headed towards Rakops, also known as Tsienyane, a village in Central District of Botswana, located south-west of Makgadikgadi Pan, and also the home to the famous opportune photo opportunity – the adorable and iconic trees which stand side-by-side on the tarmac road.
The road is lonely albeit extremely scenic, with the occasional tourists’ 4X4 GP vehicles laden with all the goodies, some getting in and out of the Makgadikgadi Pans or Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about traveling, it’s that your experience will always be 10x richer when you have the expertise of a local offering their native suggestions and tips.
However, being an avid travel blogger, having already covered a thousand kilometres of our vast country, Botswana, coming back to Maun was truly a tranquil exploit.
Beyond its physical beauty, Botswana is such a fascinating country to explore, because though small in population, it’s large in diversity.
We reached Letlhakane, a village located south of Mmatshumo, where we refuelled again before heading out on the lonely road to Maun. The amount of stray domestic animals such as cows, horses and donkeys on this road will humble you, and this is where one needs maximum concentration behind the steering wheel.
At times, these animals remain brazen on the road, and minimal driving speeds are required from time to time. Also, one needs to be wary of the rampant potholes on the road just before Chanoga, a few kilometres afore entering Maun. These potholes are awfully life-threatening, one is forced to drive zigzag at very minimal speed. Some are extremely deep, measuring 200cm apart and slightly 30cm deep.
Anyway, we arrived safely in Maun a few minutes after 11am, and headed straight to the Maun Sports Complex where, Medumo Entertainment hosted a gig aptly tagged #MonateKoMotjing featuring South African legendary mix-master, DJ Ganyani and the blazing new kid on the block, Prince Kaybee alongside a host of Botswana talented musicians and disc jockeys such as Han-C, Ban-T, Vee, ATI, Cue, Gouveia, Team Distant, Kast, Cupid, Mapetla, Root and Colastraw among others.
One noticeable variance about Maun is the searing heat, a typical high temperature that “gets the pig out of its pigsty (paddock)”, as verbalized in Setswana (mogote oo ntshang kolobe mo hokong) – hence our recommendation to would-be Maun travellers to pack sunscreen, drinks lots of water, stay under the shade or simply go for a swim in any of the hotels’ pools.
However, stay away from swimming in any of the stagnant waters or natural ponds lest you become a meal for the hungry crocodiles or get attacked by hippos.
The mosquitoes here are quite unfriendly too, and they ferociously bite, so best you pack some mosquito repellents. Maun being a wonderfully hot and humid time of the year especially this summer, with the rainy season and along with it, mosquito season, there are large pools where one can only guess thousands of mosquito eggs were hatching every day. And then they show up at 3am – that high-pitched buzzing whining in my ear as I attempted to sleep.
We checked into the new Cresta Maun hotel, an 83-bedroomed establishment situated 10km away from the town’s centre, on the banks of the Thamalakane River, at the southern end of the Okavango Delta. Still novel and home to several bird species, Cresta Maun offers a tranquil setting from which visitors can explore the wonders of Botswana.
After refreshing from the long and winding Gaborone – Maun trip, we joined the natives of Maun at the stadium for some epic fun and vibes until 6am the next day. Arriving at this gig, one would have assumed the capital city had temporarily relocated to Maun, as every single city slicker one can think of, including the Mayor of Gaborone, His Worship Kagiso Calvin Thutlwe, Women’s 400m Olympic medallist, Amantle Montsho and several other members of café society were present here.
The six-to-six music festival organised by Medumo Entertainment and proudly sponsored by Orange Botswana and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) was truly impressive. At some point the spirited revellers danced in the rain, as the sizzling music from atop the stage flowed through their veins.
We left the stadium around 6am headed towards our place of abode, Maun Cresta hotel and the rain drizzled as a refreshing relief from the Maun summer’s heat, as steam rose from the road – an evaporation that became visible when the rain made contact with the heated tarmac.
We arrived at the hotel and in no time hit the sack, our energies depleted courtesy of the lit #MonatekoMotjing festivities.
Sunday, 31st December 2017
The warm ball of light filtered through my thin eyelids awaking me on the first day of my working vacation. Rays of brightness cast squares onto the glossy tiled floor, reflecting onto several objects in the room which decorated its otherwise simplicity. I blinked a few times, in an attempt to help my eyes adjust to the illumination directed right at my defenceless figure. The warm glow was mesmerizing, a treasure in a normally grey bleak world.
The time must have been around 10am but it was already hot in the room. I literally dragged myself out of bed, quickly took a shower and joined my colleague (@MadisaFils) for lunch, demolishing a sumptuously stewed and juicy Cresta Maun oxtail, pap and morogo. Conversations at the banquet table revolved around last night’s outstanding #MonatekoMotjing festivities – an incredible kudos to the natives of Maun for their overwhelming support as the organisers affirmed recording over 10, 000 turnout.
We decided to drive around the village of Maun, looking for a few activities to indulge in or simply a nice spot to chill out since it was already New Year’s Eve. Several pleasure trips came to mind such as doing a game drive at Moremi Game Reserve, taking a boat cruise in the Thamalakane River or simply joining the natives at the famous spot, Big Tree located in the banks of Thamalakane River just behind Botswana Housing Cooperation (BHC) houses. The spot is so popular such that droves of fun lovers across the country congest it every holiday to have fun and pass time.
Well, we all know that time flies when you’re having fun and none of the above-mentioned was achieved. We ended up at Motsebe Backpackers, where our friends had setup a tented camp. The place offers a lovely view of the Thamalakane River and also has a hammock where guests can grab a book and laze the hot and humid evening away.
While everybody decided to drive a few kilometres out of Maun to an all-night-long bash hosted at Country Farm, we simply chilled at Motsebe Backpackers for some beer and braai, and conversations around the table with our friends, as we listened to the sounds of nature by the river until the New Year arrived.
The mosquitoes out here were on a rage but luckily and thanks to the friendly Motsebe Backpackers staff, we were given repellents to keep the raging mosquitoes at bay. A few hours after the New Year – around 2am to be precise, we returned to our place of abode for some well-deserved rest, ready to conquer the first day of 2018, renewed and all cheery!
Monday, 1st January 2018
Our day began with the customary hotel breakfast – taming the hectic morning after last night! One thing we visibly noticed about Maun was that – time whooshed by faster than our clocks. At one point you’re having breakfast and the next thing it’s already lunchtime, so we did everything fast. Being the first of the year, our colleagues at Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) had courteously invited us to the annual Wine and Whisky Jamboree held at Chanoga-Lek-A-Valley Farm, organised by Mochaena Kepadisa.
After chilling by the Cresta Maun hotel pool side imbibing some thirst quenchers, we left for Chanoga where Maun natives and several Gaborone city slickers had gathered en masse to welcome the brand new year 2018 in style. What a toast of a party this was. This place was jam-packed by the time we arrived around 1500hrs until 11pm when we decided to leave, scared of the massive traffic at the venue.
We left Maun the next day, truly smitten about the unprecedented evolution of indigenous tourism and how many Batswana have decided to holiday in Botswana – a welcome move if you ask me, and clearly a richly deserved booster to our local coffers! Until next time, well done Maun!