Maun is still the heart of the self-drive safari but to cater to the boom in luxury lodge tourism in Botswana the town has one of the busiest small craft airfields in Africa, servicing the remote lodges and camps in the wilderness areas.
The Maun airport is also serviced by local flights from Gaborone, Kasane and Francistown and regional flights from Johannesburg and Namibia.
Everyone who travelled the northern parks of Botswana more than 15 years ago speaks fondly of the frontier town charm of Maun and how there was only a short stretch of tar road through the town.
I personally remember during my guiding years getting stuck in front of the bank where i had been to draw money to buy groceries for a coming safari. Fortunately I had no guests with me at the time as it would have been difficult explaining my predicament to a group of people who were about to undertake a trip into the unknown with me.
Maun was established in 1915 as the capital of the Ngamiland region and over the years developed a Wild West type reputation due to the characters that lived in the area. Hunters, traders and government officials of the British colonial government all added flavour to the reputation of Maun. Out of reach of the mainstream life Maun was a place that echoed the wild frontiers of history.
Today Maun is a thriving town of shopping centres, banks and office blocks catering to the boom in the tourism industry. Now linked to the outside world by a tarmac road Maun suffers all the anxieties of modern town life. Despite this however, the donkeys and goats that have wandered the streets for generations can still be seen holding up traffic and generally creating chaos in the town.
Maun is equipped to cater for all needs of the safari industry of today. In the past luxuries were hard to come by but today they have become part and parcel of life in Maun. In recent years safari lodges have become more and more luxurious with the necessities to run these lodges becoming more demanding.
However for the adventure connoisseur there is still more than enough of the old Maun charm to be found. Some of the old establishments have maintained their original status, and even some of the new developments hark back to the Maun of old.