Almost all tourists entering the Okavango do so through Maun, situated at the gateway to the Delta and Moremi Game Reserve. Maun is the tourism capital of Botswana and the administrative centre of Ngamiland. It is also the headquarters of countless safari and air-charter operations whose signs and offices dot almost every intersection, particularly towards the airport.
Since the town's establishment in 1915 as the tribal capital of the Batawana people, Maun has had a rough and ready reputation as a hard-living 'Wild West' town servicing the local cattle ranching and hunting operations. But with the growth of the tourism industry and the completion of the tar road from Nata in the early 1990s, Maun has developed rapidly, losing much of its old frontier town character. It is now home to over 30,000 people.
Regular supplies of almost everything can be bought in Maun, and the town boasts several good shopping centres, filling stations, a choice of hotels and lodges as well as car and four-wheel-drive vehicle hire. The Maun Airport, which was officially opened in 1996 after extensive renovations, is - if one counts the light aircraft charters to the various Delta camps - one of the busiest airports in Southern Africa.
The name Maun is derived from the San word "maung", which means "the place of short reeds". The village began in 1915 as the capital for the Tawana people. The capital was moved from Toteng after glorious victory over Ndebele King Lobengula.
This metropolis is now spread out along the wide banks of the timeless Thamalakane River where red lechwe can still be seen grazing next to local donkeys, goats and cattle.