The Busiest Airport in Africa is Maun

Maun Airport. Jeremy Jowell
As you connect between flights at Maun Airport you will probably be unaware of the complex web of air charter arrangements in place at this tiny African hub. Maun is the tourism capital of Botswana and a very busy crossroads for those visiting the Okavango and Moremi Game Reserve. It is no accident that Maun Airport is one of the busiest in Southern Africa, and a major hub for pre-booked itineraries where people come and go with brief stopovers between flights. Bigger commercial carriers fly in regularly from other centres in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, but it's the busy comings and goings of the light aircraft charter flights that create such a buzz.

Airport Facilities at Maun

The airport has basic facilities including check-in desks, toilets, seating areas and a café, but no left luggage facility. Light aircraft charter flights allow only a small amount of luggage per person (usually 15 or 20kg / 33 or 44 pounds), any extra baggage is taken care of by the safari company being used - they will store the items on your behalf and then return them to you when you eventually depart.

Because there are no flights after sunset, Maun airport is not open at night - anyone who misses a flight can head for town which is a short distance away on foot or via bus and taxi, to find accommodation and meals.

Air Charter for Africa

You can charter flights from Maun for specific trips, but most visitors have itineraries arranged well in advance with all the inter-camp charter transfers pre-booked because it is more cost effective to do things this way and seats are limited. Air charter is big business in Africa - it really is the best solution to getting around between remote camps and destinations.

The Experience

Flying into the bush is an adventure! The planes are small and no doubt the air outside the cabin will be hot, but once you have taken off you will have a bird's eye view of the landscape and you could see wildlife in the surroundings when you come down to land. There may be more than one stop en-route to your lodge airstrip.

Once you have landed at your designated airstrip, you will be met by a ranger from your lodge who will do your road or boat transfer which may include game viewing along the way. You will usually arrive in time for the lodge's scheduled evening game drive and depart some days later after the morning safari activity. Charter pilots are a special breed and have to deal with non-traditional situations such as working with lodge staff to make sure there are no animals on the landing strip prior to take off.With air charter you essentially save travelling time so you can enjoy more safari time. Except for group bookings, the flights are booked on a seat- in-plane basis. Departure / arrival times are scheduled to accommodate daily requirements, lodge activities such as game drives and road transfers to the airstrip. Safari / lodge operators with their own air charter company can tailor a wide range of itineraries to include a number of different destinations within the group.

Many lodges have their own airstrips or they share airstrips with other lodges in the area, so co-ordination is absolutely crucial, that, and an efficient head office to oversee everything, which is where Maun comes in. Maun has mushroomed from a frontier town not unlike those in the old Wild West to the safari centre it is today, where plenty of safari operators and air charter companies have their HQ or an office.
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