Plans by the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) to transform the Maun Education Park (MEP) into a multimillion Pula tourism hub are underway.
Recently, the organisation unveiled the Proposed Draft Management Plan for the park to various stakeholders.The plan lays out a clear vision and the redesign of the park and its incorporation into Maun Planning Area Development Plan. This follows the government’s decision to privatise the park, together with the Gaborone and Francistown Educational parks.
The three parks, established in the 1960’s, were traditionally gazetted for wildlife conservation and were largely used for educational purposes. Proposed in the MEP plan are arrays of projects, the majority of which will be developed by the private sector. Some of the proposed tourism products envisaged on the park include a five star upmarket hotel and another 150-rooms five star hotel with entertainment, gaming, retail and restaurant facilities.
Land measuring 8.3 hectares on the lower right corner of the park will be leased to the private sector for this hotel development. The project will be a green hotel offering special and unique quality, but built along principles of sustainable eco-friendly developments.
The hotel will also be accompanied by an internationally certified conference centre with capacity to accommodate 1,000 attendees. It will provide state-of- the-art technology, specialty rooms and other amenities. It is expected that the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) will accredit the conference facility.
An exclusive lodge on the park will also be built by the private sector. It is to have a minimum of 12 chalets or tents. On the 31.4 hectares of dry land adjacent to the existing entrance of the park, a high quality restaurant site lying along the edge of the Thamalakane River is proposed. The restaurant is also to be undertaken by the private sector investors as well.
The proposed restaurant complex is expected to be either on the flood plain or closer to the river. The restaurant, which will be designed with sophisticated waste management systems to prevent river contamination, is anticipated to be the first of its kind in Maun.
An iconic river crossing in the form of a boardwalk elevated above the Thamalakane River from the Maun old mall side is proposed for construction. It will provide pedestrian connection between the park (restaurant side) and Maun core area. A boat station will also connect the restaurant and walking trails from other sections and proposed facilities within the park. An attractively built eco-centre that will afford visitors an opportunity to learn about the natural and cultural history of the delta is also being proposed.
The centre is also to be used for educational purposes by students and researchers. The centre is expected to advance delta conservation themes through an authentic habitat, engaging exhibits, a special effects theatre and other interactive learning tools. Combining interpretation and education exploration with innovative visitor entertainment, the facility is anticipated to emerge as a leading premier regional attraction.
The park will also house an innovative cultural heritage village, which will complement the Okavango Delta Research Institute’s Discovery and Education centre. The facility will also offer a variety of events and programmes to visitors. Interpretive facilities of the centre will include traditional homesteads showcasing local culture, restaurants showcasing traditional cuisine and a centre of herbal medicine and healing modalities.
This facility will be accompanied by an outdoor amphitheater providing a gathering space for 300-400 people with bench and informal grass seating for traditional events and performances.The plan also strives for the transformation of the park into a modern wildlife sanctuary that would showcase the flora and fauna of the Okavango Delta and the whole of Ngamiland.
The plan designated the whole area in the eastern and central part of the park for the sanctuary development. It is not yet, however, clear if the sanctuary will be under the private sector of the Department of Wildlife and National parks. However, the plan advises for the erection of enclosures that can accommodate carnivores, hippos and elephants to boost the commerciality of the sanctuary.
To continue boosting the wildlife sanctuary, a bird treatment and learning centre is also proposed to be managed in the form of community or government-NGO partnership. It will offer facilities dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of birds.
Date: 29 July 2013