Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans
Sparkling salt pans, curious meerkats and ancient baobab trees
Seeing the meerkats at sunset and sunrise was quite unforgettable, especially coupled with the surprise night under the stars on the Pan.
Southeast of Maun in Botswana, the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans are vast salt pans left over from a massive ancient lake. Most of the year the dry salt shimmers, but the rains (December to March) turn the pans into grasslands drawing thousands of zebras and other wildlife, plus predators. Come for unique and unusual landscapes, meerkats, to learn about the lives of San Bushmen, and an unusual wildlife migration, but don’t set your sights on seeing lots of big game – you really need the Delta and Chobe if that is your main focus.
- Nxai Pan: Nxai Pan can be the sight of dramatic wildlife action in the dry season (July to October) as the waterholes are hard fought over by the few thirsty animals who remain here. There is more wildlife here in the green season (see below about the zebra migration). Nxai Pan also has the famous Baines Baobabs in reasonable proximity.
There is only one permanent camp here, Nxai Pan Camp, run by Kwando Safaris. Mobile safaris also visit here.
- Makgadikgadi Pan: It’s a unique and strange landscape of salt flats dotted with grassy islands, and a few palms and acacia trees. Kubu Island has unusual rock formations and historic baobabs. Makgadikgadi is one of the very best to see meerkats (especially in the dry season), and over in the east, Nata Bird Sanctuary (west of Sua Pan, and mostly only visited by self-drivers) attracts thousands of flamingos and other birds, especially from November to April.
There are only three camps in this pan, Jack’s, San, and Camp Kalahari, plus the much cheaper Planet Baobab on the northern edge. Mobile safaris also visit here, and horseriding safaris take place here too (scheduled departures).
- Makgadikgadi Pans National Park & the Boteti River: The salt pan is only one part of the larger Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, whose western border is the Boteti River. Leroo la Tau and Meno a Kwena are two exceptional camps in this little-visited but incredible area which elephants and hippos love, and even wild dogs are seen.
- Wildlife: This whole area has large springbok populations and once the rains have started, gemsbok, elephant and zebras migrate to the region. Giraffes can also be seen, sometimes with up to 30 in a group, plus ostrich and gemsbok (oryx). These all attract predators, including lion, cheetah, jackal, leopard and wild dog, though in smaller numbers than you will see in Chobe and the Delta. In addition, less common meerkats and brown hyenas can also be seen here.
- It’s a little-known fact that migrations of (mostly) zebras, come to the Pans each year in the rainy season around December to February/ March. The zebras which reach Nxai Pan tend to come from roughly the Chobe area, whereas those which end up in the Makgadikgadi are mostly from the Okavango Delta. These journeys are epic, so those individuals who decide to make the journey really must believe that the grasses in the pans are worth it!
- Activities in the Pans: In both pans you will be offered game drives, night drives, guided walks, cultural walks with San Bushmen, and excellent star-gazing.
- Getting here: A few mobile safaris come to the pans, but most people either drive here or preferably fly in to stay at one of the excellent camps.