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Makgadikgadi Pans

Makgadikgadi Pans

Atmospheric, hypnotic, vast and photogenic sum up the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.

The shimmering salt pans, including Nxai Pan to the north, are interspersed with ‘islands’ of trees, sandy desert and thickets of vegetation that sustain wildlife. The night skies above the pans dramatically blaze with stars.

When the rains arrive in November, the pans’ dry salty crust fills with water and the grasses flourish until April.  Birdlife is good all year, but exceptional in the wet season when pink flamingos, pelicans and waders flock to the pans in their tens of thousands. The region also boasts plains game that migrates according to the availability of food and water.  Nxai Pan is especially good for drought adapted springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest, plains zebra and their attendant predators – the big cats, jackal and wild dog and the rare brown hyena.

The Makgadikgadi is an exciting playground:  getting up close to habituated meercats, cultural walks with a group of Zu/’hoasi Bushmen, star gazing, game drives to find unique desert species, a visit to Chapman’s Baobab and during the dry season quad biking across the pans to Kubu Island.

 

 

at a glance

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When To Visit

January to April: The first 12 weeks experience the majority of rainfall and humidity along with high day temperatures (early 30°C’s). When the pans flood, the vast majority of migratory zebra and wildebeest arrive and come into calf in the Nxai Pans. Landscapes are freshened by rain and the grasses spring to life. Flamingos arrive to nest. In Makgadikgadi it is generally not possible to go out on quad bikes but Bushmen walks, palaeontology exploration and meerkat encounters occur. This is the classic time of year to visit, as the rains ensure good numbers of wildlife.

This is a good time of year to combine the Great Salt Pans with a trip to the Okavango, which operates on the converse season so up to 40% off peak rates are available. The two regions offer a stark delta-desert contrast; from canoeing past throbs of life in the swamps to standing on a parched and desolate landscape.

May and June: The transition period between the summer and winter brings cooler temperatures, clearer skies and occasional ground frosts. Game is widespread across the Makgadikgadi at the start of May, however as the rains dissipate, the pans dry out and animals migrate towards permanent water sources, such as the Boteti River on the western side of Makgadikgadi. Duiker and bushbuck are often spotted in the heavily wooded areas. This is the normal time for the quad biking season to commence. The end of the classic period is the end of June as the dry winter season results in sparse resident game. The primary reason to visit the Makgadikgadi is to experience the inspirational nothingness and go on bush walks and archaeological expeditions.

July to October: This period represents winter and an unseasonal time to visit the pans. With virtually no rainfall, low humidity and clear skies, daytime temperatures average 25-30°C, but peak at 40°C in October. By July virtually all migratory species have headed north so game-viewing concentrates of sparse resident game. Only springbok and steenbok remain in Nxai, along with few lion and hyena, making gamevewing challenging. Activities are centred on quad biking, walks and palaeontology. This is a time for more experienced safari visitors.

November and December: The first rains usually break in November in the form of passing showers, causing migratory game to move away from permanent water and disperse to seasonal waterholes which by December should be filling. The pans begin to burst into life with flora displays and grasses. 

Temperature & Rainfall

Climate Chart – Makgadikgadi

Makgadikgadi Highlights

Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

In November the rains arrive in the Makgadikgadi Pans, triggering the world’s second largest ...

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Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

In November the rains arrive in the Makgadikgadi Pans, triggering the world’s second largest zebra migration, with an estimated 30,000 animals, the majority being zebra, participating each year.

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San Encounters

San Encounters

San Encounters

Spend time with the San Bushmen for a glimpse into their ancient culture.

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San Encounters

San Encounters

Spend time with the San Bushmen for a glimpse into their ancient culture.

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Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena

The Brown Hyena - unmistakable with a shaggy, dark brown coat are classed as 'near threatened', but ...

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Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena

The Brown Hyena – unmistakable with a shaggy, dark brown coat are classed as ‘near threatened’, but a small clan has been habituated near Jack’s Camp making it one of the best places in Africa to see them.

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Salt Pan Flamingoes

Salt Pan Flamingoes

Salt Pan Flamingoes

Flamingos at Sowa Pan and Nata Sanctuary are a magnificent spectacle as they come into breed in ...

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Salt Pan Flamingoes

Salt Pan Flamingoes

Flamingos at Sowa Pan and Nata Sanctuary are a magnificent spectacle as they come into breed in their tens of thousands.

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Meercats

Meercats

Meercats

Home to a semi-habituated meerkat colony, this is an amazing opportunity for people, and ...

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Meercats

Meercats

Home to a semi-habituated meerkat colony, this is an amazing opportunity for people, and particularly children, to get close to these intriguing little animals and to see their social behaviour.

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Baobabs & Kubu Island on Quad Bikes

Baobabs & Kubu Island on Quad Bikes

Baobabs & Kubu Island on Quad Bikes

Experience a unique opportunity to combine two or three nights at either Jack's Camp, San Camp or ...

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Baobabs & Kubu Island on Quad Bikes

Baobabs & Kubu Island on Quad Bikes

Experience a unique opportunity to combine two or three nights at either Jack’s Camp, San Camp or Camp Kalahari with an epic quad bike journey across the pans. Sleep out under the stars for two nights amongst the boulders and baobabs on Kubu Island.

In Nxai Pan National Park, the cluster of millennia-old baobab trees owes its name to the man known to have discovered them. Thomas Baines, artist and fellow explorer to John Chapman.

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camps & lodges

Camp Kalahari

Camp Kalahari

Camp Kalahari is a classically quaint camp, nestled amongst acacias trees and Mokolwane palms and looking onto the completely vast and empty ... Read More

Jack’s Camp

Jack’s Camp

Jack’s Camp is an oasis of style and comfort in the middle of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, the Makgadikgadi which is truly like nowhere else on ... Read More

Leroo La Tau

Leroo La Tau

Leroo La Tau is situated on the western bank of the Boteti River, northwest of Khumaga Village and about 140 kilometres southeast of Maun. The ... Read More

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp is located in northern Botswana on the western edge of a fossil pan from which the camp takes its name. This environmentally friendly ... Read More

San Camp

San Camp

San Camp's classic white tents stand majestically, perched on the shore of an enormous sparkling salt pan, on the edge of the vast and mysterious ... Read More