The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans within the Kalahari ecosystem are a series of expansive salt flats. A well-kept secret is that during the late rainy season (March-April) up to 25,000 zebras migrate into the pans from the Okavango Delta.
Within the Kalahari ecosystem of Botswana lies a series of expansive salt flats protected predominantly by the Makgadikgadi Pan and Nxai Pan National Parks. This area is exceptionally dry and arid, so game is usually sparse and difficult to find in the dry season (May – November). At this time of the year it is the smaller things which will fascinate you. Meerkats, aardwolfs, brown hyenas and aardvarks take centre stage whilst walking with the San Bushmen give you a real cultural injection. Some parts of this area are dotted with grass islands and salt-resistant palm trees but there are also places here which are so barren you may feel as though you have landed on the moon. In these parts there is an eerie silence. No insects chirp, there is no sound and if you look far enough you can even see the curvature of the earth.
During the late rainy season (March-April) up to 25,000 zebras migrate into the pans from the Okavango Delta – a round trip of some 360 miles . This well-kept secret represents the second largest movement of zebras on the continent which are also followed closely by their predators. Whilst the numbers of game are undoubtedly greater in the wet season, there is an argument to say that the dry season is the best time to experience the real essence of the pans.
The three most luxurious offerings in this area are operated by Uncharted Africa in a private concession to the east of the national park. Owner Ralph Bousfeld is one of Africa’s most renowned private guides and he personally ensures that his guides receive exceptional training. His father was a pioneer of safaris in Botswana and the flagship Jack’s Camp is named in his honour but we personally prefer the equally luxurious San Camp for its more light and airy feel. The comparatively simple Camp Kalahari offers a more affordable way to experience the unique activities on offer here.
The Boteti River forms the western boundary of the park and draws wildlife in from miles around. It is at its best from June – November when the river becomes a series of pools and animals are forced to concentrate around it. There are two options for exploring this area. Meno A Kwena is another adventurous camp with a decidedly quirky flair and is run by another old safari hand, David Dugmore. Leroo La Tau is a more luxurious lodge with a beautiful situation on the Boteti. To the north, Nxai Pan National Park is a somewhat more subtle safari experience as the salt pans in this area are not quite as stark or expansive as Makgadikgadi. The only camp here is operated by Kwando Safaris and can make for a great combination with the Delta or Kwando camps in the green season.
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans FAQs
Why is the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans such an attractive tourist destination?
The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans is the largest of its kind in the world and its remoteness makes it attractive and adds to the sense of luxury. Mile upon mile of shimmering white salt stretches to the horizon, a truly incredible site and the lack of light pollution provides some incredible star gazing at night as the stars pop out against the pitch-black sky.
What is the best places to say at Makgadikgadi?
There is a great difference in style and luxury between the camps in the Makgadikgadi. Jacks Camp is one of our favourites, we also highly recommend Camp Kalahari and San Camp.
What activities are there to look forward to in the Makgadikgadi?
To start off with the stunning and different landscapes will have you staring into the distance for what seems a lifetime. The wildlife includes desert adapted animals like the early aardwolf and brown hyena, watch the zebra migration as the rains fall. The wetter months bring the greater and lesser flamingos which migrate to the area in their thousands to feed, mate and lay their eggs. Spend time with the postcard ready habituated meerkats which are unique to this area or walk with the Bushman as they teach you about the land. If a normal game drive is to laidback you can grab an ATV and get the adrenaline going with a quadbike ride across the pan.
What animals can I expect to see at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans?
There are many things to do in the Makgadikgadi National Park among them are quadbike safari rides, game drives, birdwatching, a tour of the Gweta. The wildlife you should get to see are eland, lions, zebras, cheetah, gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest bushbuck, giraffe, steenbok, elephants, aardwolf, brown hyena and so much more.
Jacks Camp has been around, it seems, forever. It is the original of Jack Bousfields camps established in the Makgdaikgadi. Situated in a large private concession of about 203,500 Hectares, it is an utterly gorgeous, colonial camp with views out over the pans that will take your breath away. The camp is visible from quite far away given there are no raised areas of ground for much of the region, but it is a pleasing site.
There are 10 guest tents, beautifully designed to high specifications. The main mess area too is a wonderful place to spend your day surrounded by style and and an ambience that is unlike anything you may have experienced before. Tailormade Africa particularly like the fact that it is a camp that forces you to be unplugged. No wifi, internet or phone signal to be found. There is a charging station for camera batteries and tablets etc in the main area. Rather handily there is a lovely swimming pool, which is a blessing in the mid day sun ... Read more
Nxai Pan Camp holds the honour of being the only permanent camp within the Nxai Pan National Park, adjoining the more famous Makgadigadi Pans. The main lounge and dining area is flanked by 9 chalets, including one family suite, which look out over a bustling waterhole often frequented by elephants. Each one is fairly spacious and includes a small lounge as well as indoor and outdoor showers. A small pool leads off to one side of the main building and is most welcome during the warm summer months (Oct – April). Interestingly, the camp was built using polystyrene, chicken wire mesh and plaster, which helps to insulate during both summer and winter extremes ... Read more
Owned and run by one of Africa’s most renowned safari guides, Ralph Bousfeld, this camp harks back to a bygone era of exploration. The fusion of local artefacts and antique furniture creates an authentic atmosphere which is accentuated by the use of paraffin lanterns and the complete lack of electricity. The ten Meru-style tents enjoy magnificent views over the Makgadigadi Salt Pans from a shrubby outcrop dotted with acacia and palm trees. Each one offers an open air bathroom with bucket showers and hot water. An interesting little library and small pool complement the main lounge and dining areas.
At first glance it seems as if there is not much life here, but this place is magical in that it gives you everything you didn’t know you needed. The sheer sense of space is very calming and this must surely be one of few places on the planet where you can actually see the curvature of the earth! ... Read more
San Camp is very special. Situated in a large private concession of about 203,500 Hectares in the Makgadikgadi, it is an utterly gorgeous and lavish camp with views out over the pans that will take your breath away. The camp is visible from quite far away given there are no raised areas of ground for much of the region, but it is a pleasing site.
There are 6 guest suites, beautifully designed to high specifications. The main mess area too is a wonderful place to spend your day surrounded by style and and an ambience that is unlike anything you may have experienced before. Tailormade Africa particularly like the fact that it is a camp that forces you to be unplugged. No wifi, internet or phone signal to be found. There is a charging station for camera batteries and tablets etc in the main area ... Read more
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