What was once a vast, striking lake tens of thousand years ago, Makgadikgadi Pans is now a chain of dry salt pans larger than Switzerland. It doesn’t mean that the place is less than amazing, as it continues to support wide ranges of summer grassland and savannas, and an alluring variety of animal and bird species that have embraced the challenging life it bestows.
Makgadikgai Pans is the largest salt pan landscape in the world, measuring over 30,000 km². It is a series of pans, the famous and largest of which are Sua, Ntwetwe, and Nxai pans. The whole area was once part of an ancient lake, believed to have reached 80,000 km², before it dried up around 10,000 years, resulting in the emergence of the vast salt pans. Now, it is part of the vital habitats protected under the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
The perfect time to experience the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park varies depending on the adventure you are yearning for. If you would like to see the pan itself, it is only reachable during the dry season, specifically from March to October. What awaits you is a vast white plane, so extensive that would allow you to notice the planet’s curvature.
It is a bizarre wonderland, which is far from anywhere else. As whirlwinds skirts across its dusty flats, it would seem you’re in an infinite desert, devoid of human development, providing a genuine feel of isolation. You may experience the same picturesque landscape during the winter days when the weather is warm but then turns incredibly cold during the night time.
Visit from August to November, and you’ll witness Africa’s longest zebra migration, also regarded as the longest mammal migration, where herds of these wild horses slowly migrate to Boteti River for the rains.
When wet season comes from January to March, the rainfall transforms the salt pans into an abundant, nourishing wetland, providing suitable habitat for the zebras, elephants, wildebeests, elephants, gemsbok, springbok, and other herbivores that migrated in the area. Other games can also be observed, like the shy duikers and bushbucks, staying in the densely wooded areas beside the Boteti River.
The place is also renowned for meerkat sightings, with these cute mammals sometimes even using quiet visitors as their lookout posts. Meanwhile, rock monitors, tortoises, lizards, and snakes thrive in the grasslands on the pan’s fringes.
Plovers and ostriches occur in the pans during the dry season while migratory waterbirds, such as ducks, geese, and pelicans, start to move to Makgadikgadi Pans, as it retains water until April to March, making it an ideal place for bird watching.
Tiny crustaceans also start to hatch, and algae begin to blooms during the floods, providing food sources for the other waterbirds, the greater and lesser flamingos. Makgadikgadi Pans hold Africa’s largest breeding flocks of these two species, turning the pan’s landscape into pink as it features up to 30,000 pairs of these breeding birds.
Among other many incredible things to do in Makgadikgadi National Park includes game drives, safari rides, and historical sites visit that would allow you to learn more about the linkage between ancient culture, wildlife, and natural environment. So, whether you’re in for isolation and remoteness during the dry seasons, or an adventure and wildlife-filled rainy season, Makgadikgadi Pans surely has a lot to offer.