Sand and Stars: Botswana’s Haunting Makgadikgadi Pans
Often referred to as The Jewel of Africa, Botswana is renowned for its exceptional wildlife and the luscious Okavango Delta. The country is vast, with 38% (an area roughly the size of France) dedicated to national parks, reserves and wildlife areas, and much of it is so remote that the only way to get there is by bush plane, but only once the runways have been cleared of roaming giraffe and zebra…
It is also home to the earth’s most impressive salt pan, The Makgadikgadi, which is visible from the moon! The salt pans of Makgadikgadi along with the Nxai Pans are believed to be the largest in the world, spanning over 16 000 km2. Once the centre of an enormous lake that evaporated many thousands of years ago, the pan now appears as a shimmering sea of white salt and sand that is home to one of Africa’s largest Zebra populations.
For most of the year, the pans are dry while the rains of the green season turn the flats into an oasis offering a welcome respite for migrating animals from the surrounding The Kalahari Desert. The pans
attract the largest Zebra Migration, second only to the Great Migration in Tanzania and Kenya. Large herds of zebras, oryx, wildebeests, impalas and springbuck roam the northern part of the Nxai Pan National Park and then trek south into the Makgadikgadi National Park where they feed on green pastures and make use of the many small water holes from June to November. Plenty of Predators follow closely behind. In December the animals move along the Boteti River back north into the Nxai National Park. Elephants can be found along the Boteti River and there are waterholes big enough for hippos to stay in. After the first rains a lot of aquatic birds, especially flamingos, breed along the pans and the area become a twitchers’ paradise.
Kubu Island, a dry granite rock island, is one of the most mysterious places of the Makgadikgadi Pans. The San Bushmen believes it to be a holy place of ancient power and ritual and it is home to Africa’s largest tree – the Baobab, estimated to be over 5300 years old.
The Makgadikgadi National Park is included in a Botswana safari, not only for its wildlife and the varied experiences on offer, but also for the solitude, remoteness, and its harsh beauty.
With a seemingly endless horizon and a dramatic lunar scape that stretches as far as the eye can see, Makgadikgadi is home to some truly remarkable wildlife, making it a hidden destination well worth your while.