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Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans

Botswana

1/5
2/5 The pan changes from glaring white to a glistening mirror during the rains
The pan changes from glaring white to a glistening mirror during the rains
3/5 Believe it or not, this wild place is home to the Bushman of the Kalahari
Believe it or not, this wild place is home to the Bushman of the Kalahari
4/5
5/5 Meerkats seem to be happy to carry on their daily chores in the company of a human audience
Meerkats seem to be happy to carry on their daily chores in the company of a human audience

The Makgadikgadi is a remote and elemental place and one that shows two very distinct and unique faces

The Makgadikgadi is a remote and elemental place and one that shows two very distinct and unique faces.  For much of the year this is a harsh, dry environment covering some 16,000 sq km and not somewhere you come to see large quantities of animals, rather to experience the intense silence and space on the salt pans and the desert adapted species that manage to make a living in this most marginal of habitats.  But in the rains, the pans turn a vibrant green and host one of the continents largest mammal migrations.

Between June and October standing on the pans, the white surface stretches as far as the eye can see, creating mirages in the heat.  When there’s no wind blowing, the silence fills your ears in a way that is extraordinary; quite literally a deafening silence.  Life, other than dormant invertebrate life, is almost entirely absent from the surface of the pans (take a spoon full of apparently lifeless sand and salt and immerse it in water and within a mater of hours creatures will have hatched and be swimming around).

However, as the dry season comes to an end an astonishing transformation takes place in this extreme region of the Northern Kalahari.  By March thousands of square miles of stark white salt pan are transformed by the advent of the rains. With the rains come tens of thousands of zebra and wildebeest  - accompanied by attendant predators and scavengers.

To add to the surreal atmosphere of the place, stone-age hand tools, dating from anything from 30,000 yrs to several hundred thousand years old, can be found the surface of the pans.  Many of these are exquisitely fashioned and you will find them you stroll around.

The Mkgadikgadi pans were originally part of an enormous super-lake that covered most of northern and central Botswana.  The lake was formed when tectonic movement along the Kalahari-Zimbabwe fault line (east of Mkgadikgadi) sealed off the outlet for the Boteti River.  Further tectonic activity along the Thamalakani fault caused the area to the north east (now the Okavango delta) to drop.  This sealed off the inlet and the die was cast; the lake gradually dried out to leave the pans (originally the deepest part of the lake.)  In recent years the Boteti River has begun to flow again, bringing with it a certain amount of game into the dry season.

Jack's Camp, San Camp and Camp Kalahari are all wonderful places to stay in their own right

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A few of our favourite places to stay:

Jacks Camp

Jacks camp and it’s sister, San Camp, offer one of the

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Camp at dusk

San Camp

San Camp, little sister to the eccentric Jack's Camp presents the

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Camp Kalahari

Another in the varied experience offered by Ralph Bousfield and

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View other places to stay in Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans

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Who to talk to

Catherine Ronan

Rumour has it that Catherine Ronan used to be a spy. We find this slightly hard to believe as she loves nothing more than to divulge her travel secrets and infect other people with her enthusiasm.

How we can help you

At Natural High, we've had long experience putting together trips in Africa that really work. Whether it's intimate bushcamps in out of the way places, or a private lodge in one of Africa's top-billing wildlife areas, light mobile camping or remote island escapes, we know there is a lot to choose from. We're absolutely confident that we can recommend the right places for you.

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