First Week of August: Sleeping Under the Stars on Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pan

The Makgadikgadi is inextricably linked to Jack Bousfield, in whose memory the famous Jack’s Camp is named.  Admittedly one of the more barking characters that you could hope to meet, Jack arrived in this part of the world during the more wild and woolly part of the nineteen hundreds when it was actually a necessity to be one sandwich short of a picnic to make it in Africa.  His resumé includes a mention in the Guinness Book of Records for killing 53,000 crocodiles, surviving seven plane crashes and being gored by at least one elephant.  An extreme kind of person well suited to an extreme place. The Makgadikgadi Pan is about as far removed from your stereotypical safari experience as you can get.  Viewed from the lofty vantage point provided by Google Earth, the pan appears as a white smudge to the southeast of the rich greens and blues of the Okavango Delta.   On the ground, the glaring flatness stretches to the horizon and it is possible to see the curvature of the earth.  Around the edges of this once great lake, the vegetation struggles to regain its tenancy - coarse grass, stands of palm and rugged bush.


As you can imagine, there is a certain knack to survival in the middle of this hostile environment but this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see.  In fact, the tougher the environment...the more interesting the beasties and this gives the Makgadikgadi a special story-book quality; rather like stepping through the looking-glass.  Of a morning you might be foraging with a family of meerkats or tracking the strange brown hyena on foot alongside the intuitive San bushmen, sinuous and clad in little more than a small leather kilt and ostrich egg beads.  Areas of the pan host colonies of vivid pink flamingos.  Scattered fossil sites and ancient human habitation allude to the indelible history of this place. You should come to the Makgadikgadi with an open mind and be prepared to be surprised on a daily basis.  There’s very little in this world that could compete with unrolling a bedroll amid towering baobabs on the lunar rock kopjes that mushroom from the pan, or the sense of freedom imparted by riding a quad-bike hell-for-leather across the vast emptiness.  It’s just one of those things that you are unlikely to forget in a hurry. The camps here are also far from ordinary.  Jack’s is famous for its museum-like collection of weird and wonderful objects.  San Camp’s stylish simplicity lends itself to its lovely location without detracting one iota from the natural beauty.  For a more laid-back experience, Meno a Kwena lies between the Delta and Makgadikgadi. For safari ideas from Natural High that include Makgadikgadi, click here. Search for camps and lodges in the Makgadikgadi and Kalahari. Find out more about the Kalahari, when to visit and other useful articles. Image courtesy of San Camp

Posted by: Amanda Mitchell

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