The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans Experience

The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, part of the Kalahari desert which dominates Botswana, are home to some of the most unique, thrilling and sought after safari experiences in Africa. Authentic bushman experiences, meerkat meetings, quad biking, horse riding safaris, sleep-outs and more. A superb combination to an Okavango safari.

To truly appreciate the miracle of the Okavango one needs to understand the striking contract in environments immediately surrounding it. The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans offers just that. A number of different camps of all styles and budgets offer a fantastic desert experience – such as the luxurious Jack’s Camp and San Camp or the more rustic camps of Camp Kalahari and Meno o Kwena.

At first glance it may seem the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans landscape is devoid of anything – except the lunar salt crust – but looking closer will reveal a fascinating environment that attracts adventure and animals.  The two main seasons here are the wet (Nov-April) and the dry (May-Oct).  Both seasons are special and unique.  It can be difficult to decide when to come!

Camp Kalahari guests horse riding among the zebra

During the wet season, local rains transform the dry, powdery basin into a vast lake.  Literally overnight, these wetland lakes become noisy, animated playgrounds for a spectacular range of African water birds.  Thousands of Greater Flamingo, Pelicans, Storks, Cranes, Ducks, Geese, Plovers, Terns and Herons change the mirage effect to shades of pinks and blues.  A beautiful and wondrous sight.

Whilst the The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans themselves fill with water, the grasslands on the periphery spring to life becoming a carpet of lush pasture – the favourite grazing for Zebra, Wildebeest and Springbok.  The plains become covered – Serengeti style – by thousands of these animals drawn to these nutrient-rich grasses.  This migration from Nxai Pan and even Chobe area to the north and the westerly section of the Park is the second largest in the world and far less known!  Where plains game travel, predators are never far away.  Bountiful opportunity for the Black-maned Kalahari Lion.

San Camp lion in the Makgadikgadi Pans

During the dry season, which coincides with the colder months of the year, the Pans become a different sort of playground – perfect for adventure and excitement.  Quad-biking across the surface is exhilarating and fun.  The thrill is compounded by the paranormal setting.  The thread of bikes and riders streaming across the crust leaves a trail of lunar-dust behind.  Simply awesome!

For those keen on star-gazing and looking for an adventurous night in the wild – camping overnight is an unforgettable experience.  Bundled in thick clothing and cosy bedding, watching the ceiling of stars above, spotting shooting and falling stars and the occasional passing satellite – one appreciates the enormity of the universe – and the remoteness of this location.

stargazing from the Kalahari skies on the salt pans

Whatever the season, there are always entertaining visits to the Meerkat colonies.  Here, these energetic and endearing creatures are relaxed and comfortable in people’s company.  Quietly follow them as they dash from point to point, jumping on a grassy knoll – or possibly your knee – to check the next place to forage for scorpions or beetles.

 

Kids meeting the meerkat colony close to Camp Kalahari

The Makgadikgadi Pans area is also an important landmark for the San Bushmen where a sensitive program gives employment to the community and an opportunity for visitors to engage with them in a positive and respectful way.  Interesting and entertaining walks with a family, comprising community elders and down to the youngest toddlers are also available year round.  This unique and authentic insight into the ancient customs and culture of one of Earth’s oldest communities is captivating and illuminating.  Seeing the desert through Bushman eyes gives a perspective that few modern people have the opportunity to experience.

A genuine Kalahari Bushmen experience courtesy of Jack's Camp

Whilst the migration of Zebra and Wildebeest is transient and predictable, other desert-dwelling animals are always resident.  Whilst shy and nocturnal, so not always easily seen, expert and knowledgeable guides will take you to the Brown Hyena den.  These bear-like canines have a thick and shaggy coat to protect them against the harsh desert climate.  They are shy of people but lovingly social with each other.  They cavort and nuzzle and provide a lovely display of affection.  Aardvark and Aardwolf, Springhares and Ground Squirrels, Bat-eared foxes and Jackal, Ostrich, Kgori Bustards, Secretary Birds, Korhaans remain year round.

Those that venture to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are always rewarded with fantastic experiences, whatever the time of year.

 

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