The salt pans of the Makgadikgadi lie in what was once a huge lake in central Botswana. In the dry season mirages warp the horizon, but during the rains the pans spring to life with thousands of flamingoes that nest on mounds in the water covered pans. The lush grasslands draw migrations of wildebeest and zebra and the predators that follow them.
Makgadikgadi is believed to be the largest salt pan in the world. When dry, which is most of the time, it is 6,500 square kilometers of glaring saline sand, white and absolutely flat. When the waters of the Okavango spill down the Boteti River after good summer rains, the whole area of the pan is flooded to a depth of a few centimeters, providing rich feeding for aquatic birds. Flamingoes and countless pelicans descend on Makgadikgadi. During this time of year, great herds of big game – wildebeest, zebra and springbok – water here and herds 10,000 strong can sometimes be seen on the plains besides the pan. In the pan itself, animals stand out in startling fashion on the white salt, their legs shimmering and elongated through mirage caused by heat waves and glare.
During the winter dry season, animals concentrate around the Boteti River, but between February and April, huge herds of Zebra and wildebeest migrate north to Nxai Pan and beyond, only returning to the Boteti when the rains diminish around early May. The range of antelope includes impala, gemsbok, hartebeest and kudu, but they only appear in large number during the migrations during May and June. Lion , hyena and cheetah are also present.
This area was also once the center of a thriving salt trade. Due to the dry climate, if your lucky, you can find remnants of pottery and beads where trading centers were based over 1000 years ago.
Park Size: 2,243 sq. miles – 3,900 sq kilometers
Ecosystems: Grasslands, palm oasis, salt pans, brine lakes, rocky outcrops
Wildlife: Thousands of flamingoes, wildebeest, zebra, elephant, lion, cheetah, hyena, impala, gemsbok, hartebeest, kudu, ostrich
When to go: March through August
Highlights: Game drives, game walks, 4×4 RV safaris, camping, bushmen visits
Trips that Visit Makgadikgadi Pan National Park: