PANS NATIONAL PARK & ADJOINING SALT PANS, BOTSWANA
In depth guide to the seasons, animals, birds and wildlife habitats of of Makgadikgadi in Botswana.
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of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
comprises nutritious grasslands attracting
thousands of animals. It is however, an area
of low rainfall and the Boteti River rarely
flows to capacity, but often has perennial
pools that attract waterbuck, bushbuck and
area was once a superlake almost 100 feet
(30 metres) deep, over an area of 30,888 sq.
miles (80,000 square km). The climate changed
and it 10,000 years ago Lake Makgadikgadi
was well on the way to drying up. As the water
evaporated, huge glistening salt-encrusted
pans were left. These pans look as flat as
a billiard table and stretch as far as the
eye can see. Occasionally, this extraordinary
landscape is dotted with rocky outcrops and
large stranded sand dunes.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park includes a portion
of these enormous Makgadikgadi Pans, which are
almost devoid of human habitation. However,
villages on the periphery and in between the
pans is evidence that the area has supported
people as far back as the stone age. Today the
area contains large numbers of animals who migrate
to grasslands in the west of the park after
into this magical land and across the desolate
pans, you somehow feel its ancient mystique.
The subtle hues at sunset transform Makgadikgadi
into a surreal wonderland, which is unlike anywhere
else. During the day the dusty pans, with whirlwinds
skirting across a seemingly endless desert,
offer the best way to come face to face with
park contains four main vegetation types; riverine
woodland, scrubland, pure grassland and salt
pans. The pans support palm groves and peculiar
looking Baobab trees whose branches look more
like roots, giving rise to the name 'upside
down tree. These are interspersed with short
spiky yellow grass found on rises between the
pans, known as 'prickly salt grass'. This is
extremely saline resistant to the extent that
salt crystals can sometimes be seen on the leaves.
The interior of the reserve comprises scrub
and grassland with a few 'islands' of Real Fan
Palms and Camel thorn acacia.
From April to November game such as springbok,
gemsbok, wildebeest and zebra move slowly from
the pans area in the south east of the park,
to the Boteti River on the western side. During
this migration animals accumulate in their thousands.
The heavily wooded areas beside the river also
contain shy antelopes like duiker and bushbuck.
the rains arrive with enough force and river
water floods into the Makgadikgadi salt pans,
there is nowhere more complete in its transformation
crustaceans hatch and algae blooms to provide
food for the largest breeding flocks of greater
and lesser flamingos in Africa.
animals and birds are most prevalent during the
rainy season in areas normally inaccessible by
vehicle, the prime objective in visiting this
reserve is not to view game, but to experience
true remoteness and absolute isolation.
The surface of the pans turns a deep pink from
30,000 breeding pairs of these birds. This occurs
mainly in the pans to the east of the National
Park, particularly Sowa Pan. Other water birds
are also abundant and a good place to see them
is at Nata Bird Sanctuary, just off the main
road at the northern end of Sowa Pan.
Rainy Season: November to March the pans fill
up and retain water until April or May. Much
of the Makgadikgadi Pans area becomes inaccessible
during the rainy season and the only way to
see the spectacular flamingo flocks is by aircraft.
It is extremely dangerous to venture into the
pans during the rainy season unless you are
with a guided experienced in the area. During
a low-rainfall year, May, October and November
are also acceptable.
This area gets very hot during the day (up to
°F (40°C), but is mild and pleasant
season: April to September is the dry season
with strong winds from August to November.
From April to July game viewing is best within
the park and after that it moves to inaccessible
areas. March to September are the best months
to experience the pans. Winter is very pleasant
during the day but ice-cold at night.
· Riding a quad bike
across the desolate pans
· Flamingo breeding
season on Sowa Pan
· Staying in a luxury
lodge by the salt pans
· Night sky studded
with a million stars
· Feelings of total
· Complete and unrelenting
· Self discovery
· Finding stone age
tools in the middle of nowhere, and leaving
them for others to discover
It was proclaimed a game reserve in 1970 and
in 1992 its boundaries were extended and it
was given National Park status.
The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park covers an
area of 1,891 sq. miles (4,900 sq. km) but the
pans outside the national park are the largest
salt pans in the world exceeding 4,633 sq. miles
(12,000 sq. km).
This is a malarial area.
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Reserve Index | Wildlife