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Introducing Makgadikgadi Pans

The elemental power of Botswana’s landscapes are nowhere more obvious than in the country’s north. Within striking distance of the water-drowned terrain of the Okavango Delta, Chobe River and Linyanti Marshes lies Makgadikgadi, the largest network of salt pans in the world. Here the country takes on a different hue, forsaking the blues and greens of the delta for the burnished oranges, shimmering whites and golden grasslands of this northern manifestation of the Kalahari Desert. It’s as much an emptiness as a place, a land larger than Switzerland, mesmerising in scope and in beauty.

Two protected areas – Makgadikgadi Game Reserve and Nxai Pans National Park, separated only by the asphalted A3 – preserve large tracts of salt pans, palm forests, grasslands and savannah. Since both parks complement one another in enabling wildlife migrations, the two were established concurrently in the early 1970s and combined into a single park in the mid-1990s. Although they enclose only a fraction of the pan networks, the parks provide a convenient focal point for visiting; the horizonless pans of Nxai Pan have gained a reputation for cheetah sightings, while the return of waters to the Boteti River in the west has led to a wildlife bonanza of wildebeest, zebra and antelope species pursued by lions. But there are also some fabulous areas outside park boundaries, with iconic stands of baobab trees and beguiling landscapes.

There are camps deep in the pans to suit a range of budgets, with good accommodation choices also in the gateway towns of Nata and Gweta.

Snapshot

Underrated wildlife watching, especially along the pretty Boteti River and the hallucinatory, horizonless landscape of the pans.