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. This land larger than Switzerland is as much an emptiness as a place, mesmerising in scope and in beauty.
Two protected areas – Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans – preserve large tracts of salt pans, palm islands, grasslands and savannah. Although enclosing a fraction of the pan networks, they provide a focal point for visitors: Nxai Pan has a reputation for cheetah sightings, and Makgadikgadi's west is a wildlife bonanza of wildebeest, zebras and antelope species pursued by lions. Fabulous areas exist outside park boundaries too, with iconic stands of baobab trees and beguiling landscapes.