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Essential information

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Getting to Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans

The region is bisected by the paved Nata–Maun road, and most of the main access points to the parks and pans are along this road. Public transport to the park gates along this road is easy, but of little use as you'll need your own vehicle to explore beyond.

Nata Sanctuary and Nata Pan can be accessed from the Nata–Francistown road, just south of Nata. In the dry season, Kubu Island can also be reached via tracks leading north off the Francistown–Orapa road.

There is also dry-season access

Getting around Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans

The lodges that surround or inhabit the parks offer game drives; otherwise you’ll need your own 4WD. Please note that self-drive expeditions are permitted inside the national parks, but not in the private concessions, where you'll need to join a game drive organised by the camp or lodge.

Local transport

Prospective drivers should keep in mind that salt pans can have a mesmerising effect, even creating a sense of unfettered freedom. Once you drive out onto the salt, remember that direction, connection, reason and common sense appear to dissolve. Although you may be tempted to speed off with wild abandon into the white and empty distance, exercise caution and restrain yourself. You should be aware of where you are at all times by using a map and compass (GPS units are not foolproof).

As a general rule, always follow the tracks of other drivers – these tracks are a good indication that the route is dry. In addition, never venture out onto the pans unless you’re absolutely sure the salty surface and the clay beneath are dry. Foul-smelling salt means a wet and potentially dangerous pan, which is very similar in appearance and texture to wet concrete. When underlying clay becomes saturated, vehicles can break through the crust and become irretrievably bogged. If you do get bogged and have a winch, anchor the spare wheel or the jack – anything to which the winch may be attached – by digging a hole and planting it firmly in the clay. Hopefully, you’ll be able to anchor it better than the pan has anchored the vehicle.

It is important to stress that exploring the pans properly and independently requires more of a 4WD expedition than a casual drive. Lost travellers are frequently rescued from the pans, and there have been a number of fatalities over the years. And remember: never underestimate the effect the pans can have on your sense of direction.

Health and safety


  • Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended.
  • Some policies specifically exclude dangerous activities such as scuba diving, motorcycling, skiing and even trekking: read the fine print.
  • Check that the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home.
  • Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
  • If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation.
  • Paying for your airline ticket with a credit card often provides limited travel accident insurance – ask your credit card company what it is prepared to cover.
  • Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
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