Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, located southeast of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the Kalahari Desert, is a unique safari destination in Africa, and one of Botswana’s offbeat and contrasting park when compared to other places in Botswana such as the popular Moremi or Chobe. Even though Makgadikgadi Pans are termed as dead lands, it has a diverse and dynamic ecosystem.
It is technically not a single pan as its name suggests, but many pans interrupted with sandy desert in between, the largest being the Sua (Sowa), Ntwetwe and Nxai Pans. Following a rain, the pan is an important habitat for migrating wildebeest and one of Africa’s biggest zebra populations, not to mention the large predators that hunt them. The wet season also brings migratory birds such as duck, geese and Great White Pelicans. The pan is also home of one of only two breeding populations of Greater Flamingos in southern Africa.
Nxai Pan National Park, located at the northern periphery of the ancient Makgadikgadi basin, boasts the Nxai Pan, an ancient fossilized lake-bed in the Kalahari Desert comprising 40 square kilometers.
Much of the habitat is open grassland with clusters of umbrella acacia trees and permanent herds of springbok, forming ideal cheetah habitat and indeed this is one of the best locations in Botswana for spotting cheetah. Giraffe often congregate in large numbers with journeys of more than 30 individuals common and this is a dramatic place to witness bull elephants. Very occasionally white rhino are seen, a real rarity in Botswana.
Nxai Pan National Park is famous for Baines’ Baobabs, a cluster of millennia-old baobob trees famously painted by Thomas Baines in 1862 while traveling through the area en route to Victoria Falls.