The great grass plains of Makgadikgadi and the associated pan complexes of Sowa, Ntwetwe and Nxai lie south east of the Okavango Delta. Relics of one of the world’s largest super lakes, these pans dried up thousands of years ago as a result of tectonic activity in the earth’s crust.
Makgadikgadi was formed some ﬁve million years ago and was once almost thirty metres deep covering an area of 80,000 square kilometres. As the water evaporated, huge glistening salt-encrusted pans remained which, in the heat of the day, are transformed into disorientating mirages. Just north of Makgadikgadi are the fossil lakebeds of Nxai Pans, an area of forty square kilometres that is rather more generously scattered with acacia trees. This area is almost entirely devoid of human habitation. The desolate pans, seemingly endless, are ﬁlled with ancient mystique, as whirlwinds skate over the dusty surface of this truly unique ecosystem. The dramatic appearance of the pans at their driest provides a contrasting experience to the occurring transformation when the rains arrive and the Boteti River ﬂoods into the pans. Water birds are plentiful and the pan surface takes on a deep pink hue from the arrival of 30,000 pairs of Greater and Lesser Flamingos - the largest breeding ﬂock in Africa.
The rains instigate spectacular game viewing opportunities from vehicle, foot or quad bike, as grazing herds of zebra, springbok and wildebeest amble into the area, accompanied by their predatory followers in the form of lion, cheetah and hyena. Large herds of giraﬀe, gemsbok, Greater Kudu, Red Hartebeest and eland also feature. Colonies of meerkats can be experienced in their natural habitat, and interactions with these cooperative, yet cheeky, mammals makes for great entertainment. Although Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans have been cited as the ‘Serengeti of the south’, the prime objective in visiting is to experience the enticing allure of absolute remoteness, desolate beauty and isolation.