The Makgadikgadi Pans are the remains of an ancient super lake that is believed to have covered a vast percentage of Southern Africa. The area is a dramatic, desolate expanse of an almost lunar landscape, where you can literally see the curvature of the earth on the horizon. Made up of acres of shimmering white salt, the Makgadikgadi Pans evoke a sense of complete wilderness in an area seemingly untouched by humankind. This is one of Africa's truly unique destinations.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are one of the last remaining domains of the San Bushmen, some of the last hunter/gatherers in Africa today. The San are exceptional trackers, and many of the camps here have San Bushmen as their guides. Other camps arrange walks with San Bushmen or visits to San villages. Either way, we highly recommend visiting the San whilst staying in the area.
The (salt) Pans themselves only make up about of 20% of the National Park, with the remainder consisting of rolling grasslands. These grasslands are the focal point of a vast zebra migration, second only to the Serengeti’s migration herds. To coincide with the largest herds, you will need to travel at the beginning of the year. The later months see the herds move north away from the Makgadikgadi, as the region becomes progressively drier. Herds can still be found in the area, specifically around the Boteti River area, and unique species such as brown hyena and meerkats can be found in the grasslands throughout the year.
Where to stay
Uncharted Africa have been running camps and explorations in the Makgadikgadi for years, attempting to give their clients 'what they never knew they wanted'! Their flagship property, Jacks Camp, is very high end and is one of Africa's most unique camps. Its sister camp San Camp is less luxurious, whereas Planet Baobab is a great place for good value family safaris. The standard of guiding at all these lodges is high, especially at Jacks, and the company's genuine relationship with the San Bushmen gives rise to one of the continent's most authentic cultural interactions.
The Boteti River area is home to Meno A Kwena, a lovely small, very good value camp that looks over the riverbed. Concentrations of zebra here are phenomenal, and the river becomes the focus for a good diversity of game when the remainder of the region becomes dry.
When to go
The seasons here work in opposition to those of Botswana’s big game areas, so the Makgadikgadi is in peak safari season during the early months of the year. January, February and March see herds coming down from Northern Botswana for the nutritious grazing to be found around the Pans and the Kalahari. This is a peak time for the zebra migration. When the region dries out however, from the beginning of June onwards, there are still pockets of game to be found and the famous resident meerkats and brown hyena are easily located. And since much of the appeal of the Makgadikgadi is the desolation of its landscape, as opposed to its big game viewing, this is really a year-round destination.
AT A GLANCE
where to stay