Makgadikgadi is part of the Kalahari basin and has some of the largest salt-pans in the world. The shimmering, cracked, salty crust doesn’t look as if it could support any form of life.
After good rains, however, this desolate landscape transforms when new, green grass attracts thousands of Burchell’s zebra and blue wildebeest.
When the pans fill up, flocks of pelican and flamingo settle in as well. The national park is located on the western border of the pans, covering only a small part of it.
Big, migrating herds of Burchell’s zebra and blue wildebeest move through the park. Other herbivores following the migration are oryx, eland and red hartebeest.
There are good numbers of predators as well. Both spotted and brown hyena can be seen. Leopards are quite common in the riverine forest and lion can often be seen hunting zebra.
Makgadikgadi Pans is more a birding destination than a general wildlife destination. Birding is phenomenal in the wet summer months, especially if the pans fill up and flocks of lesser and greater flamingo, accompanied by pelican, come feeding in the shallows.
The location of the flamingo varies depending on rain and algae, but the best place to see them is outside the park in the Nata Bird Sanctuary. The flamingo breeds on the pans when the water is high enough to protect their nests from predators.
The Makgadikgadi Pans can be visited throughout the year. It’s a seasonal park and wildlife migrates through it with the seasons. The actual pans attract wildlife in the wet summer months, from December to about May.
This is also the best time for birding and seeing the flamingos on the pans. However, most of the park and lodges are concentrated around the Boteti river area – which is best visited for wildlife viewing in the Dry season – from June to December. The Dry season is also best for viewing the pans, as you can drive onto them.
Where to stay
Leroo La Tau, reopened in 2008 under new ownership, rises majestically above the dry Boteti Riverbed which stretches across the western border of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
The park, populated by up to 30,000 zebra and wildebeest closely accompanied by predators, offers guests the chance to experience the exhilaration of seeing large concentrations of game and the resultant predator interaction.
The lodge comprises 12 thatched chalets, each with en-suite bathrooms. The main lodge building is surrounded by an expansive wooden deck with a plunge pool, where guests can immerse themselves in the ultimate wildlife experience
This family-friendly camp accepts children of all ages. It’s the best way to experience the Makgadikgadi in a fresh and affordable way, ideal for those wanting fun and adventure as well as comfort and style.
You’ll find Camp Kalahari’s ten tents amongst the acacias and Mokolwane palms of Brown Hyena Island, on the edge of the Makgadikgadi saltpans.
It’s simple, yet comfortable, with a traditionally built thatch library, living/dining area and swimming pool for those hot Kalahari days.
Activities on offer year round: Interact with incredibly friendly habituated meerkats, walking with Bushmen Guides, game drives to experience unique desert wildlife, Chapman’s Baobab – of the oldest and biggest trees in Africa, birding & night drives.
Dry season activities (16h April – 31st October) Quad bike on the saltpans Wet season activities (1st November – 15th April) the zebra and wildebeest migration
Jack’s Camp is an oasis of style and comfort in the middle of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert. An authentic, 1940’s style tented safari camp, which houses a private museum, shop, drinks tent and pool pavilion.
Spectacular vistas, creative surprises, expert guiding, old-world safari styling and superb cuisine all come together to create an experience that is completely different to any other. Activities vary, combining wildlife with culture, history, archaeology and geology.
Activities on offer all year round include: interacting with incredibly friendly habituated meerkats, walking with Bushmen Guides, game drives to experience unique desert wildlife, Chapman’s Baobab – one of the oldest and biggest trees in Africa, birding and night drives.
Dry season activities: 16h April – 31st October Quad bike across the saltpans Wet season activities: 1st November – 15th April Zebra and wildebeest migration
San Camp, deep in the Kalahari, is one of the most romantic and intimate camps in Africa. Completely rebuilt in 2011, the camp’s classic six white tents stand majestically on the edge of the endless Makgadikgadi Salt Pans – each sheltered by a cluster of desert palms.
The central dining tent houses a small library and natural history museum filled with fascinating artefacts from the area. There is also a yoga and meditation tent for Guests wanting to enjoy the space and serenity of the area. San Camp operates during the dry season, from 16th April to 15th October.
Activities on offer at San Camp include: interacting with incredibly friendly habituated meerkats, walking with Bushmen Guides, game drives to experience unique desert wildlife, Chapman’s Baobab – one of the oldest and biggest trees in Africa, bird watching, night drives and quad biking across the lunar expanse of the pans