Makgadikgadi National Park, Botswana
THE LARGEST SALT PAN IN THE WORLD
Visible from space, its stark, white, featureless terrain appears to stretch across 12,000 sq km, melting seamlessly into the horizon.
A combination of soaring temperatures and the extremely arid climate make this captivating wilderness quite inhospitable for most of the year. However, from November through to March, the rainfalls transform these empty salt pans into a veritable Garden of Eden. As the pans flood with water a myriad of powder blue lakes and verdant landscapes form to become a hub of wildlife activity. In particular attracting the little known yet truly impressive Zebra migration, with herds of up to 20,000 passing through the pans. Equally as remarkable are the flocks of flamingos which congregate in their hundreds of thousands, as well as big herds of springbok and wildebeest, followed closely by predators, making for fantastic game viewing. Brown hyena and meerkats can also be spotted gazing through the surrounding grasslands.
If you were able to travel back in time tens of thousands of years, the area of northern Botswana known as the Makgadikgadi Pans would appear radically different to how it looks today. It was once a vast lake, larger than Switzerland. This immense body of water was surrounded by a region of swamps and wetlands that provided an ideal habitat for early humans, with abundant food and water.
Visit the area now and instead of a giant lake, you’ll find something no less spectacular: a series of dry salt pans that were once the lakebed. Although the pans appear arid and inhospitable, enough water reaches them (via the Nata and Boteti Rivers and from seasonal rains) that they support large areas of summer savannah grassland, and a fascinating array of animals and birds which have adapted to life in this challenging environment.
The Pans are actually a collection of salt pans, which can be found in the Kalahari to the south-east of the Okavango Delta. The most famous of the pans are Sua Pan, Nxai Pan and Ntwetwe Pan, and many of the most important habitats are protected by the 3 900km2 Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
|Languages spoken||English Tswana|
|Area (km2)||12, 000|