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Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.
Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Botswana & Namibia Lonely Planet guide.
Anthony is the author of the Botswana & Namibia Lonely Planet guide.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is part of the Kalahari Basin and has some of the largest salt pans in the world. The shimmering, cracked crust doesn’t look as if it could support any form of life. After good rains, however, this desolate landscape transforms when new grass attracts thousands of animals, and from December to March the park is home to one of Africa’s biggest zebra migrations. As the pans fill up, flocks of pelican and flamingo settle in as well.
Most wildlife activity in the park is at the Boteti River, and this is where most of the lodges are situated. This area gets jam-packed with grazers in the Dry season. Burchell's zebra, blue wildebeest, giraffe and greater kudu all gather here. Lion, leopard and spotted hyena are regulars as well. When the grass starts to grow in the Wet season, these animals migrate east to the pans.
The park has a variety of habitats. The Boteti River has beautiful, riverine forest on its banks. The pans in the east of the park don’t have much animal activity in the dry, winter months, but this is when their stark beauty is best appreciated. At this time, 4x4s can drive onto the pans to experience this strange environment up close.
Weather & Climate
Makgadikgadi Pans has a desert climate with two distinct seasons. The Wet season (November to March) is consistently warm, with the average daytime temperature hovering around 32°C/90°F. Temperatures in the Dry season (April to October) are anything but consistent. They start off warm, drop to cool in the middle of the year, then crank up to very hot in October.
Depending on the time of year you visit Makgadikgadi, you’ll spot different animals around the park. The Wet season (November to March) is the best time to see birds. If you’re lucky, you’ll see enormous flocks of flamingos gathering at the pans. The Dry season (April to October) is when herbivores and various predators head down to the Boteti River.
Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.
The Big Empty
The Makgadikgadi is an extraordinary place. Once, 20,000 years ago, there was a lake here, twice the size of Lake Victoria. Then it vanished, leaving the mosaic of soda pans you’ll see today. In the dry season you can drive by quad bike...