User Reviews – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

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Overall rating
4/5

Let me qualify this review -- I went to the pans in the winter (July) which is not the height of its wildlife season. If you can get there in the African summer when the rains are falling and animals are bearing their young and the birds are migrating, I think it would be a very different experience.

One of the most magical places on earth
Overall rating
5/5

We drove into Makgadikgadi NP, in a hired 4x4, from the south (from Lethakane) on a spur of the moment decision, we had an extra two days to get to Maun and thus decided to take the detour. Probably one of the best decision ever made. After a small town (I think it's called Mmatshumo) the road gradually gets narrower and after reaching the salt plains it now and then was completely gone. The salt plains give a tremendous feeling of freedom, but don't wander of too far from the tracks, because your vehicle will get stuck if you crack the crust of the salt and you'll probably damage the landscape.
We camped at the campsite at Kubu Island, a rocky outcrop just east of the central grassy peninsula. Although the "island" is rather small, it's full of Baobabs, a rather strange sight if the surrounding area is only salt plains and grassland. Watching the sun set from the top of the island was beautiful, the moment the last part of the sun sinks behind the horizon, absolute darkness engulfs the plains. During the five minutes walk back to our tent we lost our way in the darkness, ending up at someone else's camping spot.
If you've got the choice, try to make it to Kubu Island on a night, or at least evening, without a moon. The night skies were some of the best of seen in Africa.

Overall rating
3/5

Very difficult to see wildlife. Due to the rains we were unable to quad and sleep under the stars. However, the brilliant part were the meerkats. Amazing creatures. I would also suggest the bushmen walk was very contrived and some of their group even seemed to be a bit bored. I felt this was a way for them to make money and felt obliged. The explanations were interesting but I would have rather donated to a cause.

5 months in the harsh but beautiful Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Overall rating
4/5

I have been volunteering in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park for the last 5 months with the charity Elephants for Africa (http://www.elephantsforafrica.org/) so this review might be a little different from others. I arrived in Makgadikgadi at the end of May. Having visited other national parks one of the first things I noticed was the harshness of the environment. Around the Boteti river which has only started flowing in 2009 after 20 years of being dry there is some green vegetation but the further you go into the bush the drier to gets to the extent you start to wonder how anything can survive but out in the grasslands you can see gemsbok, steenbok, ostrich and the elephants and zebras making their long trek to the river. The river is where everything happens with large herds (sometimes up to 30 individuals) of male elephants playing in the river and cooling off. Since I have been here we have started seeing female herds moving into the area but they are very nervous around vehicles and tend to move off very quickly.

Lions can be herd at night and there is a local pride in the area but you have to work hard to see them. Early starts down at the river trying to pick up their trails are your best chance but like any safari it can come down to luck like when we bumped into two cheetah in the middle of the day. Wild dogs have also been seen in the area as well.

I'm not a birder but there is plenty of action down at the river in this department with fish eagles, lappetfaced vultures, tawny eagles and a mix of other birds to be seen.

The road network in Makgadikgadi isn't very extensive and if only here for a short period focusing time around the river would be the best use of effort. If you start heading North after the river or too far South of the Khumaga gate you just end up following the national parks fenceline. If you are staying for longer it might be worthwhile travelling east towards the pans and the open grasslands to get a feel for the harshness of the area. However, if you do this you need to be very self sufficient as there is not a lot of traffic in the park so if you get stuck you need to be able to get yourself out.

I stay in the parks area where the SKL office is but have visited the SKL campsite where they have a very nice ablution block where you can get hot water for showers and wash up after a busy day in the field. The SKL guys are also really useful. If you ever get into difficulty they have a vehicle and are willing to go and help you if you get stuck anywhere.

4wd is a must in the park as it can get quite difficult to drive in the sand.

In terms of weather it was warm back in May during the day and cold in the evening but now in October the temperature has really increased and has got up to 40 degrees celsius during the day and still warm during the nights.

In this park you really have to put the time in and if you are expecting to see lions and cheetah left, right and centre this is maybe not the right park for you. However, when you do get these sightings it makes it much more rewarding. That said I might be biased on this but there is nothing better than seeing a herd of elephants playing in the river in the afternoon and makes for some very scenic views.

Also something I forgot to mention but at the moment at the Khumaga gate because of the Boteti river flowing and vehicles being unable to cross there is now a small car ferry that charges Pula 130 each way which often tourists don't know about.

Overall rating
4/5

While I'm not a birder, it's a great place to see a lot of birds. The harshness of the land there and high salinity of the water mean that not that many animals can live there. Still there are wildebeests around and zebras.

Overall rating
5/5

There are two parts to this area - the Pans itself and the National Park. We spent a night sleeping under the stars in the Pans and it was an awesome experience (organised by Meno a Kwena Tented Camp). We also saw meerkats and no-one else. We then did a safari drive in the national park section. It has the second largest migration of zebra (after the Serengeti) which we could believe as we saw hundreds of them as well as lots of wildebeest, elephants swimming and lions very close. And we hardly saw anyone else. It was a very special place.

Overall rating
5/5

Our guide somehow understood how to navigate this flat, shimmery, beautiful landscape and we saw lots of bird species.

Overall rating
5/5

Excellent safari destination with sufficient tourism infrastructure

Overall rating
5/5

Let me state at this point that all the parks and reserves in Botswana are awesome. Yes, they differ in scenery and wildlife composition but their uniqueness is always nature and wildlife pure. If you got a chance to visit several parks, then just do so but choose the time of the year carefully. Because, the Makgadikgadi Pans are very treacherous during the rainy season!

Overall rating
4/5

Nice detour/side-visit between Chobe and Okavango. Not as great as those but still good for a sunset drive into the pans. May be different (much better) in low (water) season.

Average User Rating

  • 4.5/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star 15
  • 4 star 12
  • 3 star 1
  • 2 star 0
  • 1 star 0
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