Overview – Nxai Pan NP

Part of the Makgadikgadi complex, Nxai Pan NP comprises several large pans. Nxai Pan is the easiest of the pans to drive to, and the wildlife viewing tends to be the best as well. Unlike the salt-encrusted pans at Makgadikgadi, Nxai Pan is a waterless, fossil pan covered in grass with acacia islands. The area comes to life after the summer rains in December, when big herds of migrating zebra and wildebeest, accompanied by other grazers, arrive to feast on the new grasses.

Best Time to Go December to March (Best wildlife viewing)
High Season December to May (Higher rates apply but not busy)
Size 2,100km² / 811mi²
Altitude 914-953m / 2,999-3,127ft

Pros and Cons

  • Stunning desert scenery
  • Off-the-beaten track and little visited
  • Open plains make wildlife viewing easier
  • Animals migrate to the pan in the wet months
  • Less wildlife than in more popular parks, such as Chobe or Moremi
  • Very little accommodation in and outside the park
  • It is very hot and dry

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Wildlife

At the right time, after good rains, this is the place to see one of southern Africa’s most amazing wildlife spectacles: the migration of thousands of zebra and wildebeest. Smaller herds of giraffe, impala, springbok, oryx and red hartebeest can also be seen. This is not a Big Five destination, but some elephants are around, and lions are always on the prowl.

Scenery

Nxai Pan is the more accessible of the pans in the area. The scenery is quite different though. Nxai Pan is older, and this has allowed vegetation to take root. It is permanently covered in grass, and pockets of acacia trees also grow inside the pan. After the rains, the pans are covered in spring flowers. Between the pans, the vegetation consists of scruffy-looking acacia bush and mopane woodland, while some amazing baobab trees tower on the fringes.

Weather & Climate

Nxai Pan’s desert locale is governed by a distinctive pair of seasons: Dry (April to October) and Wet (November to March). The sunny, warm days at the start of the drier months at first give way to cooler mid-year conditions, before the heat builds up as a prelude to the first rains of November. The Wet season typically doesn’t see day after day of rain. Instead, afternoon thunderstorms are the norm.

Best Time to Visit

You can explore Nxai Pan year-round. But don’t expect to see much wildlife in the Dry season (April to October), when animals venture elsewhere in search of water and to escape the ubiquitous dust. For rich animal-watching experiences, visit after the rains have arrived in November, when wildebeest, zebra and many other species come here to drink their fill. You’ll also see plenty of greenery, including flowers.

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Nxai Safari Reviews

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Most Helpful Expert Review
Nxai Pan: the Elusive Horizon
3/5

These salt pans, like the contiguous Makgadikgadi to the south, are white worlds surrounded by islands of scrub and oases of greenery to provide some relief. There’s an epic quality to the landscape, a frontier world beyond the realm of...

Latest User Review
3/5

Arriving at the Nxai Pan gate, we were greeted by another track masquerading as a river and informed that we could only be admitted at our own risk. This was a no-brainer as our camp was already set up in there and there was no alternative....