​Expert Reviews – Nxai Pan NP

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Anthony Ham   –  
Australia AU
Visited: Multiple times

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

3 people found this review helpful.

Nxai Pan: the Elusive Horizon
Overall rating

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 human habitation with mirages shimmering above the white pans. The stand of vast baobabs known as Baines’ Baobab is one of the Kalahari’s most evocative sights and a fine place to camp. Whenever I’ve visited, cheetahs and lions have been relatively easy to spot, making it one of the best places in Botswana to see the former. Elephants are also common, as are gemsbok and impala. For the best wildlife watching, try the waterholes north of South Camp, or the more remote Kgama Kgama Pan away to the northwest – with few vehicles heading out this far, you’re far more likely to discover something interesting and then have it all to yourself.

Brian Jackman   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: March

Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.

1 person found this review helpful.

Botswana’s big sky country
Overall rating

Nxai Pan – forget the x unless you can master the Khoisan click language and pronounce it to rhyme with sky. An appropriate word because the flatness of the desert and its heat-hazy horizons makes for huge skies – especially in the rainy season when apocalyptic thunderclouds build up in late afternoon. Encircled by seas of fossil dunes, the pans themselves are ancient salt lakes covered in short, sweet grasses that spring up in the wake of the rains, attracting huge numbers of zebra, blue wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, eland and red hartebeest. The herbivores in turn are followed by the big cats as shown in Roar – Lions of the Kalahari, a spectacular National Geographic movie filmed at Nxai Pan in 2003.

Apart from the game the other big attraction everybody wants to see are Baines’ Baobabs, the seven giant trees painted by Thomas Baines in 1862. In the vast expanse of the Pans they dominate the horizon for miles around, presiding over a landscape that has hardly changed since Baines himself was here.

Paul Murray   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: May

Paul is a travel writer, author of the Bradt guidebook to Zimbabwe and is closely involved in promoting tourism to Zimbabwe.

Baines Baobabs
Overall rating

As the name suggests the focus of this wildlife-rich park is the pan itself, a large waterhole in the centre of the park surrounded by plains. In the dry season, you’ll see little more than gemsbok, zebra and small groups of springbok but like CKGR it all comes alive in the wet season, December to April, when grazing is plentiful and most of the animals drop their young. Now you could see exceptional concentrations of plains game (even the occasional rhino) with their hungry attendants, lion, cheetah, both species of hyaena, wild dog and jackal. Leopard are plentiful, and make sure you can tell the difference between springbok and impala because this is one of the very few places where both species exist alongside eachother. A word of warning though, all this depends on the rather unpredictable rains.

The other spectacularly notable area is Kudiakam Pan with the famous Baines Baobabs, an oasis of seven huge, gnarled trees brought to life on canvas in 1862 by the explorer and painter, Thomas Baines. I’ve spent ages with my camera trying to capture the tree island, with the equally photogenic gemsbok and zebra in the foreground.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.7/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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