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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.
Part of the Makgadikgadi complex, Nxai Pan National Park comprises several large pans. 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.
At the right time, after good rains, this is the best place (after neighboring Makgadikgadi Pans National Park) to see one of southern Africa’s most amazing wildlife spectacles: the migration of thousands of zebra. 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.
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. Some huge 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 midyear 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.
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.
Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.
Nxai Pan: the Elusive Horizon
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...