The Makgadikgadi Pans span 16 000 km² (9 942 square miles) and are the largest salt pans in the world. Remnants of an ancient lake, the pans are interspersed with sandy desert and occasional vegetation.
One of Africa's biggest zebra populations makes this vista of white sand and salt their home. When rains fall during the wet season, the pans are filled with water and attract large flocks of flamingos, as well as big herds of zebra, springbok and wildebeest, followed closely by predators, making for fantastic game viewing.
Approximately 30 kms from the Nxai Pan National Park entrance, Baines’ Baobabs are a highlight for any visitor travelling this area of Botswana.
Seven huge, gnarled baobab trees, named after the 19th century explorerThomas Baines, are situated on a promontory or island overlooking and surrounded by the white, crusty Kudiakam Pan. Baines stood here over a hundred years ago and painted this otherworldly scene. It has essentially remained unchanged.
Nxai Pan National Park
Part of the great Makgadikgadi complex, Nxai Pan National Park covers an area of 2 100 sq kms, and comprises several larger pans – Nxai Pan, Kgama-Kgama Pan and Kudiakam Pan, which were once ancient salt lakes. These larger pans are now grassed, and are scattered with islands of acacia trees, and smaller pans that fill with water during the rainy season – thus providing rich resources for wildlife.
Botswana’s first community-based conservation project is managed and staffed by residents of four local communities – Nata, Maphosa, Sepako and Manxotae. It is a good example of a non-consumptive means of wildlife utilisation that brings direct financial benefit to local communities. Proceeds from tourism activities in the sanctuary are shared by the four communities for whatever development projects they decide they want and need.
One of the most popular destinations on the Makgadikgadi is Kubu island, a rocky outcrop near the south-western shore of Sowa pan.
This crescent-shaped island is about one kilometre long, and its slopes are littered with fossil beaches of rounded pebbles, an indication of the prehistoric lake’s former water levels. Many rocks on the island are covered in fossilised guano, from the water birds that once perched here.