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Lying northeast of the Kalahari Desert and south of the Okavango Delta, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are one of the largest in the world. These salt flats cover over 10,000 square miles stretching into Makgadikgadi National Park and Nxai Pan National Park.

The salt pans glisten in white for most of the year, patched by the sun and salt. During the rainy season, the area becomes a crucial wetland with excess water flowing from the perennial Boteti River, filling ephemeral ponds and shallow lakes, ultimately promoting the growth of short-lived abundant grasslands. This phenomenon draws wildlife, making the area perfect for tourists to experience amazing safaris.

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History Of The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

The salt pans are salty remains of the ancient African Lake Makgadikgadi situated in present-day Botswana. Little is known of its origin; however, scientists deduced that the lake came to existence by a rift-flank uplift along the Chobe Fault across the Zambezi River course way. The event diverted the area's drainage net into the Makgadikgadi Basin, initiating the lake's formation.

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As time went on, partitioning the area's drainage network through successive captures by surrounding rivers resulted in sequential contractions of the lake. The contractions gradually lowered the lake's shorelines' elevation. This loss of important catchments like the Upper Chambeshi caused the lake to drop, ultimately drying the water body up.

Additionally, several tectonic movements changed the inclination of the soil, preventing most of the remaining catchments from feeding the lake. Over 10,000 years ago, the lake began drying gradually, leaving behind desiccated relics detailing its former inhabitants and shorelines preserved at different elevations.

Today, the area is full of extensive shimmering salt pans during the dry season. Conversely, the attraction springs to life during the rainy periods culminating in a vital wetland that supports the ecosystem of nearby parks and natural features.

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What To Do In Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

The salt pans may seem desolate at first sight, especially from an aerial view experienced by the numerous flights offered to travelers in the area. But contrary to what meets the eye, the site provides multiple activities that include unmatched African Safari experiences. Tourists will have numerous things to explore, depending on the season.

Wet Seasons

Depending on the amount of rainfall, Makgadikgadi can transform into a giant lake or be dotted by shimmering pans on its primary depression. Additionally, no matter the water level in the area, the salt-resistant vegetation occupying the place is always nutritious and green, attracting wildlife.

Wild animals like zebras, wildebeests, meerkats and numerous denizens throng the area in search of food. Predators also lurk around, picking out the weak and sick. This abundant presence of wildlife promotes multiple activities, including game drives, nature walks, bird watching, and night Safari drives.

Dry Season

It is during the dry season that tourists marvel at the essence of Makgadikgadi. During this period, water in the lake often dries up, leading to the exodus of numerous herds of animals and flocks of birds. Carcasses and hoof prints usually cover the area.

However, the area is not always devoid of wildlife, as the permanent denizens like the meerkats offer an exciting viewing experience. The dry season is also the ideal time for tourists to explore the pans by driving through them or by taking nature walks with the region's original inhabitants, the San.

Where To Stay Near Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

Botswana is a safe country in Africa to visit any time of the year. There are also several superb lodges near the attractions that accommodate travelers. Most of these accommodation spots incorporate various activities in their packages, including nature walks and famous safaris.

Jack's Camp

Lying at the entrance of Makgadikgadi, Jack's Camp is an elegant Botswana Safari lodge located within the unique and beautiful surroundings of the pans. The camp lies in unique geology, anthropology, and archeology area. Such positioning exposes visitors to the numerous wildlife that throng the place.

An estimated 50,000 zebras and wildebeests migrate to the area for food; this migratory phenomenon happens between January to April. Tourists can spot wildlife through game tours, nature walks, and night drives.

  • Rates: Starting from $1450 - $2495 (depending on the season)

Meno-A-Kwena Tented Camp

Another hidden gem perched next to these magnificent salt pans is Meno-A-Kwena Tented Camp. The spot lies on a rocky clifftop above the area's fabled Boteti River, a feature boasting a rich history regarding the site.

This lodge offers stunning vistas of the surrounding Boteti River while offering tourists a traditional Safari with an African touch. Travelers witness wildlife drinking water in the river while birds perch on the surrounding vegetation. Additionally, the camp takes tourists on walks, game drives, scenic flights over the salt flats, and conservation safaris.

  • Rates: Starting from $495 - $995 (depending on the season)

Several other camps and lodges, such as the San Camp, also offer suitable accommodation. Before booking their stay, travelers should consider the following:

  • Tourists should never take quad drives across the pans alone
  • Travelers should take nature walks with guides versed in the area's geography

This incredible attraction is rich in history, dating back millions of years. Tourists explore the site to marvel at its past and present condition. Therefore, travelers looking to explore the southern part of Africa need to prioritize this destination.