Makgadikgadi Pans

The Makgadikgadi pans & Boteti river offer a wilderness like no other – vast shimmering pans are an oasis for migrating animals.

Overview

The Makgadikgadi Pans are a mesmerising visual contrast to the lush vegetation of the Okavango Delta.

We use the ‘Makgadikgadi’ to describe whole region encompassing the Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pans and the Boteti River.

Makgadikgadi Pans

The Makgadikgadi Pans (part of the Makgadikgadi National Park) are the legacy of a great lake. Larger than Lake Victoria, it once covered most of Southern Botswana about two million years ago. Vast shallow white pans make up an extraordinary landscape – deceptively animated by mirages that shimmer and dance in the heat-blasted air. However when the rains come in summer the pans are transformed into shallow lakes and attract spectacular bird life including thousands of flamingos, pelicans and cranes – a majestic spectacle.

The shallow lakes and these rains also attract the last surviving migration of wildebeest and zebra in Southern Africa to the surrounding sweet summer grasses. During this time, the Makgadikgadi pan camps offer game drives in 4×4 vehicles, custom designed to suit this terrain. In the dry winter months you may be able to explore the pan by quad bike (if staying at Jack’s Camp or San Camp) and perhaps observe the desert-adapted wildlife of gemsbok, suricate and rare brown hyena. Mornings spent with meerkats, visits to majestic baobab trees used as camp sites by Livingstone, and walks with the Bushmen are all on offer. We recommend a stay of at least three nights in the Makgadikgadi Pans.

Nxai Pan

The Nxai Pan (also part of the Makgadikgadi National Park) is usually covered in short grasses which makes spotting game easy. The best time to visit is in the rainy season between December and April when the zebras and wildebeest feast. From here you can also visit the famous Baines Baobabs – seven huge trees eerily gazing over the surrounding salt pans; magnificent for photography.

Boteti River

This game-rich area lies on the western boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans, directly in the migration path of the thousands of wildebeest and zebra travelling in vast numbers between the Makgadikgadi pans to the east and the Okavango Delta and Savuti plains to the north-west. The Boteti River has been dry for decades but has been running again for the last few years. It now offers the only water source for the thirsty animals on their migration. From here you can enjoy a day excursion into Nxai Pan if you are staying three or more nights.

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Tasha Eygelaar

Africa Travel Specialist
Our experienced band of Safari Planners can create a bespoke plan for you. More enriching, more restorative and making more of a difference. Discover how working with a specialist adds value to your African adventure.

Features

Why you may love it

  • Annual migration of zebra and wildebeest
  • Eco-friendly quad bike excursions on the pans in the dry winter months
  • Adventurous mobile safaris of several days duration
  • Spectacular bird life on Makgadikgadi pans after summer rains
  • Famous Baines Boababs - magnificent for photography

Explore the Makgadikgadi Pans map

When to visit Makgadikgadi Pans

December to March

Summer in Makgadikgadi Pans

This is the Summer rainy season. In contrast with the Okavango Delta and Chobe, this is the time when wildlife numbers increase in the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans as the rainfall sustains them without the need for river water. Big flocks of flamingos come to the pans to enjoy the algae and may even breed. But it can be very hot with a lot of rain, especially January and February. As the summer rains dry up in March-April, many of the plains species such as Zebra start leaving the pans and head to the Boteti River to drink en route to the Okavango Delta. It is the largest migration in Southern Africa and is a sight to behold.
AVG RAINFALL 70 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 8 Hours
MAX TEMP 32 ℃ / 90 ℉
MIN TEMP 18 ℃ / 64 ℉

April to June

Shoulder season

This is considered the shoulder season as the summer rains stop. The grasses start dying down adjacent to the pans. But many animals remain around the Boteti river, where most of the camps are situated. The camps by the pans focus on the unique pans with a range of exciting adventure activities which can only be done when the pans are dry. It is also cooler during the day so safari activities are more enjoyable.
AVG RAINFALL 20 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 10 Hours
MAX TEMP 30 ℃ / 86 ℉
MIN TEMP 15 ℃ / 59 ℉

July to October

Continuation of dry season

The dry season continues. Note that June and July night-time and early morning temperatures can be very chilly on the dry desert pans! The game-viewing is probably at its best in the Boteti river but the park is getting very dry and dusty
AVG RAINFALL 3 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 10 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 6 ℃ / 43 ℉

October to mid December

Increasing heat

Temperatures heat up quickly in late September and October prior to the start of the summer rains. Somewhere in November, the summer rains start. This heralds the start of the zebra migration back again away from the Okavango Delta and into the pans where they can drink. November onwards continues to be good game-viewing.
AVG RAINFALL 25 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 9 Hours
MAX TEMP 36 ℃ / 97 ℉
MIN TEMP 18 ℃ / 64 ℉

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Accommodation

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Leroo La Tau on the Boteti River

The rooms at Leroo La Tau are extremely big, luxurious and very inviting. You can relax on your deck and view large numbers of wildebeest coming down to the river to drink. The fact that the river is flowing has just added so much more to that setting of being high up on the cliffs. The rooms and bedrooms have large ceiling to floor glass windows, taking full advantage of that stunning view.  The lodge faces east, awakening to dawn breaking, is just simply amazing! Again, a high level of service and great food. I recommend this lodge if you have the time, especially because it is in a desert environment.

They can now also offer motorboat trips on the newly flowing Boteti River. That was our chosen afternoon activity instead of a game drive. We saw a lot of birdlife, hippos and also wildebeest and zebra on the banks of the river. Game vehicles are left on the other side of the river for their game drives in the park. We drove along the banks of the river to a nice sundowner spot and on our way back saw elephants and a giraffe coming down to drink at the river and well as two jackal.

If clients would like to visit the Makgadigadi Pans, a 3 night stay is preferable, because it is a full day trip to the salt pans which is what many people want to see.

The following morning started with breakfast, a boat cruise across the river to where the safari vehicles were, for a game drive to have a look at where the 'Rhino-Boma'  is. This was built and funded by Desert & Delta Safaris to accommodate a rhino bull after two female rhinos were released in the area. He has joined the female rhinos and at present there are also two young calves. Desert & Delta’s Rhino Safari  is also in support of the rhinos in Botswana and hopefully in future the numbers will increase in the area.

Cedarberg : Natasha Jantjies
 
Did you know
  • LandscapeOne of the largest salt flats in the world
  • GeographyNot a single pan, but many pans with sandy desert in between