The Makgadikgadi pans & Boteti river offer a wilderness like no other – vast shimmering pans are an oasis for migrating animals.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tasha EygelaarAfrica Travel Specialist
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
April to June
July to October
Continuation of dry season
October to mid December
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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.
- LandscapeOne of the largest salt flats in the world
- GeographyNot a single pan, but many pans with sandy desert in between