Experience Space | Travel Guide to Makgadikgadi
Situated in north east Botswana, surrounded by the Kalahari Desert, just below the Chobe National Park, a visit to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans provides endless space, and silence and excellent quad biking opportunities.
The Experience:The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are one the largest salt pans in the world, stretching across an area the size of Portugal. Mostly uninhabited by humans, aside from the San people who have occupied the land for many years, the landscape is flat, stark and uninviting, stretching out endless towards the horizon where the sky and the land meld together. Yet, despite the seemingly desolate and harsh environment, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are a popular tourist destination with large numbers of visitors travelling to the area each year. The draw card, enticing these adventurers during the dry season is the stillness, silence and endless space. There are not many places in the world where one is able to drive out on a quad bike, at full speed in any direction for miles and miles and still essentially be 'nowhere'. During the wet seasons when the pans fill up with water the wildlife all migrate to the area, providing excellent game viewing and bird watching opportunities.
Accommodation OptionsThere are a number of safari lodges available to suit all budgets and requirements. Varying tour packages book different wilderness camps and safari lodges.
HighlightsWatching the sun rising behind a huge baobab, turning the landscape varying shades of pinks and reds is one of the top highlights for any traveller visiting the Salt Pans. A family friendly destination,there are a number of popular attractions in the surrounding area including a visit to the nearby Meerkat family. Located in the middle of nowhere, the feeling of isolation and space is something seldom found and felt nowadays, and should be relished if even for just a moment. The star gazing at night presents the 'greatest show on earth' as falling stars and satellites skip past in the pitch black skies above; providing endless hours of entertainment.
Wet Season ActivitiesThe Makgadigadi Salt Pans offer a number of different activities that vary quite substantially depending on whether the area has received a lot of rain or very little rain in the recent times. When there has been a lot of rain the Salt Pans change from being a dry, desolate landscape to a lush green oasis as it becomes a giant lake, fringed by tall grasses. During periods of high rainfall the game viewing is exceptional as the pans attract large numbers of African wildlife including huge herds of Zebra and Wildebeest, and as is nature's way, these animals in turn attract a number of predators such as Lion. During the wet times of the year game viewing becomes the main pivotal attraction with activities ranging from guided game drives, guided night drives and walking safaris. Visitors can also enjoy prolific bird watching as the water also brings flocks and flocks of birds to the area.
Dry Season ActivitiesDuring the dry times, when there is less water the areas main attractions change completely with the true essence of the salt pans being revealed. A dry, barren landscape stretches for miles and miles before you as you gaze out towards the horizon. The herds of animals migrate away from the area leaving behind only footprints and old dried up carcasses. While the pans may seem uninviting at this time, there are a number of interesting activities for visitors to enjoy and the sheer space, silence and expansive stillness is tempting in its own right. The residential families of Meerkats do not stray when the water is scarce and their playful family antics are a wonderful sight to behold. Other species also remain in the area when the waters decrease, and the dryness encroaches, and visitors will be able to have great sightings of desert adapted game animals such as the Oryx, Gemsbok and Brown Hyena. The local San Bushmen have been living in the area for many decades and visitors will also be able to take guided bush walks with these inhabitants, learning about their survival techniques and way of life. Fun for the whole family, a quad bike ride out into the middle of salt pans is a fun and exhilarating activity that allows visitors to truly gain perspective on the size of the salt pans.
AccessLocated between Maun and Nata in northern Botswana, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are accessed by travelling on the road to Francistown, 160 kilometres (99.2 miles) east of Maun and 45 kilometres (27.9 miles) from Gweta, a small village that provides travellers with fuel and supplies.
AirportThe closest international airport is Maun Airport. Maun Airport is located 198 kilometres (120.9 miles) from the Makgadigadi Salt Pans.
Climate:There are two seasons in the Makgadikgadi, namely the wet/rainy season (November - March) and the dry season (March - September). The landscape and climate differs quite substantially from the one season to the other. There is also a period between each of the seasons, from September to November when the temperatures soar to 45°C (113°F) and the sky is filled with dust.
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