The Makgadikgadi Pans form part of what was once the bed of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi; a humongous stretch of water that evaporated around 10,000 years ago. The Makgadikgadi Pans are found in the Kalahari region of Botswana and are comprised of several different pans. The pans are usually a salty dry clay most of the year but seasonally grass sprouts and water returns to this barren landscape. This is a huge draw to surrounding wildlife that flock to the pans for much needed water in the wet season. The different pans, with desert and dunes separating them take up an area of 6,200 square miles.
Bordering the pans are salt marshes and grassland and around its edges you will also find the behemoth baobab trees. These tall, thick trees act as excellent landmarks to find your way around the pans and they certainly stick out. Livingstone once used a baobab as a guide post to cross Makgadikgadis arid plains. However, life elsewhere on the pans is sporadic. Throughout the year very little life exists bar a thin layer of blue green algae that clings to this surreal landscape as the only plant life for miles around.
However, dramatic change greets the Makgadikagi with the coming of the rains. Tremendous herds of game gather in the area, including animals on migration paths. Huge numbers of wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrate to the pans in search of new pasture. The presence of these large prey species attracts large predators to stalk them, so you will often catch a glimpse of lion at this time of year. Birdlife is perhaps one of the more celebrated aspects of the wet season, as hundreds of thousands of birds swoop in to enjoy the rejuvenated pans. Water birds thrive in Makgadikagis vibrant state especially the Greater flamingo. Tens of thousands of these birds wing their way to the pans, which act as the only breeding ground for the southern African population of the species. The dry season is not completely void of bird sightings with the Kittlitzs plover, chestnut-banded plover and ostriches making appearances.
On Makgadikagis outskirts there is also a healthy population of cold blooded creatures too. If youre a fan of reptiles then checking out the outskirts of the Makgadikagi is made for you. Here you will find rock monitors, tortoises and all kinds of snakes and lizards too. Lying to the west of the pans is the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve. This area covers a corner of the pans and also stretches to the Boteti River. It also encompasses much bush and grassland adding colour and variety to a landscape already stunning and unique. The park is a great place to view wildlife, with the opportunity to observe the migrating herds move between the river and the pans.
A fantastic camp to experience the magic of the Makgadikagi is Jacks Camp. Situated on the edge of the pans, the camp boasts charming 1940s African décor with comfortable accommodation. One of the highlights of the camp, however, is the chance to venture out into the heart of the Makgadikagi Pans on 4wd quad bikes. On such excursions explore, along with the camps expert guides, archaeological sites that hold the fossils of giant species of hippo and zebra. Native to the area are incredible species such as meerkats, aardvark and the very rare brown hyena. The Makgadikagi may well be a vast world of glaring white endless plains but it is also one of life and nourishment, guaranteed to be a destination wholly unforgettable.