Wherever you stand in the Makgadikgadi Pans, you are dwarfed into insignificance by the sheer magnitude and empty, endless expanse of the surreal landscape that surrounds you.

Wherever you stand in the Makgadikgadi Pans, you are dwarfed into insignificance by the sheer magnitude and empty, endless expanse of the surreal landscape that surrounds you.

This is as close to it comes to encountering an Africa unchanged since the series of saltpans that make up Makgadikgadi was formed 2 million years ago, when a gigantic inland superlake evaporated. Makgadikgadi is not somewhere that can be easily described – it is something that must be experienced.

Many saltpans – including Ntwetwe Pan, Sowa Pan and Nxai Pan – make up the 3 900km2 that comprise Makgadikgadi Pans, said to be the largest saltpan in the world. Nothing grows on the salty, shimmering surface of the bone-dry pans but a thin layer of blue-green algae, although the edges are fringed with grasslands, palm islands and savannah, punctuated in places with monolithic baobab trees. It is one of these baobabs – Chapman’s Tree – that guided the famous explorer, Dr David Livingstone, as he crossed these pans in the 19th century. Believed to be up to 4 000 years old, this tree is the only landmark for miles around and is a testament to an era when the continent withheld its mysteries.

In the dry winter season, this inhospitable place resembles a vast lunar landscape, with shimmering mirages to dazzle you in every direction. It is very difficult for large mammals to survive here for much of the year, although you are likely to see a variety of desert-adapted animals, including aardwolf, African wildcat, cheetah, kudu and meerkat.  

But the wet summer season sees the last great migration that still occurs in southern Africa. As the pans fill with water, one of Africa’s largest zebra populations and huge herds of wildebeest and antelope – such as springbok and gemsbok – flock from the Boteti River across to Ntwetwe Pan to graze on the sweet young grass. Hot on their heels are large predators: the magnificent black-maned Kalahari lion as well as leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena. A remarkable array of waterbirds flock here from all over Africa in the wet season, and spectacular breeding colonies of flamingos make for outstanding viewing and striking photographs.

Don’t miss the beguiling, mysterious and evocative Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve: a visit here is a life-changing, mesmerising experience.

Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve

Things to do in Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve

Meerkat encounters

Horse riding

Quad bike excursions

Cultural walks with San Bushmen

Game-viewing drives

Accommodation in Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve

Jack’s Camp

In the pristine vastness that is the Makgadikgadi Pans, Jack’s Camp rises out of its arid surroundings like yet another of the area’s shimmering mirages. The olive-green canvas tents trimmed with fluttering scallops evoke traditional 1940s East African safari style, an effect underpinned by the lush Persian carpets that adorn the wooden decking underfoot. The camp – consisting of 10 spacious tents with en-suite bathrooms featuring flush toilets and both indoor and alfresco showers – is set into a palm grove that lends it a Moorish ambience. The decor taps into this, with bedroom suites decorated in rich, exotic prints…

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Jack's Camp
Accommodation in Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve

San Camp

Ecosensitive San Camp is the sister camp to Jack’s Camp and it has the same wildly romantic ambience. The classic white safari tents stand majestically on the edge of the enormous sparkling saltpan, each in the shade of stately desert palms. The camp is small and intimate, with just six widely spread out tented rooms. Each room has an en-suite bathroom with flushing toilet and bucket shower. In keeping with tradition, lighting is simple – traditional old spirit lamps are atmospheric and allow for excellent stargazing of the Kalahari’s magnificent night skies. In this stark environment, luxury is redefined: simple…

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