One of the lesser known destinations within Botswana, both the Makgadikgadi Game Reserve and the salt pans offers a complete contrasting destination to any other within Botswana. The now flowing Boteti River, combined with scrubland surrounding it, and the starkness of the vast salt pans – at times lined with the zebra and wildebeest migrations, should certainly be considered when putting a safari together for those looking for something “off the beaten track.”
The Makgadikgadi salt pans and game reserve indepth
An area of approximately 12,000km including both the salt pans and the game reserve, The Makgadikgadi is a destination often referred to as the forgotten area – steeped in history of past explorers such as Dr David Livingstone and Thomas Baines, plus the abundance of ancient baobab trees.
The Makgadikgadi Game Reserve lies to the west of the salt pans, incorporating the very edge of Ntwetwe salt pan before encompassing scrublands, palm fringed tree lines and the now flowing Boteti River. A Seasonal destination in terms of the Zebra and Wildebeest migration, but with the Boteti River now flowing, the reserve is fast becoming haven for permanent wildlife population, including elephant, rhino, predators, plains game and remaining herds of Zebra.
In contrast to the game reserve, is the dry lake bed called the Makgadikgadi salt pans which are the largest in the world. Encompassing a series of pans, the largest of which are Sowa and Ntwetwe pan, and surrounded by a myriad of smaller pans, including Nxai Pan and Baines Baobabs.
The area is renowned for its most impressive and ancient baobab trees – Baines Baobabs, Greens Baobabs, Chapman’s Baobabs and Kubu Island. Some of which are believed to be over 3000 years old.
The salt pans are steeped in history – an archaeologists dream, archaeological sites on the pans are rich with early mans tools, bones of fish and ancient mammals.
In the wet season and dependant on good rainfall, the dry salt pans transform into powder blue lakes stretching as far as the eye can see. With the rains follows Southern Africa’s largest zebra and wildebeest migration, making the salt pans a year round contrasting destination.
Traditionally, the migration moved from the northern Okavango and Linyanti area down to the Pans when the rains arrived (Generally November/December ) and then as the pans dried up by mid March, the animals moved back to the now flooding Okavango and Linyanti area. Now, with the Boteti River flowing, some of the migration herds tend to move from east to west, with Zebra and Wildebeest moving away from the Boteti and into the eastern Pans during the rainy season (Nov-March) and then back to the Boteti River as the Pans dry up. Whilst some herds navigate the game fences and settlements in their effort travel back North towards the Savute and Linyanti areas.