The vast salt pans known as the Makgadikgadi in Botswana may seem desolate and devoid of life, but there is something special about the area, and a number of safari activities allow visitors to discover one of Africa's most unique destinations.
© Taking in the sunset on a quad-biking experience. at San Camp
A place unlike any other
The flight from Maun to the Makgadikgadi Pans could lead one to believe that the land below you seems uninhabitable by neither man nor beast. A seemingly barren landscape, dotted with a few clumps of dark vegetation, does at first glance look like the African experience of a lifetime, as quoted by many brochures and sales people.
Guests arriving in the Pans for the first time are greeted by a landscape unlike any other on Earth, where the world's largest salt pans
- greater in size than Switzerland - stand as testimony to what was once a vast inland lake.
Yet, like every where else on the planet, life around Makgadikadi is controlled by the seasons, with the wet season attracting great herds of animals and flocks of birds while the dry season provides stories of survival and surreal experiences.
Makgadikadi wet season activities
Depending on the amount of rain that falls in the area, the Makgadikgadi can resemble a giant lake, or be dotted with glistening pans on the edges of the main depression. Whatever the levels of water in the area, the grasses on the fringes of the depression will be green and nutritious and this attracts large herds of Zebra and other animals to the region. Predators will also be present in numbers
, weeding out the sick and the weak.
At this time of year, the activities revolve around game drives
, night drives and nature walks which allow visitors to experience the rich variety of wildlife in the region. Walks with the Bushmen are offered from some of the lodges in the region. Birds flock to the area and thousands of flamingos can be seen feeding in the shallows.
Walks with Bushmen & Quad-biking in the Dry Season
Although the wet season is exciting for its sheer numbers of wildlife
, it is in the dry season that the essence of the Makgadikgadi Pans is experienced. This is the time when the water has dried up, and the herds have left, save for the carcasses and hoof prints imprinted in the dried surface.
The permanent denizens of the Pans provide for fascinating viewing and interaction, such as activities with habituated Meerkats
- and watching them as they go about their daily routine. Other interesting species that can be seen on activities in the Makgadikgadi include the elusive Brown Hyena and the desert adapted Oryx or Gemsbok.
The dry season is the best time for interactive walks
with the original inhabitants of the region, the San or Bushmen, who will showcase their survival techniques such as finding water in the desert.
Riding out onto the pans on a quad bike is a highlight of any Makgadikgadi safari, for it is here where visitors can gain appreciation of the space
and silence, as well as experience riding for hours and not getting anywhere in particular, creating a soul searching experience which can be an overwhelming experience.
Appreciating Space and Silence
The Makgadikgadi may seem barren and uninhabited but there is a definitive feeling of place, and no visitor will leave untouched
by the experience - referred to by many travellers, as the most unique safari experience in Africa.
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