The Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana are made up of two large pans Ntwetwe and Sua Pan, as well as many other smaller ones.
The eastern part of Ntwetwe Pan falls outside of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Botswana as does Sowa Pan. These areas also have many attractions including the magnificent display of Flamingos gathering together in a wonderful pink hue once the rains start in late November. These birds migrate from Etosha, Namibia and East Africa to breed and feast on the tiny creatures and algae that flourish in the warm shallow water.
Ntwetwe and Sua (sometimes spelt Sowa) are the two major pans that make up the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana. Ntwetwe Pan lies to the west of Sua, and the two pans are separated by a short grassy strip. There is an old trading route used by the European explorers, including David Livingstone passes through the centre of Ntwetwe. There are two famous isolated baobabs in the centre of the pan Green's Baobab and Chapman's Baobab that have served as landmarks for travelers for centuaries. You can see Greens and Livingstone's initials carved into their trunks.
In a land so flat and desolate any landmarks are something to take note of and there are several island dunes, the largest of which is Gabasadi Island is the largest of these. There are several Stone Age sites scattered among the smaller pans on the western shore of Ntwetwe. You can also find the remains of San pit traps nearby.
This pan is dry most of the year when the unusual rock formations can be seen. Ntwetwe Pan, Botswana is covered in water in the Wet Season and bird and game viewing is at its most spectacular when viewed from the air.
Sua Pan is the eastern most of the large pans. It is separated from the Ntwetwe Pan by a thin strip of grass. The pans name is Tswana and it means salt which is apt as salt dominates the ecology of the region. On the one edge of this vast pan you can find the Sua Pan Soda Ash Company which mines salt and soda ash.
The Sua Pan is fed by the Nata River and in good rainy seasons during the December months will flood, forming a shallow lake. This in turn attracts large flocks of Flamingos as well as other birds. Where the river enters the pan, it has formed a small permanent delta that now forms part of the Nata Sanctuary. There is a viewing platform on the eastern shore from which you can usually get a good view of the flamingos.
Other landmarks to look out for include Kubu Island with its majestic Baobabs and granite outcrops, which is renowned for being one of the most beautiful spots in Botswana. About 7km south of Kubu Island out in the middle of the pan are two islands which also have several Baobabs and the one island has a number of rock cairns. Another landmark called Kukome Island on the eastern shore of Sua Pan which also has fossil beaches and other archaeological sites.
Sowa means salt in the Bushman language which aptly describes this huge white expanse forming the largest Salt Pans in the world. Water birds in great numbers migrate to Makgadikgadi, Botswana when the rains come late in the year and the Nata River fills the north of the pan. Flamingos and Pelicans, Ducks and Teals settle in to enjoy the season.
During the winter when it is dry, birds such as Korhaans are often seen on the grassy fringes as well as other Makgadikgadi wildlife; migrants include Kites, Bee-Eaters and Eagles.