Makgadikgadi Salt Pans Travel Guide

Once a magnificent inland sea, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana are all that remain in this desolate northern area. Timeless and empty, a safari here is a journey of self-discovery.

Sublime isolation in this remote region is a sure way of finding oneself.This vast area of dazzling nothingness is hard to comprehend, so extreme are the conditions only the hardiest Makgadikgadi wildlife can survive. This seemingly endless alien landscape of crusty salt pans and rocky outcrops transforms into great sheets of water teeming with life after the rains in November. The pans themselves at this time become inaccessible, but visitors can best view this amazing spectacle from the air or from the grasslands and woodland on the fringes.Located between Maun and Francistown, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Nxai Pan National Park adjoin each other to form almost 8 000 square km incorporating Ntwetwe Pan, Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pan, Baines' Baobabs and Kudiakam Pan. The Nxai Pan National Park has a permanent waterhole and resident game, the pan turns into a lush wonderland when the rains arrive. Just outside the Parks and east of Ntwetwe Pan is the Sowa Pan and Kubu Island, a National Monument.Visitors passing through this region can travel on the tarred road that runs between the 2 Parks; the towns of Gweta and Nata in the east are the closest for fuel, accommodation and supplies. There are no fixed lodges or hotels in the Parks only designated campsites, but visitors will find excellent Makgadikgadi safari lodges and luxury tented camps in Makgadikgadi on the outskirts.Off-road, this entire region is strictly 4x4 vehicle country year round and enjoyed by those on a variety of adventurous Makgadikgadi safari packages or intrepid and fully equipped self-drive enthusiasts looking for something rare and quite different.
Let a Siyabona Africa Consultant advise you on the best Makgadikgadi safari options.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans Experience

  • Brilliant night skies
  • Incredible atmosphere
  • Isolated stillness and silence
  • Fossils and ancient artefacts
  • Moon-like flat landscape and cobalt skies
  • Total transformation after the rains
  • Golden grasslands and palm trees on the edge of the pans


  • Exhilarating Quad-Biking
  • Game drives and cultural excursions
  • Walks with Bushmen
  • Learning about bush lore and history
  • Exploring the different Salt Pans
  • Flights over the pans in the rainy season
  • Elephant, Zebra and Wildebeest migrations
  • Flamingo migrations and breeding on the Sowa Pan
  • Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks
  • Nata Bird Sanctuary, Kubu Island, Baines' Baobabs


The Dry Season is from April to September, with strong winds August to November. April to July is best for game viewing. March to September is the best period for exploring the pans. The winter period is very cold at night but quite pleasant in the day.
Wet Season starts in November and goes through to March, although the pans may retain the water as far as April or May. Most of the Pans become inaccessible at this time and it is extremely dangerous to venture in without an experienced guide. The best way to view Flamingo flocks is from the air. Daily temperatures are high at this time but mild at night.

Nata, Makgadikgadi

On the eastern edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana is Nata, a small but important village on the crossroads going west to Maun and north to Kasane. The village provides a welcome stop for refuelling and accommodation. It is also the site of a great community eco-tourism project called Nata Bird Sanctuary and is a must-see for visitors passing through.
The main inhabitants of the Sanctuary are birds - 165 species ranging from Kingfishers to Ostriches, Bee-eaters to Eagles and Bustards. Visitors can also see plenty of woodland and savannah species. The Nata River empties into the Sowa Pan in the rainy season at the end of the year, attracting huge numbers of water birds such as Flamingos and Pelicans, Spoonbills, Teals, Ducks and Geese.
Other animals that can be seen at Nata Bird Sanctuary, Botswana include many types of antelope such as Kudu, Reedbuck and Hartebeest. A feature of the Sanctuary is an ancient Baobab that crashed over in 1992; this giant of a tree continues to grow even in a horizontal position.
Nata Attractions:

  • Nata River
  • Nata Bird Sanctuary

Nata Accommodation:
There is a camping area at the entrance to the Nata Bird Sanctuary with barbeque sites, hot showers and flush toilets. Other Makgadikgadi accommodation can also be found in the vicinity of the town.

Nata is located 190km (118 miles) west of Francistown. From Nata it is 100km (62 miles) to Gweta (last stopover for fuel / supplies before Maun). It is 300km (186 miles) from Nata to Kasane or to Maun, Botswana.
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