The pans are an integral part of the Kalahari and many are named, the meanings mostly of unknown origin and many that have probably never been seen except by the original inhabitants of the Kalahari.
The life cycle of these pans generally involves a time filled with water during the rainy season, before shrinking to mud and algae. The algae give the pans a reddish look before the dry season takes hold and the algae shrivels. The pans in the dry season are either dry cracked clay, or white powdery salt depending on their location.
The most famous of the pans is undoubtedly Deception Pan, so named because of the weird mirage-type illusion of beautiful blue water when viewed from a distance at certain times of the day.
What causes the illusion is uncertain but at certain times of the day the clay in the pan can have a blue tinge when seen from close up. The illusion has confused even the most seasoned of travelers to the Kalahari, and in particular pilots who become quite irate when told that it is an illusion.One of the most fascinating aspects of the pans of the Kalahari happens after heavy rains have fallen and the pans become waterlogged - massive bullfrogs appear from the mud where they have spent the winter. The night is filled with their calls and these amphibians, some reaching up to 20cm, feed and mate before heading back into the mud with the drying of the pan.
Two exceptional safari lodges have been established in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve for those travellers who want to experience this incredible desert wilderness, without having to rough it.