Venture into the midst of the northern Kalahari Desert in Botswana, and you’ll stumble across a vast and ancient complex of flat salt pans. Undisturbed for millions of years, this harsh, isolated landscape takes you to another world, far from modern life.
The wildlife is incredible, and the scenery is stunning, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find the salt pans are home to incredible geology, culture and history.
The Great Salt Pans are dominated by the Makgadikgadi Pans, a massive salty stretch of around 10,000 km2, where lush grasslands and palm-tree islands stand out on dazzling white surfaces.
Nxai Pan National Park lies north of Makgadikgadi, where fossil pans are blanketed in grasslands filled with wildlife. Visit during the dry season for the best chance to spot lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, giraffes, springboks, gemsboks and hartebeests.
This is also one of the best areas to spot some of Africa’s rarest animals, including the African wild dog and the brown hyena, a shy creature which can be spotted around San Camp on the edge of the Makgadikgadi. Here, you can also visit semi-habituated meerkat colonies, where wild meerkats usually ignore the presence of humans, or get up close for a memorable encounter.
One of the most special activities to do in the Salt Pans is to walk with the San bushmen trackers of the region. You’ll venture into the bush as they share their incredible wisdom, learning about their nomadic lifestyle and how they hunt, gather water, and use plants for medicinal purposes.
In Nxai Pan, you can’t miss a day trip to the impressive Baines’ Baobabs. These ancient trees were painted by the adventurous artist Thomas Baines in 1862, and 150 years later, the trees remain almost identical to the paintings.