The "Greater" Makgadikgadi

The Greater Makgadikgadi includes two parks – the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park (MPNP) and Nxai Pan National Park. Both are physically and ecologically connected and are part of the “Kalahari Desert,” being very dry for most of the year. The Makgadikgadi Pans are the deepest part of a former “super-lake” that dried up due to changing climatic and geographical conditions. The deepest parts of the lake are now completely barren, moon-like salt flats, devoid of visible life – supporting no vegetation at all. Grasslands and eventually woodland, complete the variety of habitats in this ecosystem.


Game viewing in the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans

Parts of this salt pan system are surprisingly full of life, and fortunately have been protected in the form of National Parks with infrastructure (lodges and campsites) for visitors. Desert adapted antelope like springbok and gemsbok (oryx) occur in good numbers as well as decent populations of giraffe, elephants and other general game. Predators too are generally thriving in the well protected core areas of these parks, particularly in Nxai Pan and along the Boteti river.

Out of the core protected areas, there are huge swathes of salt pan and grasslands to explore. Hit them at the right time, particularly after heavy rains, these can support an incredible explosion of life – flamingoes in the tens of thousand, breeding waterbirds that arrive from all over the world to exploit these “booming” conditions and an explosion of insect, frog and reptile life!

Further, we like this region because it remains largely untouched and provides intrepid visitors with adventure, unique wildlife sightings and even more unique landscapes.

The most interesting  ecology of the Greater Makgadikgadi is the migration of the zebra throughout the park – this would be the main reason to visit so do research our suggestions, as you need to locate yourself in the right place depending on the time of year.

Scroll below for a list of the possible wildlife viewing in each park…….


The salt pans and the seasons

You can visit any part of each park at any time of year, but do consider the following with regards to movement of animals through the seasons: During the rainy season (November to March), the salt-saturated clay pans fill with rain water, and the grasses at the edge grow sweet and lush. This attracts thousands of zebra and wildebeest during their annual migration. To be sure of seeing this “migration,” it would be best to stay in a lodge in Nxai Pan (Nxai Pan Camp) or a lodge on the Eastern side of the MPNP (Camp Kalahari) during these months. This is where the zebra should be, however their movements vary year-to-year depending on the amount of rain.

Once the rains are over and the water in the pans has dried up, the migration heads back to the Boteti River (West MPNP). The number of zebra on the Boteti River usually reaches a peak between June and October. This is when you should be looking at including Meno a Kwena or Leroo La Tau on the banks of the Boteti. on your itinerary.

The arrival of the rains makes the salt pans almost inaccessible, but the lodges continue operating all year. An influx of incredible birdlife, blooming flowers and a general explosion of life accompanies the rain in these desert ecosystems. The dry season brings changes, but the local guides still know where and how to unearth the secrets of the salt pans.


Nxai Pan National Park

  • Small park with only 1 Camp – Nxai Pan Camp
  • Often underrated, but surprisingly productive
  • Waterhole game viewing for most of the year when the park is very dry
  • Zebra migration arrives here during first rains (December) and depart usually by around April.
  • Large desert elephants can be seen here
  • Resident pride of lions hang out near the waterhole as well as cheetah, leopard and occasionally, wild dog.
  • This is where you can see the famous Baine’s Baobabs.
  • Exploration mobile safaris through the pans
  • Spot the elusive brown hyena


Makgadikgadi Pan National Park

  • Opportunity for quad biking excursions (Planet Baobab, Camp Kalahari)
  • Salt pan sleep outs under the stars
  • Zebra wet and dry season ranges in the same park
  • Bushman cultural experiences at lodges here
  • Habituated meerkats found on the pans.
  • Exploration mobile safaris through the pans
  • Often underrated, but surprisingly productive
  • Spot the elusive brown hyena
  • “Wet season” and “dry season” lodges to explore – inquire for more information





Lodges in Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans

Boteti River Camp
Jack’s Camp
Planet Baobab
Leroo La Tau
Meno a Kwena
Camp Kalahari
Nxai Pan Camp