The Makgadikgadi Pan, a salt pan situated in the middle of the dry savanna of north-eastern Botswana, is one of the largest salt flats in the world. The Makgadikgadi is in fact a series of pans, the largest of which are Sowa and Ntwetwe, both of which are surrounded by a myriad of smaller pans. North of these two pans are Kudiakam pan, Nxai Pan and Kaucaca Pan. Interspersed between the pans are sand dunes, rocky islands and peninsulas, and desert terrain.
Africa’s most famous explorer, Dr. David Livingstone, crossed these pans in the 19th century, guided by a massive baobab, Chapman’s Tree – believed to be between 3 000 to 4 000 years old, and was the only landmark for hundreds of miles around. This tree with a trunk measuring 25m in circumference and roots that extended over 1 kilometer into the surrounding area crashed to the ground on 7th Januray 2016. Seeing this amazing tree today, you are given entry to an era when much of the continent was uncharted, and explorers often risked their lives navigating the wilderness on foot or oxcarts through rough tough and grueling terrain.
No vegetation can grow on the salty surface of the pans, but the fringes are covered with grasslands. Massive baobab trees populate some fringe areas – and their silhouettes create dramatic landscapes against a setting sun.
The Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve – with an area of 3 900 sq kms – incorporates the western end of Ntwetwe, extensive grasslands and acacia woodland. At its northern boundary, it meets the Nxai Pan National Park, separated only by the Nata- Maun Road.