The salt pans, which occupy around 20% of the area of the national park, are the remains of a giant super-lake that covered a vast area of southern Africa thousands of years ago. As the lake evaporated it left shorelines and salt pans, which range in size enormously and do not allow any vegetation to grow on the surface, pushing it to the fringe. This captivating wilderness, surrounded by rolling grasslands, is one of the last remaining domains of the San Bushmen, extremely skilled hunter-gatherers that specialise in tracking. Some Bushmen work in the camps in the area and it is an authentic and rewarding experience to track alongside them. World renowned explorer David Livingstone crossed these pans in the 19th Century, guided by a huge baobab that is still there today, reminding us of the times when these areas were unchartered and unexplored.
Makgadikgadi Pans supports one of Botswana’s largest zebra populations and during the rains (January to March) the pans fill with water, attracting a huge migration of wildebeest and the aforementioned striped critters. Brown hyena and meerkats can be spotted all year round in the surrounding grass and are easily located. The comical meerkats are often seen on their hind legs gazing into the distance or even using us taller humans as lookout posts.
Kubu Island, a rocky outcrop near the south-western shore of Sowa pan, is one of the most popular destinations in the area. About a kilometre in length, rocks are covered in fossilised bird droppings from the water birds that lived here. Rich in archaeological and historical remains, there is evidence here of past civilisations, with stone age cutting tools and even remains of a low stone wall, related to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.
There is some fantastic birding here with incredible colonies of breeding flamingos, forming a huge pink cloud covering land and sky.