The area that is now covered by Makgadikgadi pans national park was once a 30m deep lake that occupied several square miles. But has since thousands of years, dried up and water has evaporated leaving salt pans stretching as far as the eyes can see. Today, the area is though to be the largest salt flats in the world. Within the salt plains are isolates rocky outcrops, specks of giant baobab trees, dry savannah bushes and palm trees.
Contrary to its local translation for a vast lifeless land, Makgadikgadi boasts of thousands of wild animals, reptiles and birds. Formerly a game reserve in 1970, Makgadikgadi is now a protected national park covering an area of close to 2,000 sq km Sowa and Ntwetwe and other smaller salt pans that make it the largest salt pan worldwide.
Activities in Makgadikgadi during the wet season
The wet season is normally experienced between the months of January to May and these months come with heavy rainfall which makes it hard for tourists to get a close look at the Pans and see them in their normal expanse. And although accessing the Makgadikgadi might be extremely hard during this season, this does not mean that there are no activities that you can carry out because we have listed them here so that you can tick them off your bucket list.
#1 Mororo Ride
Mokoro rides through the Makgadikgadi, these are majorly offered by some camps and locals trying to make a living. A Mokoro is a canoe that is handmade and carries two passengers that is the tourist and the person who is operating the Mokoro with a handle. The beauty about going for a Mokoro ride is that it is extremely quiet since it has no engine and you get to enjoy the wild without any noise disturbance and it also allows you to explore all the flooded parts of the salt pan and you will also get to see the many swamp birds that habitate and these include the black bustard, the Egyptian goose, the yellow billed duck among others.
#2 Makgadikgadi Birdwatching
The Makgadikgadi receives a huge number of bird species that fly from the neighboring countries especially during the dry season and some of these species include the African darter, the blacksmith lapwing, the pink lesser flamingo and many more other species.
#3 Boat cruises
Boat cruises in the Makgadikgadi, this is one of the activities that can be carried out in the park during the wet season also known as the green season. The boat cruise is one of the many ways you can explore the whole park even the parts that are flooded and you also get to see many bird species along the water bodies. During your boat rides, you can also engage in the fishing with the locals who can be seen in their Mokoro canoes and get to meet and know about the local fishing methods and how they preserve them.
#4 Animal Sightseeing
Animal viewing in the Makgadikgadi, although game drives are best carried out during the dry season, the park is filled with wild animals during the rainy season which is also known as the green season and the number of animals that you get to see during this time is a lot more than that seen during the dry season. It is during this same season that the Park experiences many wildlife migration that is the Zebra migration which is considered to be the second largest annual animal migration on the African continent.
The Makgadikgadi National Park is a good place for you to visit and your safari will not be complete if you do not visit the Makgadikgadi because of all that it has to offer so all you need to do is pack a bag and visit the Pans although you should be ready for the hot weather that is experienced in the area.
Activities in Makgadikgadi during the dry season
The dry season in the Makgadikgadi comes in the months of Mid May to October before the rains come back in November. The reason as to why you should visit during the dry season is that you will have a lot of activities to carry out some of which have been listed below so that you can choose what to actually begin with when you visit the Park.
Cycling through the Makgadikgadi national park, cycling through the Makgadikgadi National park can be done during the dry season as this helps you to discover all that the salt pans have to offer. During the dry season, the pans almost dry and it is easy to see their full expanse and you get to see the animals that walk through the expanse of the salt pans. It is good for all those who want to exercise but get ready for the bumpy trails and before you go out for cycling, you need to have full protective gears on that is knee caps, a helmet and elbow caps.
#6 Quad Biking
Quad biking through the Makgadikgadi pans, the Makgadikgadi pans are one of the best destinations for quad biking and there the vast landscape within the Makgadikgadi proves it. You will be provided with quad bikes at the camps and these can mostly be driven when the heat is not too much that is either in the morning hours or evening and make sure you avoid the hours between mid-day to three as the heat can be over bearing. Quad biking through the Makgadikgadi National Park is another good way for one to explore the whole park with ease.
# 7 Makgadikgadi Safari Botswana
Game drives through the Makgadikgadi National park, the game drives through the Park are carried out during the dry season and the animals found here are all known to be desert resistant since the park experiences semi- desert conditions and the animals that Makgadikgadi has to offer to tourists include the hyenas, lions, baboons, giraffes, meerkats, warthogs, jackals, elephants, springboks, bushbucks, the hartebeest and bush pigs. The game drives can either be done during the day or night and the night drives enable you to see the all the nocturnal animals and birds within the Park.
#8 Track Animals With The Bushmen
Track animals with the Bushmen, trekking through the salt pans with the Bushmen will give you a better idea about how the Bushmen live and how they have lived in this whole time in the harsh weather conditions. They also show you how they hunt using their unique skills, how to survive in the wild and you will also learn more about their culture and traditions while you track animals with them.
#9 Photo Safari
Photo safaris in the Park, the best way to capture the Makgadikgadi region is by being behind the lens. There is a way that the camera captures all the moments that you would have missed if you did not have it and the best time for one to take photos is in the morning when the light is right. For all those who are not so sure about how to use a camera, there are tour guides who will take you through the basics of taking a photograph and the many things that you can take photographs of when you are there include the salt pans, the animals, the numerous bird species, the local san Bushmen after asking for their permission and many more other tourist attractions.
#10 Nature Guided Walks
Trekking through the National park, trekking through the Makgadikgadi is normally carried out during the dry season because during the wet season, the Park is always flooded making the trek routes extremely hard. The trek through the Park is only allowed if you have a tour guide with you and it is mostly done in the mornings and evenings since the afternoons tend to get way too hot for a trek. A trek through the Makgadikgadi Park will reward you with a view of the animals, birds and the vast vegetation that covers the whole Park.
#11 Explore The Salt Pans
Explore the salt pans, these are considered to be the largest salt pans in the world and they are shared between the Nxai national Park and the Makgadikgadi national Park. The salt pans can be viewed either during the dry or wet season but the best time for one to do this is during the dry season as it is the only time that you will be able to get a real good close look at them. They might not be extremely dry but the view that it gives off especially during sunset.
Best time to Visit Makgadikgadi National Park
January to April are the best months to visit Makgadikgadi Botswana safaris when game sifts south of the park to Boteti riverbanks in search water as predators feast on the large numbers of animals that migrate here. August to November is the dry season but associated with strong dry winds that blow away sandy silt.
The rains flood most of the salt pans transforming it into a sea of life for many birds like pink flamingoes that use the area as a breeding ground. The park is then inaccessible with slippery roads and you surely need an expert game ranger to escort you on a game drive. Bear in mind that this area is Malarial and you will need to pack your anti-malaria treatment and drugs.
Due to its harsh weather, the salt pans have remained void of human settlement for several years after Stone Age Era. There are Bushman hunting shelters and sacred sites and the shorelines of Makgadikgadi are littered with archaeological relics including Stone Age tools. The seasonal bounty of game has attracted hunters through the ages.
You’ll find two camping sites overlooking the salt plains on Njugha hill with basic facilities and latrines. If you are lucky enough, you will experience the migrations of zebras, wildebeest and other animals on trail that can be seen from the camp sites. Campers are encouraged to carry plenty of drinking water and other supplies.
Find a public camping ground at Kumaga locate droughly 50km from the main park gate on the banks of Boteti river. Sunsets are splendid on this camp site with the pans turning golden.
The Makgadikgadi National Park is a home to many wild animals and birds that habitate within the different parts of the park and it is one of the mostly visited National Parks in Botswana. And just like in any other National park in the country, there are several tourist attractions and activities that will keep you busy once you visit the Park and these include trekking, nature walks, cultural walks with the Bushmen, visiting the salt pans, birding and many more interesting things.
The Makgadikgadi salt pans receive two seasons throughout the year and that is the wet season and dry season and these are the great determinants of the activities that you will carry out while on a visit to the salt pans and when to visit. The various activities that tourists can engage in while on a visit on the Makgadikgadi salt pan have been divided into two that is activities during the dry season and activities during the dry season.