Botswana’s desert salt pans are ethereally beautiful and genuinely exhilarating to explore. There is outstanding seasonal wildlife, fascinating Bushman history, varied activities and exclusive camps. Possibly most attractive though are the sensational, endless landscape and the feeling of timeless isolation amongst the baobab trees, coarse grasses and stone-age relics of the pans. The Makgadikgadi is the largest and most renowned while Nxai Pan has become more accessible, and both can be visited on the same itinerary. With wildlife such a strong focus elsewhere, combining the Pans with a classic safari itinerary to the Delta hotspots can provide extra variety and colour.
The first consideration is what time of year to visit, as the best wildlife months are very different to those further north. There is a little known but utterly spectacular zebra and antelope migration that heads south from the Okavango area onto the pans from March, following water and grazing sources to the Boteti River by September, before returning to the Delta. Leaving aside the wildlife, the many year-round attractions include the indigenous San Bushmen people, who lead excursions to demonstrate their tracking prowess and unique customs. Just walking on the vast, remote pans is incredible, while quad bike excursions and the opportunity to sleep under the stars are truly unforgettable. Although there are now camps to suit all budgets, it is likely that you will fly in and out of this area, so the costs can be high. But there is nowhere else in the world like the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, so we would very strongly recommend including them in your itinerary.