The Makgadikgadi Pans cover an area the size of Belgium, making them the largest salt pans in the world. In addition to the two main pans, Ntwetwe and Sowa, there are countless other, many smaller and mostly nameless salt pans in this huge area. This area with little vegetation radiates an mesmerizing hostility to life, but is nevertheless home to a fascinating abundance of wildlife.
In 1993, Nxai Pan National Park and Makgadikgadi Game Reserve were expanded and merged. Since then, the new combined protected area has a size of more than 5,500 sq. km. Since most of the pans in the Nxai Pan region are higher than the Makgadikgadi Pans, no salts have deposited here. They are therefore smaller and overgrown with grass. Individual islands of trees line the grassy areas with mopane bushes behind them. During the rainy season, the savannah landscape turns into a fantastic green sea of fresh grass.
The antelope herds of the Makgadikgadi region perform a remarkable, almost circular migratory cycle every year: During the rainy season, from around December to March, they stay in the northern area of the Nxai Pan. The relatively small pans there fill up quickly with water, and the surrounding fertile grass savannahs provide an ample, fresh source of food. Young animals are therefore born on the Nxai Pan. However, as quickly as the pans fill up, they dry out again. Hence, beginning in March or April, the herds move south and spend the next few months on the grassy and alluvial plains of the great Makgadikgadi Pans. Around August, however, the remaining water points dry up here too, which causes the animals to move on again. They are now trekking to the Boteti, where they can find water in individual pools even in the driest months. At the beginning of the rainy season, in December, they finally move north again to the Nxai Pan to give birth there.
The most common animals in the Makgadikgadi and Nxai region include springbok, gemsbok and giraffe.