We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Another "Must See" in Botswana”

Makgadikgadi Salt Pan
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Johannesburg, South Africa
Level Contributor
118 reviews
43 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 102 helpful votes
“Another "Must See" in Botswana”
Reviewed February 12, 2014

We had not planned on visiting the pans as being January which is the highest rainfall month in Botswana, the pans are normally flooded and impassable at this time of year. However as we were passing close by en route from Serowe to Maun, we decided to at least go to the viewpoint in the south, which is just a bit north of the village of Mmatshumo.

On arrival at the viewpoint, when looking at the pans through the binoculars, they did not look very flooded. Having been told by one of the locals that the rains were very late this year, we made a snap decision to try and see how far through the pans we could get heading north.

Well.......what an amazing, adrenalin filled 4 x 4 off road adventure this turned out to be. In hindsight and having afterwards spoken to a few people, I think having been on our own without any other vehicles, this may have been a bit of a risky decision, but given that we eventually got through without incident (+- 7-8 hours to do the approx 190 kms south to north) we are so glad we did do it. The sheer vastness of the pans is awe-inspiring. The scenery either side although fairly sparse did make for some terrific photographic opportunities.

That said, I would not recommend this in the wet unless you have a reliable 4-wheel drive vehicle, with high clearance, low range & any other additional settings available as the terrain is hectic. We went through a LOT of water, a LOT of thick mud and a LOT of very thick deep sand on either side of the pans. Fortunately our vehicle is well equipped to deal with all of this (Land Rover Discovery 3) but even so there was a few parts where I have to admit being a little nervous!

Be forewarned, the Garmin GPS loses signal for a fairly large part of this journey and we had to rely on the vehicle's compass on the built-in Navigation system and we just kept heading due north. We did have a few tracks we could follow, however one honestly does not know when they were made so this could be a hit & miss situation. At one point with no GPS and no tracks, we got a little lost when the "track" ran into a flooded section with no other visible routes around, but using common sense we eventually picked up the tracks again on the other side of the "dam".

We saw no wildlife other than one squirrel, and very little birdlife other than a few raptors, a couple of vultures and the odd small water bird in the wetter sections. One does see domestic animals / herds - cows, goats, donkeys etc near the odd settlements on the way. I think as per previous reviews, the birdlife is very dependent on the rainfall and being late this year there were no flamingos or pelicans at all, not here or at Nata Sanctuary which we visited about a week later.

In the south the closest town with fuel is Orapa, in the north at Gweta, and there are no other facilities for a very long way once you start the journey, one needs to be well prepared with food, water and any other necessities to be totally self sufficient. The next possible stop that has facilities - flushing toilets, hot showers, accommodation / camping sites & a pub is at the Makgadikgadi Adventure Camp (http://www.makgadikgadiadventurecamp.co.bw/index.html) which is about 19kms north of Kubu Island & approx 87 kms south from Gweta. A very friendly gentleman offered us refreshments in the bar but as we did not know how much further we had to travel or how long it would take us, we decided not to stop.

All in all an exhilarating, sometimes nerve wracking experience, but one well worth doing, perhaps better in the dry season for those that are not quite so adventurous!

The photos don't do the trip or the sight of these pans any justice but perhaps those attached tell more of the tale!

Visited January 2014
2 Thank rozzie1Joburg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

145 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
140 reviews
87 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 55 helpful votes
“Pelican Brief”
Reviewed January 24, 2014

I was not impressed with the "spectacular birdlife" claim, perhaps, our arrival to the Salt Pans was bad timing. The whole purpose for my trip was to spot a whole lake covering with flocks of flamingos. Unfortunately, we arrived the day after it rained, so there was no sight of any flamingos. However, we were able to spot pelicans, and it was quite a sight, even thou that was not the main attraction. As far as for other birdlife, it was anemic. Our guide was so desperate for some conversation, he even pointed out to a common crow to our attention. However, in all fairness, the Salt Pans was quite unique. Around the park, you'll see holes were dug by the elephants looking for water source. It was very interesting to see the animal behavior adopting to their environment.

Visited January 2014
Thank youngcats
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
174 reviews
34 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 140 helpful votes
“Don't miss it”
Reviewed October 7, 2013

We did a sleep out here and it was a highlight of our trip. To sleep under the stars was just amazing. In the light of the moon the landscape became lunar.

Visited August 2013
1 Thank Fairmont123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Salt Pan”
Reviewed September 16, 2013

The grove of the 3000 year old Baobob trees were like an oasis in the desert. It was surreal, and unlike anything I have seen in my travels.

Visited June 2013
1 Thank sandyOrleans
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Gaborone, Botswana
Level Contributor
13 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Makgadikgadi pans”
Reviewed September 11, 2013

This past weekend was my birthday, I decided to go into Makgadikgadi Pans and camped out, good sight seeing of heads of zebra and good number of Elephant heads, few blue wildebeest, it was an enjoyable sight lots of storks and other migratory birds. It is important that if you come holidaying in Botswana include this area in your itinerary.

Visited September 2013
1 Thank Fred R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Makgadikgadi Salt Pan also viewed

Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Central District
Maun, North-West District
Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta
Nxai Pan National Park, Central District

Been to Makgadikgadi Salt Pan? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing