Makgadikgadi Pans - Botswana Salt Flats

From the expanses of glistening salty land to beautiful lakes where animals congregate, the Makgadikgadi pans are a truly remarkable sight, no matter when you visit. Makgadikgadi Pans National Park has some of the biggest saltpans on Earth. The pans are remnants of an ancient lake that dried up millennia ago, leaving these massive areas of land encrusted with salt. After good rainfall, this dry, cracked, salty land becomes flooded and the biggest pans turn into clear blue lakes drawing herds of zebra, wildebeest and many other animals. As the sole source of permanent water, the Boteti River is the best place to spot wildlife from April to October, when the pans are dried up.

  • Best Time To Visit

    Any time of the year (different areas are better at different times)

  • Average Safari Cost

    $200 to $1,500pp/day

  • Highlights

    Wildlife sightings, quad biking on the saltpans, birdwatching, guided walks through the bush with local tribes, historical sites.

Why Visit Makgadikgadi Pans?

There are many things to do in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park such as game drives, guided walks and self-drive safaris. There is also plenty of wildlife to see as long as you know where to look. Animals are easily spotted congregating around the waters of the Boteti River during the dry months when the river becomes the only source of water in the park.

From November to March they move towards the waters of the stunning lakes that form in the pans from all the rain. However, even from April to October, when the wildlife has migrated to the river, the pans are still an exceptional sight to see. While the campsites near the pans are very basic, there are lodges and more luxury accommodation options further away from the pans.

So even if you're not looking to rough it in the wild, you can still experience the magnificence of the park from the comfortable lodges. From amazing wildlife sightings to dramatic, desolate landscapes of salted earth, the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is a must-see destination.

Pros And Cons

To choose the right adventure, have a look at our list of pros and cons.
  • Incredible saltpans
  • Wildlife sightings are easy in the open plains
  • Animals can easily be found at the Boteti River (April-October)
  • Animals can be found at the pans (November-March)
  • Interact with local tribes and learn about their culture
  • Ancient baobab trees
  • There is less diversity in wildlife than in some of the other parks
  • The weather can get uncomfortably hot and the land dusty.

Best Time To Visit

The Makgadikgadi Pans can be visited at any time during the year as wildlife can always be found in specific areas of the park, depending on the seasons. From April to October, the dry season, animals can be found gathering around the Boteti River as it becomes the only source of water when the pans dry up. This is the best time to see the saltpans as they are dry and you can drive onto them. The weather during the day is pleasant and warm, while nights can get very cold with temperatures reaching about 45˚F (7˚C).

The wet season is from November to March. During these months, animals migrate from the river to the pans as they fill up with rainwater and transform into lakes. It is still very warm during these months with temperatures averaging about 90˚F (32˚C) during the day. The most rainfall occurs in January and February, which can make travel difficult as the roads get muddy and difficult to navigate. Sometimes it is not possible to fully experience the spectacle of the pans due to the weather and inaccessibility from the roads.

For more details about when to visit broken down by months/seasons see our Botswana overview.

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Wildlife And Birds

Herds of zebra, wildebeest, eland, springbok and red hartebeest migrate through the park with the changing of the seasons. Predators such as lions, leopards and hyena follow and hunt these migrating herds so there are plenty of exciting animals to see in the Makgadikgadi.

While the park is not short of wildlife, you do need to know where to look. Find animals drinking and playing in the waters of the Boteti River during the dry months and see them migrate to the water-filled pans during the wet months. There are many bird species to see in the Makgadikgadi, especially during the wet season, November to March, as migratory birds can be found.

List of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Leopard
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe

Frequently Seen Animals:

  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Wildebeest
  • Springbok
  • Eland
  • Oryx

Rare animals:

  • Hippo
  • Cheetah
  • Wild dog


Makgadikgadi is an excellent birdwatching destination. When the rains have been heavy over the pans, flocks of flamingos gather in the newly formed lakes and turn the landscape an incredible spectacle of various shades of pink. Pelicans can also be found in the shallow water looking for food.

Endangered birds:

  • Wattled crane
  • Hooded vulture
  • White-backed vulture
  • Gray-crowned crane

Getting There And Safety


Botswana is commonly entered through Maun Airport. Makgadikgadi Pans National Park can be reached by travelling from Maun via self-driving, booking an organized safari drive or by flying to one of the airstrips at the lodges. Charter flights can be booked online and are often booked as a part of a tour package so check with your operator.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Botswana.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Botswana.

For more details about flights see our Botswana Safari - Complete Travel Guide.


All foreign visitors must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after their visit.

Visas are not required by visitors of many nationalities, who will receive a 30-day entry permit upon arrival.

For more details about visas see our Botswana Safari - Complete Country Guide.


The vaccinations recommended for Botswana are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid. Boosters are recommended for measles, tetanus and diphtheria.

There is a high risk for malaria in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park so taking anti-malarial drugs is advised.

It’s better to check with your local medical authority which vaccinations are required.

For more details about vaccinations see our Botswana Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Botswana. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.

What To Pack

You will need to pack clothes for both warm and cool weather as it can get very hot during the day and quite cold at night depending on what time of the year you go. Try to pack neutral, earthy toned clothes and avoid bright colours. Other essential items are a hat, sunscreen, toiletries, closed shoes, torch, batteries, insect repellent, binoculars and camera.

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.

Driving On Salt Pans
If the pans are dry then you or your guide will be able to drive right onto and around the pans. Some of the camps offer quad biking on the pans. It's a surreal experience!
Campsite Electricity
Some of the campsites do have electricity outlets but a lot of them are very basic so be prepared for no electricity and you will need to bring your own supplies and water. Check with your operator and ensure that your itinerary includes all of the comforts you expect.
Self-Driving Safari
For a self-driving safari on salt pans a 4x4 vehicle is highly recommended as the roads are rough and there is a lot of off-road driving. It is also recommended to travel with at least one other vehicle in convoy in case you have car problems. You might need some previous safari experience prior to heading at it alone.