Empty Expanses, Filled with Interest
Nxai Pan National Park lies adjacent to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and is approximately 2,578 km² in size. Originally state land, an area of 1676 square kilometres was declared a game reserve in 1970 and then in 1992 the boundaries were extended to include Baines Baobabs to give the present total area of 2,578 km² and National Park status was granted.
Nxai Pan National Park is renowned for its beautiful scenery that is unique to this area as well as spectacular game viewing. Once the rains start, wildebeest, gemsbok, elephant and zebra migrate to the region. At the same time zebra come in their thousands to give birth to their young. Massive herds of giraffe can be seen with up to 30 in a group. The large herds of zebras, springbok, and wildebeest attract many predators like lion, cheetah, jackal, both spotted and the elusive brown hyena, as well as the endangered wild dog and the secretive leopard which in return offers incredible game viewing. There are large numbers of bat-eared fox and raptors that prey on the rodents and reptiles. Rhinos are occasionally sighted. Eland, greater kudu and red hartebeest are seen in Nxai Pan. The birdlife is incredible, with black Korhaan, kestrel and goshawks to name a few.
The great Makgadikgadi Pans, covering about 10,000km² of the Kalahari, are nothing but salt. Some of the pans are enormous; others are the size of a small pond. Around these pans are rolling grasslands and the occasional picturesque palm-tree island. The main objective in visiting the Makgadikgadi National Park is not to view game, but to experience true remoteness and absolute isolation. It is vast, wild and beautiful. The subtle hues at sunset transform Makgadikgadi into a surreal wonderland, which is unlike anywhere else. During the day the dusty pans, with whirlwinds skirting across a seemingly endless desert, offer the best way to come face to face with true isolation.
The variety of birdlife found in the Makgadikgadi area is outstanding. Birds that can be seen are white-backed and lappet-faced vultures, bateleurs, tawny and martial eagles, black-breasted snake eagle, lanner and red-footed falcons, gabar and pale chanting goshawks. Also seen are red-billed and orange river francolin, ostrich, secretary bird, guineafowl, black and red-crested korhaan, kori bustard, crowned plover, double-banded courser, spotted dikkop, all species of sandgrouse, giant eagle and pearl-spotted owls, lilac-breasted and purple rollers and large numbers of the hornbill species.
The Makgadikgadi area contains large numbers of animals, especially zebra and wildebeest, who migrate to grasslands in the west of the park after the rains. During this migration animals accumulate in their thousands. The heavily wooded areas beside the river also contain shy antelopes like duiker and bushbuck.
During the dry winter months, the migrations move westwards to the water available in the Boteti River but many desert-adapted creatures remain resident. These include meerkats, yellow mongoose, ground squirrel, aardwolf, African wildcat, caracal, spring hare, porcupine, steenbok, kudu, jackal, honey badger, genet and occasional lion. This is also the domain of the brown hyena, a shy and elusive creature, as well as suricates, aardvarks and small bustard species.