Nxai Pans Overview
Nxai is the northern-most vestige of the super lake that created the entire Makgadikgadi complex. As such it is essentially a saltpan, which has been entirely reclaimed by the savannah grasses. The pan itself is host to huge numbers of springbok, gemsbok and even impala, and in the wet season zebra and elephants migrate into the area and frequent the pan. As such, it forms a stark contrast with the serene tranquility of Ntwetwe Pan, south of the Makgadikgadi area. There are also good populations of giraffe, kudu and lion in the area and a good chance of seeing leopard, wild dogs and cheetah.
Nxai Pan’s desert locale is governed by a distinctive pair of seasons: Dry (April to October) and Wet (November to March). The sunny, warm days at the start of the drier months at first give way to cooler mid-year conditions, before the heat builds up as a prelude to the first rains of November. The Wet season typically doesn’t see day after day of rain. Instead, afternoon thunderstorms are the norm.
Entry into Botswana is usually through Maun Airport (MUB) or Kasane Airport (BBK) for safari-goers. Nxai Pan NP is located 162km/100mi east of Maun. The park can be reached on a self-drive safari, an organized mobile safari or a fly-in safari. There are several campsites in the park, and one lodge in a 5 hectare private concession. Flying by chartered plane from Maun or Kasane, or from any safari camp to the airstrip of the only lodge in the park, is the easiest way to get here.
At the right time, after good rains, this is the place to see one of southern Africa’s most amazing wildlife spectacles: the migration of thousands of zebra and wildebeest. Smaller herds of giraffe, impala, springbok, oryx and red hartebeest can also be seen. This is not a Big Five destination, but some elephants are around, and lions are always on the prowl.
Nxai Pan is a very good destination for safari-goers interested in birding. More than 200 bird species have been recorded here. The different habitats – ranging from grassland, mopane woodland and acacia scrub – ensure a wide range of species. On the open pan, kori bustards and secretary birds mingle with the visiting white storks. Many migrants are added to the mix in the wet summer months, from November to April.
Best Time to Visit
Nxai Pan can be visited year-round. It’s a seasonal park and wildlife migrates to the park in the wet, summer months – but the exact timing is erratic and depends on rainfall. Little wildlife is left in the dry months, from June to September.