Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is a huge area of large salt pans that are found within the semi-arid Kalahari Desert. These salt pans are the remnants of an enormous lake that emptied and dried thousands of years ago. The largest of the pans is the Nxai Pan, and there are several other unique pans spread throughout the desert.
The Makgadikgadi Pans lie roughly 150 miles south of the grazing lands around Chobe and the Okavango Delta, and this is as far as the zebra will migrate each season in search of fertile grounds and abundant vegetation.
For much of the year, the salt pans are a dry, harsh and arid place. It’s a place that during the dry season will be visited by tourists looking to experience this harsh environment at its most extreme, when it is devoid of water and empty of life, and as much a desert as the surrounding Kalahari. This region was for decades surrounded by fences that halted the migrations, but in the early 2000s, these fences were removed. It was only after this that the zebra could resume their migrations, an incredible feat, considering none would have ever made a similar journey within their lifetime. And it was when that migration began again, that researchers began to record this as the longest mass movement of African animals.
When the rains begin in the Makgadikgadi Pans, the usually salty, barren and lifeless land begins to be revitalised. The edge of the pans fill with water and become muddy and sludgy. By the time the zebra arrive in December, the salt pans are prime grazing land. And with the zebra, come all manner of predators and birds to temporarily populate this desert region with a vibrant array of life.