A ‘must-do’ in the Green Season in Botswana
Declared a conservation area in 1970 and a National Park in 1992, when it was enlarged to include the famous Baines’ Baobabs, Nxai Pan is distinct in its offering to those travelling to Botswana between November and April. African Bush Camps gives an overview of why Green Season at Nxai Pan should be on your ‘to do’ list.
Located in North-eastern Botswana, Nxai Pan once formed part of the great Makgadikadi Lake Bed which was an estimated area of 80,000 square kilometers before it dried up over 10,000 years ago. Now a large salt pan topographic depression and part of the greater Makgadikadi salt pan system, Nxai Pan is one of the most unique safari destinations in Botswana, and the prime time of year to visit the Park puts in contrast with other areas of Botswana and surrounding regions.
When the rainy season arrives in November, Nxai Pan is transformed into a wildlife paradise. Only days after the first tropical downpour, Nxai Pan evolves from a dry salt-crusted pan to a kaleidoscope of colours, as a lush carpet of green grass forms around the clustered island’s of acacias scattered across the landscape. The magical transformation causes the dry season concentrations of game in the Okavango Delta and Linyanti Swamps to migrate outwards across the plains of Nxai Pan to enjoy a time of plenty. During this time Zebra, Gemsbok (Oryx), Springboks and Giraffe can be seen moving in large numbers attracting a following of carnivores including lion, leopard, and both brown and spotted hyaena at night, and cheetah and wild dog during the day. In addition, rarer species such as aardvark, aardwolf, bat eared fox and honey badger can be seen. Almost aware of the limited time to enjoy the plentiful resources, the wildlife take on a frenzy of activity feeding, mating and reproducing before the water disappears.
Birdlife is also prolific during this time of year as small raptors such as Kestrels and Goshawks abound. The noisy black Korhaan is a hallmark of the area and is known one of the characters of semi-arid grasslands. A conspicuous bird, with a plain black neck, bright yellow legs and red base to the bill being key features, its tell-tale call is a raucous kraak kraak noise unleashed from the ground.
But wildlife are not the only attractions to the area, and approximately 30kms from the Nxai Pan National Park entrance, sits seven huge gnarled baobab trees famously known as Baines’ Baobabs. A highlight for any visitor travelling this area of Botswana, the seven baobabs are situated on an island overlooking and surrounded by the white expanse of the Kudiakam Salt Pan. Originally named the ‘Sleeping Sisters, the baobabs were re-named after the 19th century explorer, Thomas Baines when he visited the area over a hundred years ago and painted this impressive scene, which today remains largely unchanged.
As an explorer, artist, naturalist and cartographer, Thomas Baines and fellow explorer James Chapman underwent a two year journey from Namibia to Victoria Falls (1861 – 63) where they passed through this section of Botswana and encountered this unique cluster of baobabs. ‘We walked forward to the big tree, the Mowana at Mamu ka Hoorie, and found the country much improved,’ Baines wrote of the gloriously shaded area.
An authentic ‘Garden of Eden’, Nxai Pan is perhaps best described in the words of Thomas Baines’ account of his journey through Africa, ‘I can never quite get over the feeling that the wonderful products of nature are objects to be admired rather than destroyed.’ African Bush Camps conducts mobile safaris in Nxai Pan during the period of November to April, providing guests with authentic safari experiences in this spectacular, unique and wild environment of Botswana.