Sleeping in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan

The land of the Long Shadows

Sleeping in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan

This must be one of the most unique places I have ever been. I was not prepared for the beauty of this desolate landscape and the feelings it would evoke.  The sun setting reflected on the white salt moonscape. It was silent but for the crunch of salt underfoot as we followed our long shadows to the horizon where we would spend the night.

Less is More

Today, the Makgadikgadi Pan stretches across an expansive 6,000 square kilometers in northeastern Botswana. Its vast expanse of shimmering white salt crusts and cracked earth creates a surreal and otherworldly landscape. The pan is a remnant of the ancient lake that thrived with life, attracting a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Despite its arid appearance, the Makgadikgadi Pan is not devoid of life. During the rainy season, the pan undergoes a remarkable transformation. The once desolate landscape becomes a temporary oasis as water fills the shallow depressions, attracting an array of migratory birds, zebras, wildebeests, and other wildlife. The pan becomes a vibrant hub of activity, teeming with life and echoing with the sounds of nature.

However, as the dry season approaches, the water gradually evaporates, leaving behind a barren and inhospitable environment. The cracked salt crusts shimmer under the scorching sun, creating a mirage-like effect that stretches as far as the eye can see. It is during this time that the Makgadikgadi Pan reveals its true character, captivating visitors with its stark beauty and solitude.

Exploring the Makgadikgadi Pan is an adventure like no other. As the sun sets, the pan transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors, painting the sky with hues of orange, pink, and purple. The silence of the desert is broken only by the occasional call of a bird or the rustle of a passing animal.

Beyond its natural wonders, the Makgadikgadi Pan holds a rich cultural significance. The indigenous people of the region, the San Bushmen, have inhabited these lands for thousands of years. Their deep connection to the land is evident in their ancient rock art, which can be found scattered throughout the area. These intricate paintings depict scenes of hunting, dancing, and daily life, providing a glimpse into the history and traditions of this ancient civilization.

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Salt Pan Textures

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Crusted Bubbles

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Sunlit Bubble of Salt

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Plate Sand and Salt

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Salt Plates to Horizon

The Saltpan experience

There were no landmarks, trees, or animals, just this infinite white-crusted surface.

The team had prepared our beds which lay waiting in the open expanse.
A table with paraffin lamps, a huge bonfire, and a delicious three-course meal awaited us as we toasted the last of the sun as it dipped behind the horizon line.
As night fell we saw the first glimpse of the evening star and we looked forward to our night under a canopy of stars. The milky way exposed itself in full splendor with every star shining its’ brightest. It is incredible how bright the sky becomes without the interference of city light.

Sleeping in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan

Building Memories

Amazing to think that we were sleeping in a lake that existed thousands of years ago. Our beds were everything we needed for a chilly night under the stars.

We were woken up by the sun sliding its way up the horizon and it was no less beautiful than our previous evening. I was fascinated by this incredible landscape and the way the light painted the textures of the salt.
The warmth of the sun repainted the landscape and framed our long shadows against the white crusty expanse. After a most welcome coffee, we made our way back to the land rovers and left this incredible Salt Pan to its desolation and silence.

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“If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.”



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