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Makgadikgadi Pans

The Makgadikgadi Pans in southern Botswana captures the heart and imagination with its startling, moonlike landscape and giant salt pans that crunch underfoot. When the rains come and fill the pans, the horizon stretches for miles like an iridescent blue mirage. In the dry season it becomes easier to spot the well camouflaged wildlife and activities such as quad biking across the pans to reach an epic sundowner spot come into their own.

The landscape is mesmerising from the moment you approach the landing strip and an out of world experience awaits you at this uncannily beautiful place. The Makgadikgadi is steeped in history with the intrepid explorer, David Livingstone, crossing the pans in the 19th century where his only beacon was a massive baobab tree, named Chapman’s Tree, which is believed to be over 3,000 years old. This area draws you in and will stay with you forever. For starters, there are places where you can pick up the tools which were reputedly last handled in the Stone Age, or where you can look around you and see nothing but the earth’s curvature. During the rainy season and attracted by the new and resplendent grass, there are vast herds of zebra and wildebeest following ancient migration routes. Rains filling the pans attract huge flocks of flamingos making the sky bright pink against the almost unnatural blue of the salt lakes and white banks.

The wildly romantic San Camp with its shimmering white tents that look out over the watery pans is the perfect option for those looking for an exclusive and sophisticated stay. The new Jacks Camp (set to reopen in May 2020) has been given a refresh with palatial tents, solar powered electricity and private plunge pools but will retain its achingly cool Out of Africa old world vibe.

A San Bushmen experience is highly recommended when in the Makgadikgadi. Full of character and gumption the bushmen take guests through the bush and educate them on the minutiae of the landscape and how it can be used for medicinal and protection purposes. The nomadic bushmen life has been slowly ebbed away at, leaving many of the populations sedentary and their knowledge unused. These bushmen walks are both enlightening and humbling and a markedly different morning to once spent searching for big game.

In the Makgadikgadi walking with habituated meerkats as they forage for grubs at sunrise is one of Ampersands best wildlife experiences across Africa. From outside the confines of the game vehicles, striding to keep up with these pint-sized mammals as they energetically dig for food to feed their young is wonderful. As the sunrises over the Makgadikgadi to the soundtrack of the young meerkats communicating with their parents, memories of big game viewings fade into the background. If heading to Botswana or Southern Africa on safari, then a trip to the Makgadikgadi is a must. Even in the drier months (OctoberJanuary) the game viewing is excellent and after the rains have fallen, water-based activities are also available and offer guests a markedly different safari experience. The Makgadikgadi is a firm Ampersand favourite because of the true variety that it offers and therefore a must on any Botswanan itinerary.

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