The Makgadikgadi Pans complex is located in Botswana and is characterized by a semi-arid climate; it is composed by a series of drained lakes that, in prehistoric times, formed part of the basin of a huge lake, extending for much of the center and North of the country.
Today, these lakes are dry for most of the year and their surface is covered with a crust of white salt shimmering in the sun; the Nxai Pan is mostly coated with a turf, that in the winter months becomes completely yellow, but some salty surfaces still remain here.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are a spectacular place all year round; their appearance changes a lot from the dry season when the arid spaces and the wind that raises the salty powder and the silence affect those who visit them, to the rainy season when it becomes a paradise where many animals gather and you can watch one of the largest migrations of zebras and wildebeests, after that of the Serengeti.
During the rainy season, especially when the rains are abundant, the salt surfaces are covered in water, never deeper than 50 cm, and the pan becomes an immense blue lake; the parts of the Makgadikgadi Pans that overflood most are near the Boteti River in the North-West and the Nata River in the North-East part.
Following rains, usually from December to April, the grass grows lush and, as a result, animals arrive in these lands, moving on the basis of water availability; some herds of zebras, wildebeests, springboks, hartebeests, gemsboks and giraffes come from the Boteti River, others from the North, the Okavango Delta and the Chobe National Park; if the rains are particularly abundant, it is possible to see buffalos and elephants in this area as well.
Following the herbivores there are also some predators such as lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and spotted hyenas.
The only problem is that some areas of the Makgadikgadi Pans with rainfall become unattainable, the water in fact overfloods the slopes and the salt crust, submerged by water, becomes very slippery; however, you can overfly these lands to admire the huge water mirror from above.
Water also attracts many birds, especially aquatic birds, such as flamingos, greater and lesser, pelicans, ducks, storks and cranes; the Nata Bird Sanctuary, located in the Sua Pan, is a true birdwatching paradise at this time of the year, here, in rainy summers, hundreds of thousands of birds can gather.
When the rains are over, the water begins to dry in the sun and the animals progressively start to move back to the banks of the Boteti River to the West or head North to the Okavango Delta and along the banks of the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers.
During the dry season, in the months of July to October, there are few animals that survive this arid, desert and dusty place, and apparently inhospitable, among them there are certainly the oryxes, the colonies of merkaats or surices and the brown hyenas.
During this time it is easier to move and drive in the pans, but it is always good to pay attention to the ground: if the rains were abundant, ponds mud might be hidden beneath the crust of salt, it is better not to leave the trails; even if driving freely on the huge expanse of salt gives unequaled thrill, being bogged down in the middle of nowhere is never a fun situation.
So for those who want to spot the animals and see the immense pool of water, the rainy season, from December to March, is ideal for visiting this area of Botswana, knowing that moving is not easy, in the Nxai Pan you can also find animals until June as it is a greener and less arid area; while for those who want to admire and get lost in the desolation of the immense white desert and go for the big baobabs that led the explorers, they must come here during the dry season, from July to October, when it is undoubtedly easier to drive , although some precaution is always needed.