The Nata Bird Sanctuary is located in Botswana and was founded in 1988 with the help of the Kalahari Conservation Society, with National and International capitals; it occupies the North-East part of the Sua Pan, that in turn is part of the Makgadikgadi Pan complex.
These lands once were a grazing area for more than 3,500 cattle, belonging to the local population who, after the protected area was set up, voluntarily moved the cattle, understanding the importance of this place.
The area was fenced and in 1993 the Nata Bird Sanctuary was opened to the public.
The goal was to protect this area of 230 sqkm of the Sua Pan, where the Nata river delta, that originates from Zimbabwe, is located; here are 165 bird species and it is one of the world's most important breeding sites for greater flamingos and lesser flamingos, the largest in Africa according to UNESCO.
Every year it is impossible to predict the arrival of flamingos and their number, much depends on the beginning of the rains and their abundance; when rains are particularly abundant there are tens, sometimes hundreds, thousands of flamingos, both greater and lesser.
This is an important reproduction site for flamingos, one of the most important in the world, the waters of the salty lake are rich in food for these beautiful birds; the pink greater flamingos are fed with artemies, a family of shrimp living in salt and alkaline waters, worms and small crustaceans, while the pink lesser flamingos feed on algae, usually found in hot and brackish waters.
The flamingos build tapered nests using soil clay and lay eggs; the timing of egg deposition is crucial, it is a race against time: the eggs have to be opened and the chicks must be able to fly before the pan water gets crushed completely, otherwise the little ones, without food and uncapable to fly, would meet with certain death.
There is an elevated wooden platform on the Eastern edge of the delta, from which you can admire the flamingos without disturbing them.
The best time to visit the Sanctuary is during the rainy season, from December to March, as the Nata River is full at this time and its waters flow into the Delta and in the Sua Pan; this attracts many species of birds.
Driving in the protected area during this time is not, however, very simple, first of all a 4x4 vehicle is needed, the tracks are flooded and in some places the ground is made of black cotton that, with water, becomes particularly slippery .
From April onwards the situation of the slopes begins to improve, as the rainy season turns to the end; during the dry season, especially since July, it is possible to approach the slopes safely by any means; but in this period there are very little animals.
This conservation area protects a very delicate and very important ecosystem for the protection of some species of birds, especially flamingos.
The income of the Sanctuary partly goes to the local community which, in this way, is more motivated to preserve the area, although it may happen to find some cows inside the area.
The other bird species that can be seen are: the grebe, the cormorant, various ducks, the plovers, the pelicans, the pink-backed pelican, the great white pelican, the avocet, the black winged stilt, the blacksmith lapwing, the bustard, the African fish eagle, the pied kingfisher, the black-chested snake-eagle, the blue-cheeked bee-eater, the martial eagle, the secretary bird, the African spoonbill, the Hottentot teal, the red-knobbed coot and the white-faced whistling duck.
In addition to birds, some mammals can be seen including red hartebeests, kudus, common reedbucks, springboks, elands, oryxes, zebras, jackals, foxes, monkeys and squirrels.