Etosha National Park: Etosha Pan - Photo Credits: Romina Facchi
The pan is the central part of the Etosha National Park, it is a saline depression that has an area of about 5,000 sq km, corresponding to 25% of the entire area of the park and has a width of 130 km from East to West and 50 km from North to South; it is the largest pan across Africa and is even visible from space and is located at an altitude of 1,030 meters a.s.l.
Geologists believe that 12 million years ago in this area there was a shallow lake fed by the Kunene river that flowed South from the plateau East of Angola; but, as a result of earthquakes that altered the slope of the land, the river changed its course, heading West from the Ruacana Falls, going directly to the Atlantic Ocean.
As a result of these mutations this area was left without a permanent river that could constantly bring water, the lake dried up gradually and this soon became a semi desert area.
A San legend tells that the Etosha salty depression was formed because in the past a small village was destroyed and all its inhabitants were killed except one woman who wept so much for mourning that her tears formed an immense salty lake that, when dried up, formed today's expanse of salt crystals.
During the rainy season, when the rains are abundant in the North and East, the ancient lake partially fills with water, also thanks to some seasonal rivers like the Omuramba Ovambo, the Oshigambo and the Ekuma coming just from North and East; but rarely the lake is completely filled and the water depth does not exceed 10 cm.
During the dry season the water gives way to a vast expanse of white and crystallized salt cracked by the sun and the silvery, glittering sand; the wind carries the white powder and the salt to the Atlantic Ocean, so the region West of the Etosha National Park receives a significant amount of minerals that determine both the wildlife and flora.
The pan is almost completely devoid of vegetation, only a very few species of halophytes plants manage to live in such a high rate of salinity, among these is the Sporobolus salsus; this plant grows rapidly in the mud that is formed after the rains, is rich in nutrients and is particularly popular among zebras and some antelopes.
In the area surrounding the pan, where there are some sources of water, also grow other halophytic plants such as the Sporobolus spicatus, the Salsola ethoshensis, the Suaeda articulata and the Odyssea paucinervis.
In the summer months, when filled with rain water, the pan is home to a huge community of flamingos, with about 1 million copies, these birds prefer the salty water since they feed on algae and organisms that live here; often they stop here before heading to the reserve of the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana where they usually reproduce.
In the same period, in addition to flamingos, you can spot other species of aquatic birds, such as white pelicans and some species of storks.
The pan Fischer is an Eastern extension of the main saline depression, here the water remains for much longer than in the rest of the pan, almost throughout the year.
Etosha National Park areas.
Pan area in the Etosha National Park
Namutoni area in the Etosha National Park
Halali area in the Etosha National Park
Okaukuejo area in the Etosha National Park
Western area of the Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park: Etosha pan - Photo Credits: Romina Facchi