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Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

Makgadikgadi Pans NP

Overview

Wildlife

Birds

Best Time To Visit

Weather & Climate

Getting There

Malaria & Safety

Overview – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.

Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is part of the Kalahari Basin and has some of the largest salt pans in the world. The shimmering, cracked crust doesn’t look as if it could support any form of life. After good rains, however, this desolate landscape transforms when new grass attracts thousands of animals, and from December to March the park is home to one of Africa’s biggest zebra migrations. As the pans fill up, flocks of pelican and flamingo settle in as well.
Central_Kalahari_Game_Reserve_001
Best Time To Go
August to October (Best at the riverfront area)
High Season
July to October (The park gets crowded)
Size
11,700km² / 4,517mi²
Altitude
919-1,061m / 3,015-3,481ft
Pros & Cons
Excellent wildlife viewing
Ideal birding destination, especially for waterbirds
Game drives and boat safaris available
Excellent self-drive destination
Most accommodation is outside the park
The waterfront area near Kasane can get crowded
Very hot in summer
Limited safari circuits inside the park
Wildlife
Aside from elephants and buffalo, common waterbuck, plains zebras, impalas and puku are abundant on the floodplains and easily seen on boat safaris in the Dry season. Early morning game drives are most productive for finding predators such as lions and spotted hyenas. Although they are more secretive, you might be lucky to spot a leopard too.
Scenery
Chobe’s lifeline is the Chobe River, which lazily meanders through savannah and woodland, and the floodplains are usually dotted with animals. The interior is a patchwork of mopane woodland and flat Kalahari sandveld (dry, sandy soil). The Savuti Marsh is another landmark in the park. It is mostly dry, and it is often compared to the Serengeti Plains.
Weather & Climate
Average daytime temperatures in the Dry season (April to October) start at 30°C/86°F in April, and by October they’ve climbed to a very hot 35°C/95°F. Conditions stay fairly hot in the first two months of the Wet season (November to March), before the heavy storms of January and February sweep away the worst of the heat.
Best Time To Visit
You can see animals year-round at Chobe, but the Dry season (April to October) is when wildlife viewing is at its best here, particularly along the southern bank of the park’s broad, namesake river. It gets better as the season progresses, but be warned that it gets hotter too.
​Wildlife & Animals – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.

Chobe National Park has an impressive wealth of animal life. Elephants and buffalo are a permanent presence on the riverbanks in the dry months. Plains zebra, puku and impala are very common as well, while smaller numbers of greater kudu and sable antelope can be found in the park interior. Lions are easily spotted and you might be lucky to see wild dogs too.

Elephant
Giraffe
Hippo
Buffalo
Zebra
Wildebeest
White Rhino
Black Rhino
Lion
Leopard
Cheetah
Hyena
Wild Dog
Wildlife Highlights

Thousands of animals on the floodplains kick up a lot of dust, which creates amazing photo opportunities at sunset. Less obvious are some of the smaller mammals such as the Chobe subspecies of bushbuck. Red lechwes are common in marshy areas. Some of the small predators include Selous’ mongoose, serval and wild cat.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

Chobe has very seasonal wildlife viewing. The dry months, from May to October, are a good time to visit the Chobe River area in the north. During the Wet season, from December to April, animals tend to gather around the pans in the interior.

Wildlife Photos
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​Birds – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.

Chobe National Park is a great birding destination – more than 450 species have been recorded. Boat trips on the river are excellent for checking off many waders and other water-associated birds. As they have become very habituated to boats, bird photography is very rewarding here. A highlight on the river trips is the African fish eagle whose iconic call will stay with you forever. African skimmers gather on the sandbanks and flocks fly over the river, occasionally dipping in the water to feed.

Notable Birds in Makgadikgadi Pans NP

African fish eagle
African skimmer
Long-toed lapwing
African spoonbill
Squacco heron
Best Time for Bird Watching

Chobe is a great park for bird watching throughout the year, but the best months are from November to April. This is when migrants swoop into the park. Also, during these months a lot of birds are breeding, and large colonies of waterbirds can be found nesting on the sandbanks in the river. The best time for mammals, however, is in the dry months from May to October.

Facts & Figures

Bird Species

450+

Migratory Birds

Nov to Apr

Best Time To Visit – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Chobe National Park can be visited throughout the year. Wildlife migrates through the park with the seasons. The riverfront area is best visited in the dry months, from May to October. August to October are the optimum months for wildlife viewing here, but it gets extremely hot at that time. During the wet months, many animals, plains zebras specifically, migrate to the Savuti Marsh. Linyanti is best visited from April onward.
Best Time
August to October (Best wildlife viewing at the riverfront area)
High Season
July to October (The park gets crowded)
Low Season
November to June (Low-season rates may apply)
Best Weather
May to August (Less hot during the day)
Worst Weather
October (It gets extremely hot)
April to October – Dry Season
Wildlife viewing along the riverfront gets better as the Dry season progresses
Lots of sunny days and it rarely rains
Sunsets on the river are phenomenal
July to October are high-season months, and the riverfront area gets very busy
It is very dry and dusty
September and October are very hot
November to March – Wet Season
There are huge concentrations of zebra and other wildlife at the Savuti Marsh
Prolific numbers of baby animals attract predators
The best time for birders as migrants are present
There is less wildlife at the riverfront, as animals disperse
It is very hot
Afternoon showers can interfere with activities
Wildlife Photos
Chobe_National_Park_030
Weather & Climate – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.

Chobe National Park has a warm to hot climate, and there is a Dry and Wet season. The Dry season months May to August are the coolest and most rain falls between December and March. It is advisable to bring warm clothing for boat trips and morning drives.
Dry Season – April to October

The last showers marking the end of the Wet season normally fall in April. From May, the park becomes drier and drier. June and July are the coolest months; however, temperatures begin increasing in August and peak in October.

    • April & May – These months mark the beginning of the Dry season. The vegetation is still green, and it is mostly dry and sunny. It is hot in the middle of the day, with temperatures climbing up to 30°C/86°F.
    • June, July & August – There is very little rain during these months. It is a bit cooler now with afternoon temperatures climbing up to about 27°C/81°F. Early mornings are cold at around 8°C/46°F.
    • September & October – As the Dry season draws to a close, it continues to get hotter before the rains break. October is very hot with average afternoon temperatures of 34°C/93°F. However, conditions at night and in the mornings are agreeable.
Wet Season – November to March

The first rains bring relief. It doesn’t usually rain all day, but thunderstorms in the afternoon are common. It’s hot throughout the season with afternoon temperatures of around 32°C/90°F. Mornings are pleasant.

  • November & December – Conditions are hot and sunny. Temperatures tend to build before it rains, and then drop afterward. Early mornings are pleasant – temperatures average about 18°C/64°F.
  • January & February – The first two months of the year are the wettest. There is usually rain in the afternoon, but only for a few hours. Heavy storms are a regular occurrence.
  • March – The rains are lessening. There is still rainfall every couple of days though, and it mostly comes as a thunderstorm. Mornings are cooler at 17°C/63°F.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Makgadikgadi Pans NP Photos
Central_Kalahari_Game_Reserve_001
​Getting There – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.

Chobe National Park has several areas that can be visited. The most popular and accessible area is the riverfront, which is just outside Kasane. Chobe Gate is located 6km/3mi west of Kasane and 80km/49mi west of Victoria Falls. The drive from Kasane takes 10 minutes and from Victoria Falls it’s just over an hour*.

Visitors to this area usually fly into Kasane Airport (BBK), and self-drive visitors can pick up their 4×4 there.

The Savuti and Linyanti areas can be reached by 4×4 in the Dry season, but most people fly in by chartered plane to their lodge.

Another popular point of entry to the country is Maun Airport (MUB). From here you can fly on to Kasane. Driving is also possible – it’s about 600km/370mi and it takes about 7 hours*.

*Driving times are only a rough indication. You should always consider the possibility of significant delays.
Main Park Map
Airlines & Ticket Prices

Please check Skyscanner to see which airlines can take you to Botswana, and what tickets would cost.

Domestic Flights

Charter flights between parks will usually be booked by the tour operator as part of your tour package.

Domestic flights to Kasane can be booked through Air Botswana.

Passport, Visa & Other Entry Requirements

Please check our Getting There – Botswana page to learn more about passport, visa, COVID-19 and other entry requirements.

​Malaria & Safety – Makgadikgadi Pans NP

By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Botswana & Namibia guide.

Safety

Botswana, and Chobe National Park in particular, is safe to visit in our opinion.

Flying from lodge to lodge is a very safe way to travel, but Botswana is a popular and safe self-drive destination as well. Most self-drive visitors stay in Kasane, which is easy to reach. Visitors driving to Savuti, or especially Linyanti, should check the road conditions before heading off.

It is always worth checking the current travel advisories (see the ‘Safety & Security – Botswana’ link below).

Malaria & Vaccinations

Your travel clinic or local doctor will give you advice on appropriate vaccinations for visiting Botswana. Chobe lies in a high-risk malaria zone, so it is advisable to take antimalarial medication. Extra safety measures that should be adhered to are using insect repellent (containing at least 30% DEET) and covering up in the evening. The malaria risk is highest in the rainy season.

Wildlife Viewing

Incidents with animals are extremely rare. There is nothing to worry about as long as you listen to the safety briefing at your lodge check-ins.

When on an organized safari, listen carefully to the instructions given by your guide, and when on a self-drive safari, familiarize yourself with the park rules.

For more information, please read the ‘Wildlife Viewing Safety Precautions’ below.

Photo Gallery of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

Map of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

Photo Gallery of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

Main Park Map

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