Nxai Pan National Park

Nxai Pan National Park

Modestly sized and largely under-visited, Nxai Pan is one of Botswana’s best-kept secrets for a desert safari. The action takes place around Nxai Pan itself and the park’s two waterholes, which keep wildlife in the area year-round.

In Nxai Pan the landscape is dominated by short, yellow grasses, which turn green with the summer rains; worn down to white soil where zebras have made paths across the pan. This is the finish line for Africa’s little-known but longest migration of mammals, when zebras arrive from the Chobe River to spend their days grazing on new growth during Botswana’s rainy season. At sunset, the view to the horizon is interrupted only by small clusters of acacia thorn, which hide jackals, bat eared foxes and even the occasional brown hyena or cheetah.

Much of Nxai Pan can be explored in a day, however the real reason to visit is to take a slower pace and watch the waterholes as the wildlife arrives to drink. If you’re lucky, your patience might pay off as a hungry cheetah charges a thirsty springbok, sending a shower of dust over the waterhole. The lion often wait in ambush for the thirsty antelope and zebra to arrive and then everything explodes with intense action. Or watch the graceful giraffe as they come to drink along with the Ostrich, jackal and desert adapted gemsbok..

For landscape photographers, the majestic and famous Baines’ Baobabs are a half day trip from Nxai Pan itself. The baobabs sit on the edge of Kudiakum Pan, whose salt-encrusted surface provides a small hint of the vast saltpans further south in the Makgadikgadi.

Once the summer rains arrive, Nxai Pan’s dust is washed away and the landscape turns bright and vivid, with hundreds of wildflowers providing the backdrop for the increased predator and prey interactions of the rainy season.

Good To Know

Best Time To Travel

  • December – April, traditionally wet season, surrounding pans fill with water providing a rich resource for wildlife
  • May – November, traditionally dry season, the water holes provide some of the most dramatic predator-prey interactions in Africa.
  • December – March migration arrives in Nxai then travels back up through to Mababe & Savute
What To See

  • Zebra, Giraffes, Wildebeest, Springbok, lions, Cheetah, Elephants, Ostrich
  • 20kms east: the famous Thomas Baines Baobabs

What To Do

  • Nxai Pan is in a national park & so activities are limited.
  • Game Drives, daytime only
  • Nature walks with Bushman trackers, often conducted by members of staff that now work within the tourism industry, but wish to keep their culture and traditions alive.
  • Day trip to Baines Baobabs offered on a 3-night stay at the lodge
  • Star Gazing
What Makes This Area Unique

  • Comprises of several large pans, part of the region but not considered as the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
  • Predator interaction at the waterholes
  • World Famous Baines Baobabs are accessible from here as they are within the National Park boundaries
  • Zebra migration during wet season
Expert Travel Tips

  • Temperatures can be extremely high in October – November and extremely chilly mornings & evenings June – August. Be prepared
  • Nxai Pan is a perfect contrast to the Okavango Delta and is a great way to start or round off any trip
  • Self-Drivers, please remember that Nxai Pan is ecologically sensitive so no Off-Road or night driving

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