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African Safari: Nxai Pan National Park

Nxai Pan National Park – The genesis of Nxai Pan in Botswana traces back possibly over five million years, evolving through a transformative process initiated by the ancient courses of the Okavango River, Chobe, and upper Zambezi. Visitors are consistently captivated by the vastness of the sky and the expansive horizons that define Botswana’s awe-inspiring landscape.

Situated in Northern Botswana, this 2590 square kilometer reserve is mainly forest and savanna woodland and large areas of open grassland. There are two Pans – Nxai ( a fossil lake bed about 15 km wide and covered with short grass), and Kgama-Kgama Pan. Located close by is the 2,578 square kilometre Nxai Pan National Park.

Nxai Pan itself unfolds as a sprawling grassy plain, a vestige of the former lake bed generously adorned with flourishing acacia trees. Situated in the southern region of Nxai Pan, Baines’ Baobabs stand as a cluster of majestic baobab trees immortalized in 1862 by artist Thomas Baines, who was part of Livingstone’s expedition. These iconic trees serve as a timeless symbol, their grandeur echoing the rich history of the region.

The park’s history

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Originally state land, Nxai Pan encompassed an area of 1676 square kilometers before being designated a game reserve in 1970. Subsequently, in 1992, the boundaries underwent expansion to include Baines Baobabs, enlarging the total area to 2578 square kilometers and earning the esteemed status of a National Park.

Characterized primarily as a salt pan, Nxai Pan National Park transforms after rainfall when water cascades into the pan and across the grassy plains. Access into the pan necessitates traversing in an all-wheel-driven vehicle due to the challenging terrain.

Within the park, two designated campsites cater to visitors: one situated in the southern region, positioned near the plain’s edge, barely 2 kilometers from the entrance gate; the other nestled in the northern expanse, about 8 kilometers from the gate, enveloped by mopane woodland. These campsites offer basic ablution facilities for public use.

Additionally, visitors keen on a more rustic experience can opt for informal camping at Baines Baobabs. However, this option lacks facilities, and the closest water source lies at the Game Scout Camp near the entrance gate.

The fossil pans within Nxai Pan offer a mesmerizing spectacle during the rainy season, spanning from November to March, transforming the landscape into a haven for seasonal game viewing. This period witnesses the convergence of vast herds comprising zebra, wildebeest, springbok, and gemsbok, drawing in an array of predators like lions, cheetahs, brown and spotted hyenas, fostering an enthralling ecosystem.

Best time to encounter wildlife

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Contrary to many areas in Botswana, Nxai Pan becomes exceptionally intriguing during the rainy season when the grassy pans teem with wildlife. The sight is awe-inspiring as thousands of wildebeest, zebra, gemsbok, and various antelope species, accompanied by sizable giraffe herds, converge upon Nxai’s expanse. The water hole, a mere two kilometers from the entrance gate, stands as a focal point amidst the sprawling grassland dotted with clusters of umbrella thorn trees.

This area serves as a permanent habitat for an assortment of wildlife, including lion, giraffe, kudu, impala, ostrich, and diverse birdlife, thriving within the mopane woodland. As the rains begin, gemsbok, elephants, and zebras migrate to this region, with zebras notably delivering their young in multitudes at Nxai Pan, augmenting the already captivating game-viewing experience.

In this season of abundance, Nxai Pan blossoms into a veritable Garden of Eden, offering unparalleled wildlife sightings, amplifying the allure of this unique landscape, and standing out as a captivating oasis in the midst of the natural world’s cycle.

Accommodation in Nxai Pan National Park

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While two small camping sites offer basic amenities like ablution facilities and water, the highly recommended lodging option within Nxai Pan National Park is the Nxai Pan Camp. Positioned on the park’s periphery, this camp provides breathtaking vistas of the expansive grasslands and Nxai Pan. Notably, its strategic location overlooks a waterhole that acts as a magnet for diverse wildlife, offering guests an unparalleled opportunity to observe animals in their natural habitat. The camp’s setting amidst this captivating landscape ensures a remarkable and immersive experience amid Botswana’s wilderness.

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