The Kalahari and
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

A vast expanse of scrubby dunes far from human habitation.

After the rains, the desert springs into life, attracting herds of antelope as well as all manner of predators from handsome black-maned lion to brown hyena, meerkat and honey badger.

Much of this remote, arid terrain is protected within the immense Central Kalahari Game Reserve, with two smaller but no less spectacular national parks to the east. The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park harbours the remnants of a super-lake which throughout the year is crusty and dry. In the short green season however, tender young grasses carpet the parched, white landscape sparking Africa’s second-largest terrestrial mammal migration comprised of tens of thousands of zebra.

The smaller Nxai Pan National Park to its north also plays host to the zebra herds and is home to many surreal saltpans as well as stands of millennia-old baobab trees, the most famous being Baines’ Baobabs, named after the English artist and explorer Thomas Baines, thought to have been the first European to discover them in the late 19th century.

Quad bike safaris are a popular way to explore the Kalahari, as are game drives in 4×4 vehicles. Walks led by San Bushmen are particularly eye-opening, as visitors are taught age-old survival techniques by guides who have lived for generations in this harsh environment. To top off a visit to this desert region, travellers can visit a mob of meerkats that have become habituated to humans. 

  • A vast, arid wilderness far from any human settlement
  • Comprised of classic sand dunes and enormous salt pans
  • Transformed into rich grasslands after the rains
  • Hosting Africa’s second-largest terrestrial mammal migration
  • Surreal landscapes dotted with thousand year old baobabs
  • Unique activities including quad biking and walks with San bushmen
  • Visiting a habituated mob of meerkats

The hot, wet summer months (Nov-Mar) are the most conducive for good game viewing, as the rains turn sand dunes into lush grasslands, attracting herds of zebra and antelope as well as huge flocks of bird. The cold, dry winter months (Apr-Oct) are best for stargazing and exploring the saltpans, when skies are clearest.

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Best places to stay in the Kalahari

The following are some of the tented camps that we recommend in the Kalahari region. For information on additional accommodation not featured, please contact us.

Jack’s Camp

Award-winning Jack’s Camp sits in the shade of palms amid a giant salt lake which dried up millennia ago, beside Botswana's otherworldly Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.

San Camp

San Camp is a collection of romantic white tents which sit like a mirage beneath a scattering of lofty palms at the edge of a vast, glittering saltpan.

Camp Kalahari

Comfortable, laid-back Camp Kalahari sits at the very edge of the remote Makgadikgadi Saltpans, offering travellers a unique desert safari experience.

Meno a Kwena

About halfway between the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta, Meno a Kwena offers a diversity of safari experiences from a very scenic, secluded setting.

Kalahari Plains Camp

In an exceptionally remote section of the immense Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Kalahari Plains Camp overlooks an enormous white salt pan.

Leroo La Tau

Welcoming Leroo La Tau sits on a cliff beside the Boteti River, an important source of water to many birds and animals especially during Botswana's dry season.

Dinaka

Occupying an exclusive piece of land in the central Kalahari Game Reserve, Dinaka is home to species including the black-maned Kalahari lion and brown Hyena

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Talk to one of our Africa Experts

Michael Fitzgerald

Senior Destination Specialist

Taleen Gaidzkar

Senior Destination Specialist

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The Kalahari and Makgadikgadi Salt Pans FAQ

Botswana’s Kalahari Desert and Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is one of the best places to see meerkats in Africa. Located near a handful of camps are a “mob” of meerkat that have been habituated to humans. An afternoon visit to see the meerkats is often the highlight of many visitors desert stay.

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