The ‘Profoundly Striking’ Makgadikgadi Pans

This August, I led a group of 40 travelers on safari in Africa, almost all whom had never been to Africa before. As they enjoyed their time in the Okavango Delta, I slipped away from the group to revisit an old favorite: the place that made me fall in love with Africa back in October 2001.

The Makgadikgadi Pans is an ancient lake bed roughly 45 minutes by light aircraft southeast of Maun, Botswana. During the dry season, the lake bed is a dry salt pan, roughly the size of Switzerland. Back in 2001, I was a college student in Lugano, Switzerland at Franklin University and ended up on the Botswana “Academic Travel” program (a 2 week faculty led journey that takes students across the world). When we visited the Makgadikgadi, we contacted a guide from Jack’s Camp; a man by the name of Super. He took us on quad bikes to the middle of the pans for a sleep out under the African stars. In 2001, I was a fairly irresponsible college student and placed academics on the backburner. However, on a warm October night in the middle of the pans, I had a pivotal life moment – something about this place was profoundly striking. In short, this single night was the catalyst to my stewardship towards conservation and drove me to pursue a career in my current field.

Fast forward to August 2014, when I revisited Jack’s Camp and to my surprise, Super met me in the dining hall and introduced himself. I recalled the story that I just mentioned – he remembered my group and got very emotional about how his connection with me and the place in which he guides led me to where I am today. We quad biked into the pans for a sundowner, and Super took me on a game drive. We inspected their sister properties (San Camp and Camp Kalahari), visited the habituated meerkats of the Kalahari and walked with the San Bushmen. Like 14 years ago, I found immense beauty and spirituality in this enormous emptiness. No wind, no noise, no light pollution, and stars packed from horizon to horizon. I relived that special day 14 years ago – it was magical.

The Makgadikgadi remains a very unfrequented area of Botswana – perhaps because it isn’t as wildlife dense as the Okavango or perhaps because people haven’t heard about it. But I can assure you that it is a stunning destination and one with considering if you ever choose to (re)visit to Botswana. San Camp was my favorite of the Uncharted Africa’s portfolio in the Makgadikgadi – a simple and tastefully decorated tented camp on the fringes of the pans overlooking the vast nothingness. I yearn to return with my family to San Camp someday to share the emotional journey that this place delivers.

Interested in learning more about Botwsana or the Makgadikgadi Pans? Contact us.