From the Journal

A concise guide to Nxai Pan, Botswana


Endless roads, endless adventure.

If you like your African safari destinations quiet and undisturbed, Nxai Pan should be at the top of your list of must-visit spots in Botswana. Makgadikgadi Pan and Nxai Pan are the largest salt pans in the world, and offers spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife in season and natural isolation that appeals to travellers seeking out destinations where they can be truly removed from their day-to-day routines.

"Nxai Pan National Park is one of the more readily accessible reaches of the Makgadikgadi, situated 50km from the main road that leads from Maun to Nata."

Nxai Pan Botswana Adventure 4X4
Nxai Pan Botswana Landscapes

Where exactly is Nxai Pan National Park?

Despite being gorgeously remote, Nxai Pan National Park is one of the more readily accessible reaches of the Makgadikgadi, situated 50km from the main road that leads from Maun to Nata. The pan itself is one of the most prominent Makgadikgadi salt flats, located towards the northern portion of the park, which lies adjacent to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and comprises approximately 2,578 km². The larger pans in the area have now been transformed into grassland, dotted with islands of acacia trees. During the rainy season, certain smaller pans fill with water, drawing wildlife from far and wide.

Nxai Pan Botswana Elephant
Elephant bull walking the plains of Nxai Pan National Park
Nxai Pan Botswana Dirt Roads
Game drives through the pan

The wildlife of Nxai Pan

Wildlife viewing around the pans is seasonal. As soon as the rainy season starts, large groups of wildebeest, elephant, gemsbok and giraffe venture into the area. Next follow the zebra herds that come here specifically to calve – a spectacle that is only rivalled by the park’s vast springbok herds. Hot on the heels of this glut of stunning herbivores follow the predators. Think lion, cheetah, jackal - even the slippery brown hyena and enigmatic leopard. Bat-eared foxes and raptors are also in plentiful supply, and if you strike it lucky you might just encounter a rhino or two.

Nxai Pan Wildlife Lion Hunting

"Think lion, cheetah, jackal - even the slippery brown hyena and enigmatic leopard."

Things to do in Nxai Pan National Park

If you like your game viewing with a dash of the unusual, Nxai Pan will not disappoint. Saddle up for an epic horse riding safari across the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, lace up your hiking boots and adventure through the semi-arid thirst land of the Kalahari on guided nature walks, or venture out on historical tours to the famous Baines Baobabs – a verdant cluster of trees that stand tall as an oasis of life in the middle of the white salt pan in the dry season.  Alternatively, travel at your own pace on a quad bike safari across the pans.


Nxai Pan Camp Experiences

Breakfast on the pans, Nxai Pan Camp.

Quad Bike Safari Nxai Pan
Explore the Nxai Pan by quad bike.

When to go + where to stay in Nxai Pan National Park

The park is open to visitors 12 months a year, but conditions are not exactly ideal during the rainy season - roads become impassable in certain areas. The more accessible option is visiting during the dry season from May to September, which is also when the park's wildlife crowds around its watering holes, which makes it a little easier to find large groupings of animals in one go. However, if you don't mind getting a little wet or spending some more time navigating slippery roads, mid-November to March is absolutely gorgeous - the park bursts into greenery as soon as the first rains start to fall, and it makes for an awe-inspiring experience.

Since the park opened its gates to visitors in 1992, only a single permanent camp has been established within its reaches. Nxai Pan Camp has been in operation since 2009 and is located on the western shores of the fossil pan, from where it overlooks the undulating grasslands. It accommodates a maximum of 18 visitors in thatched units that are naturally insulated against the region's extreme temperatures and offers exceptional game viewing right from camp.

Nxai Pan Camp, Botswana.

Nxai Pan Camp
Experiences Nxai Pan Camp
Sunset drinks on the pans.

Thinking of visiting Nxai Pan National Park?

As an African tour provider, you’re not exactly allowed to play favourites among your safari destinations, but as you can probably tell, the Ker & Downey® Africa Adventurists have a particularly soft spot for Nxai Pan National Park. Contact one of our Adventurists for a free consultation on your trip to Nxai Pan, Botswana.

Joey Cameron
Written by
Joseph Cameron

NYC based, South African transplant, Joey Cameron, is a freelance writer, travel-nerd, natural food enthusiast, personal trainer and brand owner. Characterised by an insatiable hunger for passport stamps and a somewhat strange (non)sense of humour, he can found regularly scanning the skies for ways to up, up and getaway.

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