Imagine a vast, open area the size of Portugal, largely uninhabited by humans. Its stark, flat, featureless terrain stretching, what seems endlessly, meeting and fusing with a milky-blue horizon. This is the Makgadikgadi – an area of 7,456 square miles which is part of the Kalahari Basin yet stands alone as one of the largest salt pans in the world.
For much of the year, most of this desolate area remains waterless and extremely arid, with no large mammals inhabiting it. But during and following years of good rain, the two largest pans – Sowa to the east and Ntwetwe to the west – flood, attracting wildlife such as large herds of zebra and wildebeest who come to feast on the grassy plains. Spectacular flocks of flamingos at Sowa and Nata Sanctuary can number into the tens, and sometimes, hundreds of thousands creating a completely overwhelming sea of pink. The rainwater that pours down on the pans is supplemented by seasonal river flows from the Nata, Tutume, Semowane and Mosetse Rivers in the east, and in years of exceptional rains, the Okavango via the Boteti River in the west.