A pan is not something you cook in, unless you lie out in the sun too long. It is an intermittent lake. There are grass, salt, clay and rock pans scattered all over Botswana. The drainage into them brings a richness of minerals and salts which attracts herds of grazing animals when the pans are covered with sweet and nutritious new shoots. Salt pans, however, spend most of the year as dead flat stretches of salt, clay and sand, turning into lakes for anything from a few days to a few months when the rains are good.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are currently a 37,000 km2 area of grass and salt pans. Until about 13 000 BC these pans formed one of the largest inland seas which has ever existed in Africa. It covered an estimated 60-80,000 km2 and included not only the current Pans, but also the
Baobabs flower around November and fruit around April - which happened to be exactly the timing of our two trips.
present Okavango Delta and the southern part of the Chobe National Park. The Delta is the only permanent water remnant of the lake.
Today, the western part of the whole pans area is dominated by the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, while in the east the Sowa Pan area includes soda ash mining, two 'islands' of rock, the Nata Bird Sanctuary and a very large area of flat nothingness.
ABOVE: The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park; a vast, flat area of yellow grass, interspersed with tall palm trees.
ABOVE RIGHT: After driving 50km through sand to see the dazzling white salt pan, ringed with palm trees - we found just blowing sand and salt, the palm fonds at a 90 degree angle. We turned around and retraced our steps.
We had two trips to Kubu Island, in the eastern part of the Makgadikgadi Pans; once in the sun and after the wet season; once just as the first rains fell.
LEFT: The road across the surface of the pans can become like quick-sand when it's wet. This was a hair-raising race across it before the rain started to sink in. Kubu Island is the slight rise on the horizon.
ABOVE: The attractive signs to Kubu Island from the south point up a road showing the evidence of recent heavy rains.
VARIOUS PHOTOS BELOW: Kubu Island is famous for its Baobab trees. Without elephants, which love Baobabs, the trees remain in their pristine wackiness.
RIGHT: The beautiful African star chestnut tree on Kubu Island.
LEFT & BELOW (2): Sowa Pan. Just as the sun was setting we came upon hundreds of flamingos.