Berna's travelblog Marco Bernasocchi's adventures blog

The dry landscapes of Makgadikgadi and Nxai pans

That’s it Okawango is over, and we move to dryer landscapes again. Just to the east of Maun, the Makgadikgadi/Nxai pans national park acts as a transition zone between the Okawango swamps and the arid Kalahari desert. The park is separated in two by the East-West highway to the south the Makgadikgadi, to the north the Nxai pans. We drive to the eastern end of Makgadikgadi and slowly backtrack to the Njuca camp more or less in the middle of the park. The gate check in registry shows the last entry being one week before, nice. This is because most people enter from the western (an closer to Maun) gate where there is a river that attracts all the water dependent animals during the dry season, but we want to see the arid part of things hence the other entrance. The park is extremely dry and there is basically no life, I start thinking that maybe I went for too arid in the planning, but soon ostriches and klippspringer start to appear, the further west we drive the more desert dwellers we get to see. At a point we scare (we think) a widely spread large group of ostriches, they all start to run like crazy in the same direction to finally congregate in one line. Nice. Some more driving, some stunning picture of Gemsboks and we get to Njuca, a lone little hill with 2 camps. The other is empty. we are in the middle of nowhere with nobody around us for the next 30km. Perfect, the best possible way to spend our last night in the wild in Botswana. The stunning sunset, the owl visit and the amazing kudu stew just round up the great night.

What a night, not a single noise, fantastic! And what a sunrise… today it’s an early start again, we want to go to the Nxai pan park and till be back at 16.30 in Maun to go flying with the helicopter. The drive to the Nxai pan gate is very fat, but they tell us that the only waterhole with water is not the one we hoped but the one 20 km further north, well we should manage, we go. As we get there another car tells us they roughly saw lions. We spot them also, 2 females with 2 cups. As we wait for a better sight, one female comes out and goes for a drink making all the antelopes very nervous. She is just thirsty, but what a show and what a machine.
On the way back we make a loop to the Baines baobabs, a group of baobabs that was made famous by the painter and explorer A. Baines which depicted them very carefully allowing detailed comparison with nowadays. Apparently in over 150 years only one branch broke off.
We drive off in a sort of a a hurry since we have only 3h left and 150km to do, should be no problem unless Murphy’s law decides to kick in, and it does. after 5km of deep sand we see a group of 10-12 tourists with their luggages out of the car, they are stuck. Thys and I check their tire pressure, they have over 4 bar, in sand you usually have less than 2, in deep sand even as little as 1.4. we deflate their tires, but it is too late, they already dug themselves too much in the sand so we need to pull them out with the defender. We manage, and they are super happy thanking us in polish and giving us drinking water to wash our hands… they load the car and leave to the baobabs, now its our turn to go and guess what, we get stuck in the holes of the other car. Some sweating after, using the lift jack, some wood and pushing, we get out and can drive to Maun just in time for our flight briefing…

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