Nxai National Park

Nxai National Park

Here, as with all parks and reserves, the use of an anti-malarial prophylactic is strongly recommended and, when travelling within these areas, a 4x4 vehicle, carrying emergency water and food, is necessary. Engaging 4-wheel drive before negotiating sandy patches not only minimises the possibility of becoming stuck, but also saves chewing up the road surfaces for others.

Both dry season and wet season visits to this park are recommended in order to witness the dramatic appearance of the pans at their driest and to experience the transformation to a water wonderland, and see the wildebeest and zebra migrations, in the wet season. Linking a few days in Makgadikgadi with a similar period of time in its nearby sister park, Nxai Pan, will give visitors a distinctly different experience. Makgadikgadi - a vast wilderness of space and timelessness.

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Nxai National Park

A sister to the MakgadikgadiPansNational Park, and located close by, is the 2,578 sq km Nxai PanNational Park. An unobtrusive turnoff, 136 km out from Maun on the Maun-Nata road, or 65 km from Gweta turnoff if travelling from the east, leads for a further 37 km over a deep sandy track to the Nxai Pan entrance gate. The sandiness of this track should not be underestimated and only 4x4 vehicles should attempt the journey, engaging 4-wheel drive before negotiating the deep sand - carrying a spade is also wise. There are no supplies of fuel available in the park - the nearest being in the village of Gweta.

Within the park there are two small public camping grounds with ablution facilities; one in the south on the edge of the plain, less than 2 km from the entrance gate, and the other in the north, 8 km from the gate, within Mopane woodland. Campers should note that firewood can often be a problem in this park and it is recommended that small gas cookers should be used. Water standpipes are available at both sites.

In addition to this, informal camping is permitted at Baines Baobabs, although no facilities are available and the nearest water supply is at the Game Scout Camp situated near the entrance gate.

Originally state land, an area of 1676 square km was declared a game reserve in 1970 and then in 1992 the boundaries were extended to include Baines Baobabs to give the present total area of 2578 square km and National Park status was granted.

Perhaps the focal point of Nxai Pan is the water hole, situated only two km from the entrance gate, in the midst of a large grassy plain which is dotted with a few clumps of short umbrella thorn trees. Here, and within the mopane woodland, lion, giraffe, kudu, impala, ostrich, fascinating birdlife and large numbers of springbok, together with a good population of jackal, bat-eared fox and numerous smaller creatures, are permanent residents. Once the rains have started, gemsbok, elephant and zebra migrate to the area. At that time, zebra are present in thousands and drop their young at Nxai Pan, rivaling the spectacle of the multitude of young springbok, to further enhance game-viewing opportunities. Whilst many other parks and reserves are not considered to be at their best during the rains, Nxai Pan becomes a veritable Garden of Eden.

Nxai Pan, the name of which is claimed by some to be that of a hooked metal rod used to remove springhares from their holes, and by others to simply mean a pan, is open to visitors throughout the year, although road conditions can become difficult during times of heavy rain.

Within the park there are points of interest worthy of mention. One is the "old trek route", a trail pioneered in the 1950s and used until 1963, as a short cut through Ngamiland to Kazungula via Pandamatenga, along which cattle were driven before the advent of the modern veterinary control fences.

A number of boreholes, used to provide water for the cattle and men on their long trek, were capped when this trail had to be abandoned, but are said to be still capable of supplying copious water supplies if re-equipped. Another point of interest, which pre-dates that of the trek route, is known as "bushman pits". Here, near the edge of a small pan area, small pits were dug by the Bushmen in which they could hide whilst hunting wild animals that came to drink, giving closer range for the use of their bows and arrows. Today there are the remains in the area of an old cattle post, connected with the trek route, but the bushman pits can still be seen.