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Nxai Pan Camp

Nxai Pan Camp

Nxai Pan Camp gazes over the grasslands of Nxai Pan National Park within Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve. An ancient great lake once covered central Botswana, and the grass-covered Nxai Pan was once part of this lake. This area is known for its abundance of game as well as the famous Baines Baobabs, or the “upside down tree.”

The terrain surrounding Nxai Pan Camp is open grassland dotted by the ubiquitous umbrella-shaped acacia trees. The landscape sustains huge permanent herds of springbok and good numbers of their predators as well. This is cheetah country par excellence and is one Botswana’s best for cheetah spotting.

Given the ecological sensitivity of Nxai Pan, it was clear that the camp construction would need to be sensitively done. The camp’s eight structures are thatched with solid walls that are well-insulated against the Kalahari’s searing heat and freezing cold. The units are comfortable and have ceiling fans, delicious outside showers, and private viewing decks. These rooms and the main camp building are raised just a bit off the ground and are linked by timber walkways. In the main area there is a wonderful viewing deck, a spacious lounge, and a dining area. Here too is a library, curio shop, and pool.

There are two very distinct seasons in the pan, and the animals and activities vary with the season. With the summer rains, the vast plains undulate with sweet grasses that attract great migrating herds. Burchell’s zebra and blue wildebeest arrive in huge numbers and are joined by large groups of eland, oryx, and the less common red hartebeest. This is also the time when giraffe arrive in numbers, and small breeding herds of elephant move in as well. And, of course, this gathering in turn attracts predators including lion and cheetah.

The dry season from May to November is very different, as the migratory animals leave and only the desert-adapted animals remain (the hardy springbok being one). During this season, water is almost completely restricted to waterholes making predation that much easier. So for visitors at this time of year, while the game watching may not have the numbers of the wet season, it is often much more dramatic. Patience at a waterhole is the name of the game, and it is frequently rewarded, so cameras and binoculars better be at the ready!

A National Geographic film on the lions of the Kalahari was filmed in this region. It adequately captures the tension as springbok that need to drink to survive come down to the water, in full knowledge that lions are waiting.

Animals are most active in the early mornings and late afternoons when the temperatures are not at their highest. This means early starts, late brunches, afternoon tea, evening game drives, and late dinners. Meals here are hearty and delicious. Other highlights are day trips to explore the famous Baines’ Baobabs, stargazing in the southern sky, and nature walks with Bushman trackers.

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