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Wild Night: a Salt Pan Sleep-out

There was once a time when the Zambezi River flowed not over Victoria Falls and out to sea but straight into the heart of Botswana. Imagine that: Africa’s fourth largest river emptying into what is now the Kalahari Desert. The result was a giant lake, perhaps bigger than Britain but shallow – no deeper than the width of a football field.

The lake dried up ten thousand years ago after geological shifts diverted the Zambezi, but you can stand on what used to be the bottom. Or, even better – you can sleep out there. Sure there are safari lodges in the Kalahari but what about really sleeping out? As in under the stars. And what stars there are.

The area is called the Makgadikgadi Pans (try Ma-ghadi-ghadi as the pronunciation). There are two salt pans, and they are surrounded by classic Kalahari savannah: an open, grassy landscape richly populated with wildlife. There are several safari lodges in the area and all offer a good range of activities – from game drives and walks to meerkat encounters, horse-back safaris and quad-bike adventures.

Safari activities in the Makgadikgadi

Safari activities on the Makgadikgadi Pans are unique to Botswana & make a great contrast to vehicle-based game viewing.

But travel to Botswana next year between 15th July and 31st October (the dry season) and one of them – Leroo La Tau – offers a complimentary sleep-out on a three-night stay. You’ll be driven – or you can travel by helicopter – deep onto the salt pan to your camp, a simple but comfortable one consisting of a luxury bedroll, a pair of washbasins and a toilet. Don’t worry, your guide is discretely on hand and you’ll enjoy a gourmet dinner but the real reason you are here becomes clear after the sun has set and stars start to fill the sky.

Because the Makgadikgadi Pans are so vast and flat, the sky reaches right down to the ground and your view of the cosmos is unimpeded. You can laugh at the idea of light pollution from nearby urban areas (there aren’t any) and so your view is also crystal-clear. Simply sit back and watch as the Milky Way and great constellations slowly march across the heavens, guided by the unwavering hand of the Southern Cross and crossed every now and then by the flash of a shooting star.

A Salt Pan Sleep out

A clear-sky sunset on the Makgadikgadi Pans comes with the promise of a night filled with stars.

Sleep may or may not come easy; there’s no need to worry about wild animals – none come this deep onto the pans and your guide is on watch – but the stars are captivating and the silence almost unnerving – where is the rest of the world? But sunrise will wake you, a soft lightening of the sky and then a crack of light, spilling onto the pans and turning them golden as day returns.

Judging by recent guest feedback (“Best experience in my life”; “Absolutely unbelievable”; “The most amazing thing we’ve ever done”) it’s an experience to rival the ocean of stars at the Makgadikgadi’s famous Kubu Island, and the sleep-out combines well with your other activities at Leroo La Tau.

And it’s not the only Kalahari lodge around; here are our other favourite Accommodations for the Makgadikgadi experience:

Jack’s Camp – the original Kalahari camp and still massively popular; it sits near the salt pans and you’ll explore by 4X4, horse-back, quad-bike or on foot – however you like. Jack’s Camp is good for families with children and its meerkat walks are always a big hit with youngsters.

San Camp – only open during the dry season, this is an elegantly designed camp with a great location on the edge of the salt pan. The emphasis is on a desert experience – walking with Bushman guides, meerkat interaction, game drives and quad-biking on the pan – and the romantic ambience will appeal to couples although the camp is happy to take children of all ages.

Camp Kalahari – a simpler camp that is easier on the budget but without sacrificing comfort, this lodge offers the full range of Kalahari safari activities and welcomes families with children of all ages.

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Reviews

Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena