Part of the great Makgadikgadi complex, Nxai Pan National Park, covers 2,100 sq. km, comprising several larger pans – Nxai Pan, Kgama-Kgama Pan and Kudiakam Pan, which were once ancient salt lakes. These larger pans are now grassed and scattered with islands of acacia trees. The smaller pans fill with water during the rainy season attracting rich wildlife.
Wildlife viewing is seasonal and dependent on the rains and animal migration. December to April is the best time to visit if rains are good. However, several artificial watering points supplement natural features and attract some wildlife. Common species to be sighted are zebra, wildebeest, springbok, impala, gemsbok, hartebeest, giraffe, lion, cheetah, wild dog, brown hyena, bat-eared fox, and sometimes elephant and buffalo.
The Park is one of the more accessible portions of the Makgadikgadi, a mere 50 km from the Nata-Maun Road.
Nata Bird Sanctuary is Botswana's first community-based conservation project, managed and staffed by residents of four local communities – Nata, Maphosa, Sepako and Manxotae. It is an excellent example of a non-consumptive wildlife utilisation that brings direct financial benefit to local communities. Proceeds from tourism activities in the sanctuary are shared by the four villages for community development projects.
Approximately 3,000 head of cattle belonging to these four communities were voluntarily moved out of the area to establish the sanctuary. Nata Sanctuary opened its gates to the public in 1993. The same year, it was awarded the Tourism for Tomorrow award for the southern hemisphere.
Covering an area of 250 sq. km – comprising both grasslands and pans in an important environmentally sensitive area – the sanctuary offers easy access to the pans and pleasant, reasonably priced camping facilities.
In the peak season, birding, and even game viewing, can be good. When there is water in the pans, thousands of flamingos, pelicans, ducks and geese congregate. The scene from an elevated viewing hide is indeed awe-inspiring, providing an unbeatable panorama of the pans.