Makgadikgadi: Soul Depths On A Salt Flat

If the Okavango Delta resembles a primordial Eden, then the neighboring Makgadikgadi Pans may be a picture of a climate-changed future, at least for the drought-prone swatches of the earth.  Larger than the entire state of Connecticut, a baked crust of white clay stretches virtually without a single landmark, one of the largest salt flats in the world. So harsh is this fossil lakebed that those who traverse it in the dry season travel in caravan.  Around the rim of this extraordinary earth-form stand the dwindling giant baobabs, one grove clustered on Kubu Island venerated by the San for its spiritual air.

Other worldly baobabs mark the verge of the Makgadikgadi salt pans
Credit: Wikimedia commons

When the rains fall the Nata river turns the Pans into a vast shallows teeming with blue green algae and crustaceans.  That food source draws Greater Flamingos that settle by the pink thousands to feed and preen on the once gray horizon.

Lawn ornament par excellence.  Flamingos adorn the surface of the Makgadikgadi shallows.  Credit:  Wikimedia commons

But the greatest gift of the Pans to me is the full sweep of the night sky unsullied by pollution, either particulate or light.  To lie under such a firmament worked with the embroidery of constellation, winking fire, nebulae, discs of star clouds, and the utter blackness of interstellar space, all celebrated by the occasional meteor is to dive into depths beyond deep.  That panoply swinging silently above in unhurried majesty makes the soul weep for being alive. So has it been since our race drew its first breath.

2 thoughts on “Makgadikgadi: Soul Depths On A Salt Flat

  1. A year ago we spent a night sleeping on this pan. It was one of the top experiences of my lifetime. Don’t miss it if you ever visit Botswana. Check out this post in YouTube be to let you experience a time lapse of the Botswana night sky vicariously.


  2. Jonathan,
    I continue to enjoy reading your travel blogs. Not only do you go to such fascinating places, you observe and drink in the most extraordinary details. The last sentences of your recent post were stunningly beautiful.
    Thanks so much,
    Carol Sandlin


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