From July through September the Great Migration congregates in the Northern Serengeti, Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya where millions of wildebeest (gnus), led by thousands of zebra, join together in search of water and food. (They actually circulate year-round, according to weather patterns, and in a fairly predictable manner.)
However, in early 2012 scientists began to notice a large movement of animals (mainly zebra), travelling in a circular motion down south in Botswana from the Namibian border northward to a huge salt pan, Nxai Pan, and then back again.
Shortly after they noticed the Nxai Pan migration they noticed another migration, this one occurring further south into the Makgadikgadi Pans. While, of course, those living in the path were always well aware of these migrations, stories had been passed down generation-to-generation, about “when they used to occur.”
So, what happened? In the 60’s, shortly after gaining its independence, Botswana had a contract supplying beef to Europe, at that time Botswana’s largest export. Europe asked for a fence to be erected to separate the cattle from wild animals (buffalo) to avoid an outbreak of “foot and mouth” disease. Many of these fences went up without feasibility studies, creating many unintended consequences, including cutting off many migratory routes.
In about 2004 some of these fences started coming down. Within a few years (3 or 4) the migrations began again. This is a very brief summary of a very fascinating and complicated subject, one that’s still a huge source of debate in the country.
Many don’t think of the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans as large lakes teeming with animals (and their predator following), as well as flamingos, ducks and all sorts of water birds. And most guests visit this part of the world for the amazing desert experience, but not too many know about the wet season migrations. Rothschild Safaris would love to share our itineraries with you. Luckily quite a few of our very favorite camps are located right here!
Botswana Migration Facts:
- The migration of Plains (or Burchell’s) Zebra stretches from Namibia to Botswana—a distance of more than 300 miles roundtrip – farther than any other known African mammal.
- The Botswana migrations occur during the wet season (November through mid-April) where you can witness Africa’s second largest zebra migration.
- Some of Rothschild Safaris favorite camps in Africa happen to be right here!
- Other activities in the Makgadikgadi Pans include racing across the pans on quad bikes (dry season only), horseback, and have opportunity to head out on nature walks with local San Bushmen, who share their secrets for surviving in this harsh environment. Heading deep in the pans, guests can explore remote archaeological sites. Guests can even be surprised with a bed in the middle of the Pans to sleep under the stars without a sound, not even that of a blade of grass growing.