Kalahari Migration
Kalahari Migration
saltpans
Kalahari Migration
Kalahari Migration
Kalahari Migration
Kalahari Migration
Kalahari Migration
Kalahari Migration

Be prepared for a one-of-a-kind equestrian holiday experience! The Makgadikgadi Salt pans change dramatically depending on the season. From November to March they  are one of Africa’s largest ephemeral wetlands, drawing huge numbers of game and birds, in particular flamingos and zebra. In November, about 55% of all zebra in the South-eastern Okavango Delta migrate 250km in a linear journey to the Makgadikgadi Pans where huge herds remain until March. At this time of the year, the Pans are filled with shallow water and extremely nutritious grass with higher protein and mineral content than those in the Delta.

Then the water all disappears and from May to September and the Pans turn into a blindingly white desert with the permanent game retreating the to the grass islands with its permanent water holes. This is the time for incredible horseback gallops, including into the night towards a distant campfire with a campout and unrivaled star gazing. Varied game is easy to spot on the grass islands.  

An extraordinary horseback riding experience, ideal to combine with a visit to the Okavango Delta, particularly in April to September, but also a unique habitat well worth a visit in its own right, particularly from November to March.

The 6-day Makgadikgadi Pan section combines 3 nights in the luxurious Camp Kalahari with 2 nights camping out in the pans among the game and stars. All-year-round highlights include seeing the biggest and most famous baobabs in Africa, interacting with meerkats habituated to humans, and a day tracking with the local San people. 

Suggested extensions include 2 nights on the Thamalakane River ride to see riverine game as detailed in the itinerary below and/or a 3 day canoeing safari in the heart of the Okavango Delta (see Makgadikagadi and Okavango Canoe safari), or combine with riding in the Okavango Delta (Macatoo camp or Kujwana camp) for the ultimate safari.

WINNER of the 2014 BEST RIDING SAFARI in the GOOD SAFARI GUIDE AWARDS!

Read about Rachel's visit in December 2018

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from SS of on 17/09/2015

Ride Summary
The riding was amazing across the pans, flat and no holes.
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
Allow guests to put food on their plates, some of the portions were huge.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
6
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
The riding was amazing across the pans, flat and no holes. The guide was excellent at managing the group, and had a high concern for safety.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Example Itinerary only and will depend on length of stay

Day 1
On arrival by air or road, guests will be greeted by the host and guide and settled into Camp Kalahari, nestled amongst the acacias and Mokolwane palms of Brown Hyena Island, on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, adjacent to the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park, Botswana. The camp is refreshingly simple, yet comfortable, with a traditionally built thatch library, living/dining area and a swimming pool for those hot Kalahari days.

Head off after tea in the beautiful afternoon light, for an introductory ride, the first opportunity to experience the beauty of this magical area. Return to the camp for sundowners followed by dinner and to kraal the horses close by, before the lions of the Kalahari commence their nightly prowling.

Each day ride out from the camp in different directions.  Most days there will be a long morning ride and an afternoon ride.  During cooler months one longer ride may replace the normal morning and evening rides.

Day 2 +
After a light breakfast just after dawn, enjoy a long morning ride through the “land of a thousand islands”. Stranded on the ancient lake bed, these sand dunes, covered in palm trees are one of the most beautiful and fascinating areas of the Botswana wilderness. At the height of the wildlife migration season, the islands and adjoining grasslands are awash with zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest and ostrich - and of course the attendant predators!
The white encrusted pans between the islands provides excellent going for the horses. Returning to the camp for lunch, rest through the heat of the day in the welcome shade of the camel thorn trees or cool off in the camp swimming pool.
After tea, set off by vehicle to see some unique desert species such as springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest and the elusive brown hyena: these consummate desert specialists survive in arid areas where both food and water are scarce. The brown hyena is a timid nocturnal, solitary forager, rarely seen by humans, but in spite of this, are very social animals, living in clans of up to 10-12 hyenas.

On chilly mornings, you might well find a meerkat snuggling up for warmth, or, in the absence of a termite mound or tree, using your head as a sentry lookout post! By spending quality time with these incredibly social, superbly adapted animals, you are able to see how they interact with each other and their environment.
Guests get the chance to see the desert through the eyes of a meerkat – which, despite the fact that it’s only a foot off the ground, is a pretty spectacular vantage point, and definitely one of the most special and memorable game experiences you will encounter in Botswana.

As the day warms up, leave the meerkats foraging and mount up to follow the well-worn trails that lead to the resident herds of zebra and large congregations of ostriches attracted to the area by permanent freshwater in hidden waterholes. Return to Xai Xai for lunch and a refreshing shower.
Late afternoon riders will have one of the greatest adventures imaginable - a ride straight out into the middle of the ancient lake bed! Eventually all that can be seen is the vast flatness stretching in every direction. Watch the sun set and the stars rise and, if the phase of the moon is right, continue riding in the moonlight.
 

Departure day
A non-riding day commences with an early morning walk with Zu/’hoasi Bushmen trackers. Uncharted Africa has pioneered and passionately supported cultural tourism in Botswana since the company’s inception. They have been working closely with the Zu/’hoasi people of the Western Kalahari for many years and are privileged to have a small group of these extraordinary men to guide guests on a morning’s walking safari.
Offering a window into the past, they teach their techniques in this harshest of environments, using their vast and ancient knowledge of plants, animal behaviour and survival skills. Time for one more Camp Kalahari lunch before bidding farewell to Camp Kalahari and fly back to Maun.

Please note: This itinerary only serves as a guide; all scenarios are dependent on the season and local conditions. At times it may not be possible to go on fly camps and during cooler months one longer ride may replace the normal morning and evening rides. Local weather conditions may also affect game movements.

Why not spoil yourself with a few days on a tropical beach after your safari? We recommend one of our Mozambiquan Beach Extensions as an ideal way to round off a safari.

 

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

A suitable, well cared for horse will be chosen from a stable of some 20 horses made up of cross breeds which include Shire/TB, Boerperd/TB, Friesian/BP, Arab crosses, Quarter horse crosses. They range in size from 14.3h to 16.2h. There is a choice of well fitted English (Wintec) saddles and trail saddles. Each saddle has specially designed holders to carry 2 water bottles per rider. Guests are welcome to bring their own personal seat saver of choice. When the pans are dry the surface is firm and ideal for long fast canters. When the pans are wet the extensive adjoining grasslands with their network of wildlife paths offer wonderful ground for great riding. 



Ride through the “land of a thousand islands”, stranded on the ancient lakebed, these sand dunes covered in palm trees are one of the most beautiful and fascinating areas of the Botswana wilderness. Take a long ride to Xau Xai Fly Camp, the journey takes us away from the edge of the Pans and through the mopane and acacia woodlands interspersed with short grasslands allowing for lovely long, relaxed canters. Whilst the area is rich in birds of prey, bustards, korhaans and numerous other unusual dry woodland bird species. The last leg of the safari takes us straight out into the middle of the Salt Pans, and eventually all that can be seen is the vast flatness stretching in every direction. There is not one visual landmark to be seen and one swiftly loses one’s sense of perspective. Incredible scenery, memorable wildlife encounters and above all superb riding! Light weight riding helmets are compulsory for all children. Adults must adhere to the requirements of their insurance cover.


Rider requirements

Guests should have some riding experience and feel competent at all paces and confident of keeping up with the pace of the group. You should be riding fit and in good health in order to enjoy the experience as long days (up to 7 hours) are spent in the saddle.
You may be required to gallop out of trouble. Children must be 12 years and older unless younger children are extremely confident and competent riders.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Camp Kalahari has 10 spacious Meru tents: 7 Twin tents, 2 Double tents and 1 Family tent consisting of 2 adjacent tents, accommodating 2 Guests in each with an inter-leading bathroom. All tents have en-suite outdoor bathrooms, flush loos, hot and cold running water, along with comfy beds, crunchy cotton sheets, stripy African blankets and hot water bottles in winter. Uncharted Africa is renowned for menus that emphasize fresh tastes and originality. The meals at Camp Kalahari are plated, not buffet style, and are comprised of interesting and delicious dishes from all over Africa. Please inform Reservations of any dietary requirements prior to travel – and confirm upon arrival.



The 2 nights camping out in the pans are fly camp style. The camp is made up of comfortable dome tents, a central mess tent, loos and bucket showers.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling. Visa requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. If travelling with children under 18-years-old be sure to check if an unabridged birth certificate is required.

Immigration arrival: Please make sure that your passport is stamped with a normal visitor’s visa for South Africa – NOT an “in-transit” stamp – as you will be entering South Africa. VISA: Please check if you are required to apply visas for both South Africa & Botswana (not applicable to UK, US citizens & Most EU countries – a visitor’s visa is given on arrival FOC). If one is required, it should be a multiple entry visa for RSA, as guests will be entering South Africa from Botswana, through customs and immigration to check-in for their outbound international flight. If guests are traveling with a child under the age of 18, there are strict entry requirements for children arriving from certain countries.

Please contact us should you require any further information on this. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/botswana In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Botswana.html In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/botswana


Climate Summary

Climate: The flood waters normally arrive in May or June and recede in early October. See our website for a more detailed breakdown of what to expect in the various seasons.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Malaria exists in the northern parts of Botswana including the Okavango Delta. Southern Botswana has a low risk Malaria and mosquitoes are prevalent. Anyone intending to camp or walk in the bush should be cautious of tick bites.

Health care in Botswana is good but medical facilities and communications are limited outside urban areas. For serious medical treatment, medical evacuation to the UK or South Africa may be necessary. Private hospitals will not treat patients unless you can pay and health care may be expensive. Outpatients must pay cash before receiving treatment. Emergency patients will only be accepted if you have full insurance cover.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Botswana and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Health (ride specific)

You should commence anti - malarial precautions before arrival, please see your doctor for details.

Electricity

In Botswana the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Botswana, if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 - 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa).

Mobile, WiFi and charging

There is a generator in camp which is switched on for a few hours while the guests are riding. You may be able to leave your camera equipment to charge in that time. Otherwise please take all batteries and and film you may need with you.
There is no mobile phone reception in the Pans. If you want to bring a GoPro please be advised that you will have to have permission from all other guests and guides that they are willing to be filmed.

Packing List

We recommend that you bring:
* A light-weight riding hat
* A shade hat with strap
* Light-weight riding shoes (2 pairs)
* Sunglasses on string, riding gloves and bandana
* Bush colour riding clothes (not white):
* Jodhpurs or long trousers and chaps (2 pairs)
* Long sleeved cotton shirts
* Jersey, fleece or multi- pocketed waistcoat
* Light weight waterproof windbreaker jacket
* 4 x sets of socks and underwear (we recommend unpadded cycling shorts for men)
* Shorts, T shirts, sarong/kikoi, swimwear and sandals
* Sun block, lip salve, insect repellent
* Head Torch
* Binoculars
* A good book for lazy siestas

We recommend that you wear your riding clothes and boots on the plane to Maun and bring your hat and wash bag as hand luggage as luggage sometimes gets delayed. They can lend you half chaps – long leather boots are impractical. They do not have riding hats to lend to riders so you must bring your own.

BAGGAGE RESTRICTIONS: In most light aircraft, baggage is restricted to 20kgs per person – including camera equipment and carry-on baggage and must be packed into a soft bag for easy packing into the undercarriage of small planes. Additional bags can be stored, by arrangement, at your hosts' offices in Maun if need be.

There is a daily laundry service in the camp.

Saddlebags and water bottles are provided.

Programmes

This is a 6 day/5 night programme available on set dates throughout the year.

Departure Dates

2024:Low Season: 10 Jan - 31 Mar
2024: Mid Season: 1 Apr - 30 June; 1 Sep - 1 Jan 2025
2024: High Season: 1 July - 31 Aug

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1double pp975
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1Child under 18 sharing with parent475
2024 - per night Mid Season Apr, May, June, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec, 9 Janper night1double pp1,055
2024 - per night High Season July, Augper night1double pp1,149
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1double pp1,149
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1Child under 18 sharing with parent555
2024 - per night Mid Season Apr, May, June, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec, 9 Janper night1double pp1,239
2024 - per night High Season July, Augper night1double pp1,355
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1double pp1,279
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1Child under 18 sharing with parent599
2024 - per night Mid Season Apr, May, June, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec, 9 Janper night1double pp1,385
2024 - per night High Season July, Augper night1double pp1,509
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1double pp13,559
2024 - per night Low Season Jan, Feb, Mar, Decper night1Child under 18 sharing with parent6,449
2024 - per night Mid Season Apr, May, June, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec, 9 Janper night1double pp14,665
2024 - per night High Season July, Augper night1double pp15,985
Recommended Reading


Wildlife

Salt Pans - Very little wildlife can exist here during the harsh dry season of strong hot winds and only salt water, but following a rain the pan becomes an important habitat for migrating animals including wildebeest and one of Africa's biggest zebra populations, and the large predators that prey on them. The wet season also brings migratory birds such as ducks, geese and Great White Pelicans. The pan is home to the only breeding population of Greater Flamingos in southern Africa. The only birds here in the dry season are ostriches, Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) and Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius). The grasslands on the fringes of the pan are home to reptiles such as tortoises, rock monitor (Varanus albigularis), snakes and lizards including the endemic Makgadikgadi spiny agama (Agama hispida makgadikgadiensis)

Other Information

Lying southeast of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the Kalahari desert, Makgadikgadi is technically not a single pan but many pans with sandy desert in between, the largest being the Sua (Sowa), Nwetwe and Nxai Pans. The largest individual pan is about 1,900 sq mi (4,921.0 km2). In comparison, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is a single salt flat of 4,100 sq mi (10,619.0 km2), rarely has much water, and is generally claimed to be the world's largest salt pan. A dry salty clay crust most of the year, the pans are seasonally covered with water and grass, and are then a refuge for birds and animals in this very arid part of the world. The climate is hot and dry but with regular annual rains.

The main water source is the Nata River, called Amanzanyama in Zimbabwe, where it rises at Sandown about 37 mi (59.5 km) from Bulawayo. A smaller amount of water is supplied by the Boteti River from the Okavango delta.

These salt pans cover 6,200 sq mi (16,057.9 km2) in the Kalahari basin and form the bed of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi, which evaporated many millennia ago. Archaeological recovery in the Makgadikgadi has revealed the presence of prehistoric man through abundant finds of stone tools; some of these tools have been dated sufficiently early to establish their origin as earlier than the era of Homo sapiens.[1] Pastoralists herded grazing livestock here when water was more plentiful earlier in the Holocene.[2]

The lowest place in the basin is Sua Pan with an elevation of 2,920 feet.[3]

The Thamalakane River is a river located in Botswana, Africa, at the southern end of the Okavango Delta. It has no well defined beginning (spring) and no clear end (delta). It is the result of the Thamalakane fault - which began to form about two million years ago by the geological process of rifting that is currently splitting Africa apart along the Great Rift Valley.

Other Country Information

Botswana is a landlocked country situated in southern Africa. The climate ranges from semi-arid to sub-tropical. The Kalahari Desert dominates southern and western Botswana; the extreme south-west experiences near desert conditions, while eastern Botswana, though prone to drought, has adequate rainfall to support arable farming.

Beyond the narrow eastern corridor where the majority of the population is concentrated, Botswana is a largely roadless wilderness of savannas, deserts, wetlands and salt pans. Wildlife and livestock can make driving hazardous so driving at night should be avioded.

Botswana is two hours ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code for Botswana is +267.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Maun, Botswana (MUB)
Transfer:
2024: Maun - Camp Kalahari - Maun,
Road transfer (6hrs) US$480 per person return, light aircraft transfer (45min) US$ 925 per person return
Please note transfer cost are subject to change,
payable at time of booking.
Flight Guide:
London - Maun return from £820 pp
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