Historic Beacons and a Feathery Surprise, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Early explorers needed every help they can get, using distinctive landmarks for orientation. In the Kalahari, this is a difficult task. Thankfully, there are Baobab trees.

Baobab Beacons visibly from a distance, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Baobab Beacons visibly from a distance, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Baobab trees individual shape and enormous size makes them easily recognized and spotted from a distance and outlived all explorers. Like daytime lighthouses, they determine traveling directions. Unlike on Madagascar, Baobab trees in the Kalahari grow only in certain areas. The Kalahari Boabab seem to prefer rocky and stable areas around the salt lakes, for good reasons. Not many are found within the desert itself.

Chapman’s Baobabs site, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Chapman’s Baobabs site, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

However, ‘Chapman’s Baobab’ is, named after the explorer … Chapman is located within. He engraved his name into the tree, marking his territory and being remembered forever. If the tree stands that long.

Surpringly short root system, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Surprisingly short root system, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Well, they didn’t.

Sign and gate left standing, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Sign and gate left standing, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Signpost and gate were the only things left standing. Growing to an enormous size, the soft sandy soil couldn’t hold these heavyweights anymore.

Sad sight to see, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Sad sight to see, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

In February 2016, in the middle of the rainy season, the soaked soil gave way and triggered a chain reaction.

The last name engraved, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

The last name engraved, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

2000 Years of history collapsed in 20 seconds. It was an uncomfortable sight to see, what a shame. 

 Baines Baobab signpost, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Baines Baobab signpost, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

 

Another monumental Baobab beacon lies in ‘Nxai Pan National Park’. Named after another explorer, Thomas Baines, these beacons are easily spotted from a distance.

Shady spot from midday heat, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Shady spot from the midday heat, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Standing tall at the edge of Nxai Pan, they are a perfect resting spot from the midday heat.

It’s good to have an umbrella, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

It’s good to have an umbrella, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Unless you have your own umbrella of course.

Shadowplay in black and white, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Shadowplay in black and white, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Zimba fitted perfectly in the shady spot, I preferred that spot too. Again, there was some scurrilous looking specimen in between.

Baines Baobabs, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Baines Baobabs, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

I have only seen horizontal growing Baobab trees within this pan area. How that works out, I don’t know. Maybe elephants scratched their backs when they were small, tilted them, and the Baobab kept growing from there?

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans post office, Botswana

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans post office, Botswana

Some parts of the tree are hollow and were used by explorers as an oversized letterbox for correspondence. Imagine ending up at the wrong tree to find no letter!?

Washed out roots, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Washed out roots, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

What is obvious and a bit scary is the fact that part of the roots is fairly washed out and exposed. The tree stands slightly tilted. I hope they will stand for another thousand years. ‘Nxai Pan’ is relatively small comparing to its neighbours, but contains a high volume of salt.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans National Park Campground, Botswana

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans National Park Campground, Botswana

Driving across to the dry but solitude Campground made that obvious.

Resting with giants of time, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans , Botswana

Resting with giants of time, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans , Botswana

‘Baines Baobab’ still looked impressive though. 

Slow going along Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Slow going along Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

From Kubu Island, I headed north, crossing ‘Ntwetwe Pan’, the biggest of them all. My aim was ‘Chapman’s Baobabs’, an ancient beacon for centuries. The tracks around the Pan were extremely slow going. Loose gravel, corrugations and bulldust pockets had us going in slow motion. That all changes you drive on to the dried pan. Cruising along these stretches at 80 km an hour gave a clear sense off speeding in to nowhere. Quite incredible.

Zimba’s mud bath, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Zimba’s mud bath, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Parts off ‘Ntwetwe Pan’ still had a few muddy spots. Dug out tracks were easily crossed, which looked impressive in the bigger picture.

Botswana, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

Flamingo filled in the wet

At the northern end was a viewpoint Hyde, overlooking the pan. Birdwatchers come here to see huge flocks of flamingos, breeding in the wet season. I could only imagine what that would look like. Depending on water volume, the amount of flamingos ranges from their thousand to millions, I read in a brochure. Imagine watching that. Graceful courtship dancing, sketchy take off and landing maneuvers or a sky full off pink. Spectacular. Not this time of year and so I drove off.

Ostrich caravan, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Ostrich caravan, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

I came across a permanent waterhole, to see a group of ostrich run away.

Horse, cattle, ... and a flamingo, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Horse, cattle, … and a flamingo, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Horses and cattle occupied most of the waterhole, and a bird was storking the shallow waters. Hang on, that’s not a stork.

OM-D, a flamingo, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

OM-D, a flamingo, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

It is in fact, a flamingo. One lonesome flamingo. Simply puzzled, I was wondering what he was doing here. Was he early, was he left behind or lives here permanently? This one was the larger of the two varieties off flamingos, that come here to breed. The smaller in size ‘Greater (?) Flamingo’ feeds on tiny, krill-like prawns, which gives them that striking pink coat. This one was of the larger variety, with the suitable name ‘Lesser flamingo’. They feed on crabs and other smaller prey. The waterhole wasn’t wide at all, let’s see how close I get to him. He didn’t let me come close at all.

Ready for take of, over and out, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Ready for take off, over and out, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

In amusing, air kicking fashion,

Keep the Runway Free, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Keep the Runway Free, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

he took to the skies dodging cattle an horses.

Jumbo with fighter support, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Jumbo with fighter support, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

He then looped the waters like a Jumbo jet in heavy air traffic,

Redlight landing, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Redlight landing, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

before landing again flamingo style. An indescribable amusing scenario.

Flamingo sunset, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Flamingo sunset, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

After my disappointing visit to ‘Chapman’s Baobabs’, I decided to return and camp at the always flowing spring. A flamingo at sunset is good enough reason for an overnight stay. Who knows what other animals might show up.

Sunset reflections, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Sunset reflections, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Watching this flamingo wading the shallow edges is calming a sight.

Another exceptional effort, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Another exceptional effort, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

The takeoff and landing procedures are still entertaining to watch.

Trying the other directions, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Trying the other directions, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

I wanted to get a nice photo off him doing so.

Of the ground, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Of the ground, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Admittedly, I storked him around the pond a few times.

Referee judges style and speed, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Referee judges style and speed, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Getting a good action shot though proved as a difficult task.

One more step an we’re off, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

One more step and we’re off, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

With the camera in my hand, I moved closer towards him to capture the right moment for taking off.

Ok, another step. Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Ok, another step. Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

In emphatic style he seems to run on the surface of the water, flapping his wingspan for upwards motion. For a larger bird with long legs, a fair runway is needed. Some of the body positions and his red nose reminded of a clown in the circus.

Cruising in red, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Cruising in red, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Moving even faster once airborne,

Graceful in the air, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Graceful in the air, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

it wasn’t easy to keep focus on him either.

Curious landing, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Curious landing, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

The landing procedures are just as amusing.

Fading sunlight, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Fading sunlight, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Skipping over the waters until velocity equaled body weight, tuck his wings in, to move on as if nothing has happened. The sun itself shone in rainbow colours low over the horizon meanwhile.

Rainbow sun, Botswana, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

Rainbow sun, Botswana, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

This must be his permanent feeding ground for the time being until summer rains fill up the salt pans once more. No doubt that he is patiently waiting for the return of thousands of other flamingos for yet another fruitful breeding season. Flamingos courtship dance and breed all at the same time. All newborn flamingo chicks are therefore of the same age.

Early morning splendour, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Early morning splendor, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

The early morning sun shining on his colourful appearance was spectacular.

Breakfast, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Breakfast, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Imagine watching this by the thousands.

Wading and see what happens, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Wading and see what happens, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Gently wading the shoreline, before taking to the sky once more in a graceful fashion. Just too amusing to watch.

Farewell flamingo, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Farewell flamingo, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

The reflections in early morning sunlight made this an even more breathtaking sight to see.  It was time to move on and leave this lone survivor in peace before cattle and horses chase him to the skies once more.

3 thoughts on “Historic Beacons and a Feathery Surprise, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

  1. Bro. How are u? 2019 is here and I need pics of Malawi to promote tourism. May u permit me to do so?

    Mayamiko J. Mwanza +265 880 336 744 +265 991 989 373 “STRICTLY BUSINESS.”

    Like

  2. The fallen Baobabs create a sad eeriness, like a ghost town and the Flamingo takeoff reminds me of the Roadrunner cartoon….beepbeep!

    Like

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