Southern Africa, Botswana

The Makgadikgadi Pans

Wildlife in the Makgadikgadi Pan

Remnants of an ancient lake, the Makgadikgadi Pans, southeast of the Okavango Delta, are thought to be the world’s largest collection of salt flats. They’re not to everyone’s taste, but we find them compelling for a few reasons: their austere, uncompromising beauty in the dry season, their explosion with life when the rains fill the pans and animals throng to the moisture, and because they embody something Peter Matthiessen lyrically wrote of in his wonderful The Tree Where Man Was Born; “it was out of landscapes like Makgadikgadi that newly born humankind began its epic migration to the ends of the earth.”

In Africa, Matthiessen saw “a glimpse of the earth’s morning” and felt “a sense of origins, of innocence and mystery, like a marvelous childhood faculty restored. Perhaps it is the consciousness that here in Africa, south of the Sahara, our kind was born.”

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