Makgadikgadi Pans, Makgadikgadi and the Kalahari, Botswana
At a Glance
Learn about how the San bushmen live in this harsh environment
Spend a morning hanging out with the family of habituated meerkats
San Camp is situated on the edge of the vast and mysterious Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
Lie on the salt pans as the stars come out and listen to the complete silence - it's eerie
Explore remote archaeological sites on 4wd quad bikes
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
Botswana’s winter is May to October when the weather is hot during the day (not stiflingly hot) and cold at night. Botswana's summer months (November to April) can be hot and humid and there is a chance of rain. Botswana has one rainy season which runs between mid-December and runs through to mid-March.
To start planning your holiday to San Camp
The newly refurbished and classically elegant San Camp comprises just six canvas tents set widely spaced apart in a most dramatic location, The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, thus creating an oasis of civilization in a fascinating environment.
A visit to San Camp is all about the isolation. Turn 360 degrees and nothing will cross your eyeline but the huge bowl of the sky. Views stretch for miles and you can practically see the curvature of the earth from here.
Set on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, the camp is a collection of 1940s safari tents, with four-poster beds, cambric sheets, paraffin lamps and butlers. It's beautifully eco-friendly, being run entirely by solar power and leaving barely a sign of its existence. In keeping with the remote environment, there is no internet access nor electricity however there are central charging facilities in the main area. Paraffin lamps are lit around camp at night adding to the romantic atmosphere.
Open over the dry months, from April to October, San Camp offers a totally unique chance to explore the Kalahari. Here the wildlife viewing consists of rare species such as the elusive brown hyena as well as aardvark, meerkats, gemsbok and springbok.
Game walks and drives take place every day with qualified zoologists and biologists to show you the unique desert flora and fauna. Guests can explore the inner pans on specially adapted vehicles and learn about their ancient history, both geological and human.
A relic of one of the world’s largest super-lakes, the Makgadikgadi dried up thousands of years ago as a result of the continued shifting of the earth’s crust. It's possible to explore the pans by 4WD quad bike.
You should also not miss the opportunity to join a Bushmen safari and learn about their fascinating way of life at first hand.
San Camp is the Stewart Granger Memorial Collection of 1940s safari tents. Each of the six white tents has a bucket shower, flush loo, four-poster bed, mosquito net canopy, percale sheets, and paraffin lamps. There is no electricity at San Camp. The tents stand on the shore of an enormous glistening salt pan and are sheltered by the stately desert palm trees.
Children are most welcome at San Camp but the very nature and setting of the camp may not suit very young children and there are no specific childcare facilities.
The activities all revolve around game viewing and the guides at San Camp are often graduate students who combine research with guiding, they team up with a small group of Zu/’hoasi Bushmen to guide guests on morning walks and game drives. Venturing far into the centre of the Makgadikgadi, on 4wd quad bikes, guests are able to explore remote archaeological sites, periodically discovering never before documented fossil beds of extinct giant zebra and hippo. Horse-riding (experienced riders only) can also be arranged at certain times of year, for a surcharge - this must be prebooked before you travel, so please speak to your Travel Consultant to find out more.
Sarah Clegg (Staff)
San Camp has just enjoyed its first full season since a complete overhaul, it is like no other safari camp I have visited or heard of. Set on the edge of the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, an area the size of Switzerland, guests arriving at San can be forgiven for thinking they've stepped onto another planet.
I recently returned to sunny London after two years working in the heart of the Makgadikgadi, as Manager of Jacks Camp, Sans big and better known brother. I arrived in the Kalahari before the new San Camp was a reality; the decks weren't built and the tents were still going through final design stages. Six months, some serious graft, sweat and more than a few tears later the first guests were welcomed to San.
Six vast white canvas tents are set on raised teak decks and are beautifully furnished with four poster beds, campaign furniture and a panelled en suite bathroom with brass fittings and a real throne. This is old-world safari at its most luxurious best.
The central Mess Tent is the focal point of San. Split into three sections: a library, central dining area and a relaxed strictly no shoes Tea Tent, complete with Persian rugs and piles of comfy cushions. Interesting pieces from Jack Bousfield and his son Ralphs collection fill antique cabinets set against the walls of the tent. For ultimate Zen, a Yoga Tent stands on the edge of the pan, views are interrupted only by distant wandering ostriches, or if lucky, the rare brown hyena making its way to and from its den out on the pans.
Kirsty and John, grandson of Jack himself, manage and guide at San. They are exemplary hosts, with a wealth of knowledge on the area and wider Southern Africa, theyre good fun as well. In this most remote environment, the work of the San Camp team is particularly noticeable, friendly, professional service and mouth-watering offerings from Head Chef Onobona are complimented by the recently revamped selection of South African wines. Crisp cotton sheets and a combination of thick, down duvets and hot water bottles ward of the night time chill.
As the dawn sun breaks the horizon, the inside of the tents glow with golden light, a quiet Ko ko, knock knock in Setswana, and a tray of silver coffee and tea pots rouses you to head out to catch up with local Kalahari JuWasi Bushmen, walk with one of the habituated families of meerkats or ride quad bikes across the salt pans. There are a few fun surprises as well, but to share would be telling!
Come April, as the rain recedes, the temperatures cool and crucially the salt pans dry, San Camp springs into life, or rather, through the heroic efforts of the Uncharted Africa team, is carried, dragged, bolted and tied back in place. Each October, as the mercury rises and the storm clouds build, the camp is broken down and the salt pan is deserted again for another season. It is a monumental effort, but the results are staggering.
Camilla Whitworth (Staff)
San Camp is my favourite camp in Africa! A real once in a lifetime experience. Driving through the Kalahari Desert and coming across this fantastically beautiful, cool, white tented camp is quite remarkable. The rooms are stunning with views over the salt pans which would melt any heart! It feels amazingly romantic and almost spiritual.
You could almost go to San Camp and sit all day long in their squashy ''chill out'' areas with a book and just admire the quietness and beauty of the place. Alternatively, set out on quad bikes across the pans, go walking with the bushman people and be totally overwhelmed by their knowledge, go on game drives, sit with a meerkat on your head (!) or go and see the enormous Baobab trees which tell a thousand tales...San really is a very unique place.
Anna Devereux Baker (Staff)
I loved San Camp when I visited - it has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere and an amazing feeling of space. A highlight for me was drinks out on the pan (from which you can actually see the curvature of the earth!) and watching the moon rise and the sun set simultaneously.
While here we were able to partake in nearly all of the activities - our guide was excellent, and a superb naturalist. He explained how the pans were formed after the superlake dried, and took us to some amazing sites including Chapman's Baobab, which is considered to be Africa's oldest tree.
We also took to the quadbikes and explored the saltpans. This is an amazing experience! We drove for miles right into the centre of the pan and then stopped and explored on foot.
We were also able to visit the meerkats which are being studied by a team of researchers. They are extremely habituated and we found, if we sat quietly, they would come and perch on our knees, shoulders and heads, using us as look-out posts!
San Camp is a wonderful camp and provides a perfect contrast to the watery lushness of the Delta - and as it has just been refurbished, now is the perfect time to visit!
Meerkats on the Makgadikgadi
Down in the Makgadikgadi Pans, and accessible from both Jack's and San Camp, is a very special, habituated clan of meerkats, which have been studied by scientists for years. Guests to Jack's and San are able to visit and observe quietly.
Quad biking on the Makgadikgadi Pans
Staying in the Makgadikgadi during the dry season from May to November gives guests the opportunity to explore Botswana's salt pan by quad bike, a unique and fun adventure for the family.
Spirit Dancers of the San
In a quiet corner of Botswana live the San Bushmen, a gentle and quiet people, whose legends and traditions date back hundreds of years. A visit to Jack's or San Camp will enable you to learn more about their fascinating culture.
Walking Safaris and Nature Walks
Walking in the African bush with a professional safari guide is a fantastic experience. Enjoy a completely different perspective on foot than from a vehicle.
Walking with the Kalahari Bushmen
The San interpret the signs of the bush like no one else, all senses build a picture of their world. Beyond this, on the hunt, San tap into the spirit world, entering the minds of their quarry. This natural understanding has to be seen to be believed.
Location & directions
Makgadikgadi Pans, Makgadikgadi and the Kalahari, Botswana
San Camp is situated on the edge of the vast and mysterious Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, the remnant of an extinct super lake that once covered most of Botswana.
How to get there
The nearest international airport is Maun, which is an 11-hour international flight to Johannesburg, followed by a 2-hour international flight. From there you will need a short flight (30 minutes) to get you to the camp.