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The Makgadikgadi Pans

These immense salt pans in the eastern Kalahari—once the bed of an African superlake—provide some of Botswana's most dramatic scenery. Two of these pans, Ntetwe and Sowa, the largest of their kind in the world, have a flaky, pastrylike surface that might be the nearest thing on earth to the surface of the moon. In winter (May–September) these huge bone-dry surfaces, punctuated by islands of grass and lines of fantastic palm trees, dazzle and shimmer into hundreds of dancing mirages under the midday sun. In summer months (October–April) the last great migration in Southern Africa takes place here: more than 20,000 zebras and wildebeests with predators on their heels come seeking the fresh young grass of the rainwater-flooded pans. Waterbirds also flock here from all over the continent; the flamingos are particularly spectacular.

You can see stars as never before, and if you're lucky, as the San Bushmen say, even hear them sing. Grab the opportunity to ride 4x4 bikes into an always-vanishing horizon; close your eyes and listen as an ancient San Bushman hunter tells tales of how the world began in his unique language—the clicks will sound strange to your ears—or just wander in wonder over the pristine piecrust surface of the pans.

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Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Victoria Falls

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