Thanks to Travellers!!

Thanks to Travellers!!

We wish all travellers who has travelled with Afrikaya in 2016, who made it possible for us and we hope a lot of dreams has come true for you!!

May you be blessed for 2017 and safe, may we find peace and happiness around the world and unite as a people’s nation.

Let your journey begin!!!

Republic Day South-Africa

Becoming a Republic and withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961

Celebrating Republic Day 1961 © Bailey’s Archives

In 1958 after the voting age was decreased to 18, the National Party (NP) was able to increase their majority again, this time to 108 seats. Verwoerd, like his predecessors, was convinced that unity between the English and the Afrikaner could be achieved only within a new republic. In January 1960 he announced that a referendum would be held that year on the issue of a republic. It was decided that South Africa, like India, would also try to become a republic, while remaining in the Commonwealth.

At this time in South Africa there were various crises that had an impact on the way that people voted in the referendum. First the Sharpeville Masacre (1960) and the resultant banning of the ANC and PAC. Many gave their support to the NP after this incident as they believed the NP could protect them. South Africa also came under international criticism, and in this atmosphere many felt that some withdrawal from international affairs was best. Other incidents that deeply affected South Africans in 1960 were the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Verwoerd, the Orange Free State Coalbrook mining disaster on 21 January 1960 where 435 labourers were buried alive, and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s ‘Winds of Change’ speech. Their effect was to bring greater coherence and unity amongst white South Africans.

Further reading on these incidents:

  1. Sharpeville
  2. British Prime Minister Macmillan’s ‘Wind of Change’ speech in Cape Town:
  3. Assassination attempts on Verwoerd (1960 and 1966):
  4. Coalbrook mining disaster

The referendum was held on 5 October 1960 and the majority of white South African voters (not just white Afrikaans speakers) were in favour of a republic. Black, Coloured and Indian people were not allowed to vote. Both the United Party and the Progressive Party called for votes against the republic at this time. Some white English-speakers voted in favour of a republic, presuming that this would not affect South Africa’s membership of the commonwealth. The government did not use the two-third-majority rule, but only a simple majority. This went against what Strijdom had believed when, thinking only of whites, he said it should be determined by the ‘broad basis of the people’s will’. The result was 850 458 in favour with 775 878 against, meaning that the referendum was won by only 74 580 votes. In 1961 the monetary system was changed from the British imperial currency to a metric, South African system of Rands and cents.

On 3 March 1961 Verwoerd went to the Imperial Conference in London. His apparent intention was to discuss South Africa becoming a republic while remaining in the commonwealth. At the 1960 Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference the diplomat, Eric Louw had been told that a decision regarding whether South Africa would be allowed to stay in the Commonwealth or not could not be made in advance. The reason for this decision was that it could have been seen as interference with the internal affairs of another country. Verwoerd now needed to obtain a statement on South Africa’s position that would be acceptable to both the Commonwealth and to South Africans. He was however faced by a lot of opposition to South Africa’s apartheid policy. Some countries had been thinking that South Africa should be expelled from the Commonwealth as a result of apartheid, and there had been campaigning in Britain by the Anti-Apartheid Movement calling for this.

Verwoerd returns to South Africa after the expulsion from the Commonwealth © Rapport

The Afro-Asian countries were especially critical of apartheid, with Nkrumah and Nehru leading the discussion. Canada also criticised South Africa openly, and the call was for South Africa to abandon her racial policy. Verwoerd refused and felt that nobody should have the right to dictate to South Africa what actions should be followed. In South Africa even the white parliamentary opposition agreed with him on this point. Verwoerd decided it would be best to leave the Commonwealth before South Africa was expelled or faced even more criticism, and so suddenly resigned on 15 March. It had also become clear by this time that some other countries would leave the Commonwealth in protest if an unrepentant South Africa were allowed to remain.

On 31 May South Africa became a republic, with her membership of the Commonwealth simultaneously expiring. The choice of this particular day was no accident, but was deeply significant in the Afrikaner psyche. The date of Republic day (31 May) coincided with the end of the South African War in 1902, the date of the Union of South Africa in 1910 and the date when the South African flag had first been flown in 1928. The new constitution had been finalised in April, but did not resemble that of the old Boer republics or the 1941 draft as many had expected. It combined the old powers of the Queen and the Governor General and invested them in the new position of State President – a position without a political role and elected by the legislature. Equality between English and Afrikaans was retained.

 

National Parks vs Private Game Reserves

 

A self-drive in the Kruger National Park or a safari in a private game reserve? A question asked by tourists and locals alike, time and time again. Surely the animals are the same? One could even argue that between the Kruger and a private game reserve such as the Sabi Sand or Timbavati one could see exactly the same elephant, since the animals have the luxury of roaming freely between the reserves. But that’s rubbish. And here’s why… Botswana has no fences.

My first ever sighting of a hyena was on a main road in the Kruger National Park – it was a hyena pup. What a sight! But instead of being able to follow the hyena through the bush in a 4×4, we were jostling for a vantage point with a bunch of other tourists. In a closed VW Golf. Heads and cameras were outstretched in an ungainly attempt to get a half-decent photo. After half an hour we reached the front of the queue and our reward was a 30 second view of the adorable pup before being hooted at – yes…hooted! Time to move on in search of our next impala.

A real safari is about the overall experience. Tales over pre-dinner drinks from courageous rangers and the sudden use of the flash light during dinner to see the hippo in front of the deck all create the memories that urge us to return at the first opportunity. It’s about submerging yourself in an African fantasy while at the same time seeing real nature in all its spectacular (and at times brutal) glory. It’s about stepping up onto a safari vehicle in search of the Big 5. It’s about the thrill of marauding through the bush after a pack of wild dogs in hot pursuit of an impala.

Why is the game viewing better in a Private Game Reserve?
It’s private! No cars of other tourists in a dazzling array of blinding colours.

Safari vehicles can go off road. In a national park you will be limited to animals visible from the main roads.

The best and most knowledgeable rangers in the business work at the private game reserves.

Rangers are not restricted to national park hours, which means that they can go on night drives. It also means that you can stay as long as you want on a sighting!

Elevated, open-top safari vehicles give you the best view possible so you can get the perfect photo.

Rangers can lead walking safaris so that you can get that perfect photo right up the rhino’s nostril!

You might often hear about about ‘traversing rights’ in reference to your safari experience. So what are traversing rights? Traversing rights allow neighbouring lodges to drive on each others’ land which means more space for you to explore and find animals. The larger the traversing area the better! More land = more biodiversity. Limpopo, Mpumulanga and in KwaZulu-Natal.

MAKAPANSGAT: CAVES THROUGH AGES

Art Cave

LOCALITY

The Makapansgat Caves and neighbouring archaeological and fossil sites are situated on the farm Makapansgat 19km north of Potgietersrus in the Northern Province. The caves are of great importance as they provide a record of hominid occupation from australopithecine (ape-man) times through the Stone and Iron Ages, right up to the present day. As such, the Makapansgat Valley is unique in that nowhere else in the world, such an extended and complete record of hominid occupation has been observed.

HISTORY

In February 1925 Prof Raymond Dart announced the discovery of the first ape-man at Taung (Northwest Province) with these profound words:”The specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids (apes such as chimpanzees) and man…..”. A teacher from Pietersburg, Mr Wilfred Eitzman, inspired by this discovery, sent Dart some rocks containing fossils which he found near the lime kilns on the farm Makapansgat. This is how one of the most revealing chapters of the origin and evolution on Humankind was opened.

MAKAPANSGAT VALLEY SITES

 

MAKAPANSGAT LIMEWORKS

 

This is the oldest of the sites, spanning an age of between 3,32 million years to 1,6 million years ago. This site has yielded many thousands of fossil bones, amongst which were found remains of the gracile ape-man Australopithecus africanus.

 

CAVE OF HEARTHS & HYAENA CAVE

 

The Cave of Hearths preserves a remarkably complete record of human occupation from Early Stone Age “Acheulian” times in the oldest sediments through the Middle Stone Age, the Later Stone Age and up to the Iron Age. Nineteenth Century European relics such as brass ware and musket balls were found at the surface when excavations started.

BUFFALO CAVE

A small number of fossils were collected by Dr Robert Broom from this site in 1937, including the remains of the extinct buffalo Bos makapania. More recent excavations have revealed an extensive fauna including antelope, horses, pigs, monkeys and carnivores which suggest a Pleistocene age for the deposits.

FICUS CAVE & IRON AGE SITE

The cave gets its name from the fig tree Ficus ingens roots which curtain its entrance. This cave contains Iron Age and 19th Century relics, a large bat colony and an underground lake. An Iron Age site close by yields occupational debris from approximately Early Iron Age (550 AD), 870 AD and the Late Iron Age (1560 AD). The slopes adjacent to the cave are artificially terraced and archaelogical finds from these include patsherds, grindstones, hammer stones and relics of iron smelting operations, including ore, slag and fragments of tuyeres.

PEPPERCORNE’S CAVE

This cave contains Iron Age and ancient relics and an underground lake. It is also home to a large colony of migratory long-fingered bats, Miniopteris schreibersii.

 

RAINBOW CAVE

This cave is situated immediately below the Historic Cave and contains the remains of several hearths, indicating both human occupation and the controlled us of fire. The exposed sediments have yielded Middle Stone Age artifacts of the Piertersburg Culture of between 100 000 and 50 000 years ago.

HISTORIC CAVE OR MAKAPANSGAT

 

This site lies immediately adjacent to the Cave of Hearths and preserves Iron Age and Mfecane relics. It is most famous as the clash between a Boer Commando and local Langa and Kekana people after the murders of Voortrekkers at Moorddrift, Mapela and Pruizen. Chief Makapan (Mokopane), together with a large number of his tribespeople and their cattle were besieged in the cave for nearly a month between 25 October and 21 November 1854, during which time many hundreds died of hunger and thirst. Piet Potgieter was shot during the siege and the name of the nearby town was changed from Vredenburg to Pieter Potgietersrust, which in time changed to Potgietersrus. The cave was proclaimed a National Monument in 1936.

DISCOVERIES IN MAKAPANSGAT VALLEY

The rocks Prof Dart received from Mr Eitzman turned out to contain, amongst others, blackened fossil bones which led him to believe that they were burnt. Although no hominid remains or stone tools were found at first, he concluded that these were the remains of bones burnt in fireplaces and therefore that Mokapansgat was a site of early hominid occupation. Dart named the first hominids discovered at the site Australopithecus Prometheus after the mythological Greek hero who stole fire from the Gods. Afterwards the black markings turned out to be manganese stains and Australopithecus Prometheus turned out to be specimens of Australopithecus africanus. On the basis of an analysis of 7159 fossil bones, Dart concluded that these creatures, in an era before stone tools were discovered, used tools made from bone, teeth and horn, naming it the Osteodontokeratic Culture.

In 1936, the Historical Monuments Commission was asked to declare Makapan’s Cave a National Monument and Prof C van Riet Lowe, secretary of the Commission and Director of the Archaeological Survey of the Union of South Africa, visited the site in 1937. He inspected the Historic Cave and discovered close by an abandoned limeworker’s adit which cut through a calcified cave infill. In this infill he saw fossil bones, stone tools and what he took to be ash horizons, representing ancient hearths. After initially referring to it as part of Makapan’s Cave, he later renamed it “The Cave of Hearths”.

Further research during June and October 1937 revealed the Rainbow Cave. The site was visited by Van Riet Lowe, Dart and Robert Broom. HBS Cooke of the Geology Department of the University of the Witwatersrand conducted a geological survey of the area (1941) followed by LC King in 1951.

Philip Tobias led a group of students in July 1945 to the valley where they discovered the Hyaena Cave adjacent to Van Riet Lowe’s site. Further down the valley, from a cave adjacent to the limeworks, they collected a large fossil horse’s lower jaw, from which the Cave of the Horse’s Mandible derived its name.

After these discoveries, Dr Bernard Price made a research grant available for systematic excavations which commenced at the Cave of Hearths in 1947, field work being carried out by Guy Gardiner, James Kitching and his brothers Ben and Scheepers. One of he most significant discoveries was a Homo lower jaw from Bed 3 by Ben. In 1953 Dr RJ Mason was placed in charge of the excavations and the stratigraphic sequence was determined during 1953-1954.

After the Kitching brothers discovered an ape-man braincase amongst the Limeworks dumps in 1947, Dart organized for the lime miner’s dumps to be hand-sorted in order to recover as much fossil-bearing material as possible. After 45 years of research, many thousands of fossils from this site have been identified and catalogued.

B Maguire studied rocks which were brought from outside into the caves during prehistoric times (1965, 1968, 1980). This he interpreted to represent rudimentary stone tool making activities dated at around 2,3 – 1,6 million years ago.

Mapungubwe national park

golden_rhino Mapungubwe

Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is the ideal location for anyone interested in the park’s wildlife and birds, to those in search of serenity, identity and the extraordinary history of this World Heritage Site…

Come and join these diverse pilgrims and share unforgetable moments sipping sundowners at the confluence of the legendary Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, watch the eagles soar over Botswana and Zimbabwe’s skies, hear the echo of elephant trumpets, take a tree top walk or just relax and absorb the surroundings… Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is rich in biodiversity, great scenic beauty and the cultural importance of the archaeological treasures of Mapungubwe.

The Lost City: Visit Mapungubwe Hill, where a far developed African civilisation prospered between 1200 and 1270 AD. The area was already inhabited by a growing Iron Age community from 900 AD and became rich through trade with faraway places like Egypt, India and China. This is the place where archeologists excavated the famous golden rhino and other evidence of a wealthy African kingdom.

Wildlife and Mystic Scenery: Sandstone formations, mopane woodlands and unique riverine forest and baobab trees form the astounding scenic backdrop for a rich variety of animal life. Elephant, giraffe, white rhino, eland, gemsbok and numerous other antelope species occur naturally in the area. Lucky visitors might spot predators like lions, leopards and hyenas. Birders can tick off 400 species, including kori bustard, tropical boubou and pel’s fishing owl.

The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre : The Centre which is built near the main gate of the Mapungubwe National Park won the building of the year competition in 2009 and is home to the famous Golden Rhino. The Centre provides both day and over-night visitors the opportunity of a tour, showcasing the amazing landscape that the National Park has to offer.

Joining Nations: The Iron Age civilization of Mapungubwe was not limited by the Limpopo river and animals have always been able to wander around in the area of present-day South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. This is why South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding with Botswana and Zimbabwe on June 22nd setting out principles for the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

Johannesburg, Gauteng

Johannesburg,_City_of_Gold

Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Joburg, Jolburg, Joni, e-Goli orJoeys, abbreviated as JHB, is, by population, the largest city in South Africa. Johannesburg is the provincial capital ofGauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The city is one of the 50 largest urban agglomerations in the world, and is also the world’s largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline.

While Johannesburg is not one of South Africa’s three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court, which has the final word on interpretation of South Africa’s constitution, and is the provincial capital of Gauteng. The city is the source of a large-scale gold and diamond trade, due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills.

According to the 2007 Community Survey, the population of the city of Johannesburg was 4,434,827 and the population of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area was 7,151,447. A broader definition of the Johannesburg metropolitan area, including Ekurhuleni, the West Rand, Soweto and Lenasia, has a population of 10,267,700. The municipal city’s land area of 1,645 km2 (635 sq mi) is very large when compared with that of other cities, resulting in a moderate population density of 2,364/km2 (6,120/sq mi).

Johannesburg includes Soweto, which was a separate city from the late 1970s until the 1990s. Originally an acronym for “SOuth-WEstern TOwnships”, Soweto originated as a collection of settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg populated mostly by native African workers in the gold-mining industry. In 1985 Mr. Nigel Mandy (BA Law – CA), who was the first General Manager of the Carlton Centre, published a book called “A City Divided” – meaning Soweto and Johannesburg cities were divided from a fiscal point of view, were divided by law and people – he also assisted the Provincial Government of the old Transvaal as well as post 1994, in developing a process whereby Black, Coloured, Indian and White people could become homeowners previously deprived from ownership during the apartheid era. (Ronnie Stevens – Gauteng Human Settlements – 2014) Eventually incorporated into Johannesburg, the apartheidgovernment (in power 1948–1994) separated Soweto from the rest of Johannesburg to make it an entirely black-residents area. The area called Lenasia has always been part of the City of Johannesburg. Lenasia is predominantly populated by those of English-speaking Indian ethnicity.

Cape Town

castle of good hope

As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town boasts a number of important historical buildings, many of which are still in use today and open to visitors. The city’s architecture is a testament to the many and varied influences on South Africa’s unique history and a dream for any architecture enthusiasts!

tuynhuys

Tuynhuys, the Cape Town office of The Presidency, has in various guises been associated with the seat of the highest political authority in the land for almost two and a half centuries. The building seemingly had modest beginnings with the earliest known reference to the site being in 1674 when the Dutch East India Company first built a “garden house” to store the tools for the Company’s large garden first established by Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. In about 1682, the toolshed was converted into a guesthouse to entertain foreign visitors of the Governor Simon van der Stel.

The Castle of Good Hope, erected between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company, is the oldest building in the whole of South Africa.

Fun facts about the Castle of Good Hope:

The castle is a blend of medieval and 17th-century architecture, designed in a pentagon

The building consists of five bastions: Oranje, Nassau, Leerdam, Catzenellenbogen and Buuren – titles of Prince William of Orange

The bastions were used as prisons and storerooms in years gone by

The Castle houses the Western Cape military headquarters and is home to the South African Military Museum

Tours of the Castle are very popular

 

Kruger National Park History

KNP_image

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,633 square kilometres (7,580 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. The administrative headquarters are inSkukuza. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926.

To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

The park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere an area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve (the “Biosphere”).

The park has nine main gates allowing entrance to the different camps.

Sabi Game Reserve (1898 – 1926)

In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the Volksraad of the old South African Republic, a motion to create the game reserve which would become the Kruger National Park. That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of R. K. Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote, resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger president of the Transvaal Republic, on 26 March 1898, of a “Government Wildlife Park.” This park would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve and was expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926.

The park was initially created to control hunting and protect the diminished number of animals in the park.

James Stevenson Hamilton became the first warden of the reserve in 1902. The reserve was located in the southern one-third of the modern park. Shingwedzi Reserve, named after the Shingwedzi River and now in northern Kruger National Park, was proclaimed in 1903. In 1926, Sabie Game Reserve, the adjacent Shingwedzi Game Reserve, and farms were combined to create Kruger National Park.

During 1923, the first large groups of tourists started visiting the Sabie Game Reserve, but only as part of the South African Railways’ popular “Round in Nine” tours. The tourist trains used the Selati railway line between Komatipoort on the Mozambican border and Tzaneen in Limpopo Province. The tour included an overnight stop at Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) and a short walk, escorted by armed rangers, into the bush. It soon became a highlight of the tour and it gave valuable support for the campaign to proclaim the Sabie Game Reserve as a national park.

1926 – 1946

After the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929.
Warden James Stevenson-Hamilton retired on 30 April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the Kruger Park and its predecessor, the Sabi Game Reserve.

1946 – 1994

 Plaque in the park. Now and then people do get killed, however this is extremely rare.

He was replaced by Colonel J. A. B. Sandenbergh of the South African Air Force. During 1959, work commenced to completely fence the park boundaries. Work started on the southern boundary along the Crocodile River and in 1960 the western and northern boundaries were fenced, followed by the eastern boundary with Mozambique. The purpose of the fence was to curb the spread of diseases, facilitate border patrolling and inhibit the movement of poachers.

The Makuleke area in the northern part of the park was forcibly taken from the Makuleke people by the government in 1969 and about 1500 of them were relocated to land to the South so that their original tribal areas could be integrated into the greater Kruger National Park.

1994 – present

In 1996 the Makuleke tribe submitted a land claim for 19,842 hectares (198.42 km2) in the northern part of the Kruger National Park. The land was given back to the Makuleke people, however, they chose not to resettle on the land but to engage with the private sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges.

In 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into a peace park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

Victoria Falls Facts & History

Vic Falls

Painting by Larry Norton

 

Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya (Tokaleya Tonga: the Smoke that Thunders), is a waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

IMG_5358

This magnificent curtain of water which descends into a narrow abyss between Zambia and Zimbabwe is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Victoria Falls has been a sought after destination since the late 1800’s and is thought to be the largest falls in the world, one of the seven greatest wonders.

D. Livingstone

David Livingstone became the first European to see Victoria Falls. He returned again in 1860 for a more comprehensive study and was accompanied by John Kirk, a fellow explorer. Other European visitors that followed included a Portuguese explorer, and Emil Holub a Czech explorer who made the first detailed plan of the area, also British artist Thomas Baines who painted some of the earliest pictures of the falls. Once word got out, Anglo traders started to arrive in increasing numbers and a rustic settlement was built on the riverbank (now Zambia) called Old Drift, the crossing place for the Zambezi River prior to 1905.

The towns of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Livingstone, Zambia stand on either side of the mile wide waterfall and the mighty Zambezi River. This shared heritage offers the ideal destination for romance, weddings and honeymoons, fabulous Big Five safaris and wildlife viewing. A huge variety of adrenalin sports take full advantage of the spectacular environment. Other unforgettable adventures include flights over the falls, horse trails, canoeing, fishing and cruising.

 

 

Makgadikgadi Pan

Botswana

Botswana

IMG_6725

The Makgadikgadi Pan, a salt pan situated in the middle of the dry savanna of north-eastern Botswana, is one of the largest salt flats in the world. The pan is all that remains of the formerly enormous Lake Makgadikgadi, which once covered an area larger than Switzerland, but dried up several thousand years ago.

Location and description

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. Pastoralists herded grazing livestock here when water was more plentiful earlier in theHolocene.

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

Geology

As the ancestral Lake Makgadikgadi shrank, it left relict shorelines, which are most evident in the southwestern part of the basin. As the lake shrank numerous smaller lakes formed with progressively smaller shorelines. The relict shorelines at elevations of 3100 feet and 3018 feet can be seen mostly easily on Gidikwe Ridge, west of the Boteti River.

The geologic processes behind the formation of the basin are not well understood. It is conjectured that a there was a gentle down-warping of the crust, with accompanying mild tectonics and associated faulting; however, no significant plate boundary faults have been identified. The main axis of the developing graben runs northeast-southwest.

Kubu Island and Kukome Island are igneous rock “islands” in the salt flat of Sua pan. Kubu Island lies in the southwestern quadrant of Sua Pan, contains a number of baobab trees, and is protected as a national monument.

Flora

The pans themselves are salty desert whose only plant life is a thin layer of blue-green algae. However the fringes of the pan are salt marshes and further out these are circled by grassland and then shrubby savanna. The prominent baobab trees found in the area function as local landmarks. One of them, named after James Chapman, served as an unofficial post office for 19th-century explorers.

Fauna

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 of one of only two breeding populations of Greater Flamingos in southern Africa, and only on the Soa pan, which is part of the Makgadikgadi pans. The other breeding population is at Etosha, in the Northern part of Namibia. The only birds here in the dry season areostriches, Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) and Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius). The grasslands on the fringes of the pan are home to reptiles such astortoises, rock monitor (Varanus albigularis), snakes and lizards including the endemic Makgadikgadi spiny agama (Agama hispida makgadikgadiensis).

Threats and preservation

The salt pans are very inhospitable and human intervention has been minimal so they remain fairly undisturbed, although land surrounding the pans is used for grazing and some areas have been fenced off, preventing the migration of wildlife. Modern commercial operations to extract salt and soda ash began on Sua Pan in 1991, and there are also plans to divert water from the Nata River for irrigation, which would cause severe damage to the salt pan ecosystem. Another threat is the use of quad bikes and off-road vehicles by tourists, which disturbs breeding colonies of flamingos. Illegal hunting in the national parks is a persistent problem.

There are some protected areas within the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park. The Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve is the scene of large migrations of zebra and wildebeest from the Boteti River across to Nwetwe Pan, while the Nata Sanctuary in Sua Pan is a place to see birdlife and antelopes. In Nxai Pan you can still see thebaobabs painted by 19th century British artist Thomas Baines. The area can be accessed between the towns of Nata and Maun or from the town of Gweta.