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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in Botswana

Sleep under the stars on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan

It feels like being in a real-life planetarium, and it’s incredible – you can see the milky way and just billions of stars above you…

By Ollie Maitapiso
Guide at Leroo La Tau

In prehistoric times, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan was one of the biggest inland lakes in the world – it’s now a huge collection of salt flats, covering more than 6,000 square miles in total. It looks like the moon, and you get the sense it just stretches on forever.

At Leroo La Tau we’ve been offering daytrips here for a while, taking guests to the Nxai Pans, located around a four-hour drive from the lodge. The pans turn into a lake in summer, bringing flamingos and other wildlife, and then in winter it dries out to become this big, salt-covered plain – occasionally we see meerkats, which is amazing.

But we wanted to offer a different experience, so over lockdown we started working on setting up a sleepout for guests wanting to stay in the middle of it. The experience is offered free for anyone staying three nights or more in the dry season (July to the end of October) and we take people out in groups of up to six, although it can also be booked privately.

It’s located around a five to six-hour drive from the lodge, so we leave straight after breakfast, stopping for lunch on the way and arriving late afternoon. For an extra charge, 30-minute helicopter transfers are also available, which take guests over the pans to see these vast, glittering landscapes from above.

On arrival, there are bedrolls laid out and a toilet – and then it’s just a huge stretch of white. We cook a traditional bush dinner, which is served round an open fire with drinks as we watch the sun set over the pans, which is spectacular. Then when it gets dark, the stars come out. There’s no light pollution here so it feels like being in a real-life planetarium, and it’s incredible – you can see the milky way and just billions of stars above you, so bright you feel like you could almost touch them.

In the morning, we serve a continental breakfast before making the journey back across the pans to the lodge, sharing stories from the experience.

It does get cold, so we tell guests to bring plenty of layers! But it’s well worth it. The best thing about it is the silence of it all – there’s nobody else for miles around, and you get a real sense of the vastness of these sprawling pans. That’s a great feeling, and I feel extremely lucky to be able to guide here.

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Alfred & Ollie Maitapiso

Ollie grew up in the village of Xaxaba in the Okavango Delta and began his career as a trainee poler in 1999, taking guests out on mokoro trips. He started guiding in 2004 and joined Camp Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve in 2007, before moving to Leroo La Tau in 2014.

Alfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like James, who's travelled extensively in Botswana. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife in Chobe, the village chiefs who'll give you an insight into local life and the helicopter pilots who can land you on an island in the Delta never visited by humans before.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656