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There are some that can live without wilderness and some that cannot. Thank heavens for us all that the Nata Conservation Committee, the Kalahari Conservation Society and the local communities pledged themselves to the conservation of the unique habitats of the Nata River Delta and Sowa Pan.

From the perspective of the casual observer the lunar-like landscape of the Kalahari could not possibly sustain any life. This is a place of hot winds, blistering sands and saline lakes. However, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are, in fact, home to over 165 migratory bird species and form one of the largest breeding sites of Lesser and Greater Flamingo in the world.

The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans make up the ancient basin of the Kalahari Desert. Once an enormous in-land lake, all that is left now is a salty desert that holds position as one of the largest salt flats on the planet. The Makgadikgadi is not a single pan but many pans with sandy desert in between, the largest being the Sowa, Nwetwe and Nxai Pans.

Sowa translates to “salt” in the language of the San and is one of the largest ephemeral lakes in the world spanning a vast 24 000 square kilometres. On the north-eastern edge of Sowa Pan at the mouth of the Nata River Delta, lies the Nata Bird Sanctuary, a protected oasis, that provides refuge to over 165 migratory bird species, including flamingo, pelican, avocet, stilts, lapwings, teals, coots, spoonbills and bee-eaters to name but a few.

Very little wildlife can exist here during the harsh dry season, but during winter; after the rains, the pans curve and swell, water slowly seeps into sand and the landscape transforms into a watery wonderland. The deathly quiet is replaced with a cacophony of sound, as hundreds of thousands of birds descend onto the shores and sandbanks to breed.

Viewing this surreal landscape from above gives one an immense perspective of a grand paradox of blues and greens set against the desolate white plains of the central Kalahari. Soaring over the sapphire pans, sunlight playing over the surface in quick silver feints and shimmies and seeing the pink wing beats of thousands of pelican and flamingo swirling on the shores must be one of the most unusual experiences on earth.

Many of these images are featured in our book Aerial Art. To purchase the book please visit

Aerial Africa offers scheduled and bespoke aerial safaris and photographic workshops of the Makgadikgadi Pans. To find out more mail

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