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Journey To Sua Pan

Camping at Nata Bird Sanctuary in Botswana

Gill Staden, eTN  Feb 14, 2010

Sua Pan is one of the pans which make up Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana. It lies between the Ntwetwe Pan and the main Francistown-Nata Road. Nata Bird Sanctuary is part of Sua Pan. It is not within a National Park but was proclaimed a conservancy in 1992 and is run by the community.

The pans were formed millions of years ago when they were part of an inland lake. When the rivers changed their course, the lake dried up. Nowadays, the pans fill up only during the rainy season. The great draw of the sanctuary is during the rainy season when flamingoes and pelicans come to nest and breed on the pan. And, of course, there are lots of other water birds to be found there.

We went to visit the sanctuary in February 2010. We came down the road from Kazungula, seeing lots of elephant and one flock of ostrich fleeing across the road.

We headed straight for the Bird Sanctuary as they have a campsite there. It seemed the ideal place to be from the information on the Internet. We arrived at around 5:00 pm after our journey from Livingstone, which had started at 8:00 am that morning.

We were happily welcomed and told to pick any campsite because there was no-one else there. We drove round and miserably found that the campsite was plunked very close to the road, and we could hear cars and trucks. It was too late to change our minds at this point, so we set to putting up tents and organizing ourselves.

Later, after we had finished our supper, a security guard came to warn us that we could not leave anything out during the night because it is not safe. We packed moveable things into the tents and car and crawled into our tents to sleep.

The following morning we packed up, knowing that we could not leave anything safely in the campsite, and took off for the pan. There had not been too much rain, but there was quite a bit of water. We trundled happily through several large puddles and then came to a rather large one. I surveyed the situation and decided against driving though. There was no one else around on the pan, and I wondered what we would do if we got stuck. We made a change of plan and hightailed it off the pan to go and relax at Nata Lodge and take one of their guided tours of the pan. This would be a much safer and easier option.

As a final thought about the campsite at the sanctuary, it was clean and tidy and everything was there except for security and ambience. I would have thought that someone could have helped the community chose a good spot, which was not by the road. Now, though, that they have put so much money into the development, perhaps a grass/reed fence between the camp and the road might buffer some of the noise and add to the security.

Camping at Nata Bird Sanctuary in Botswana
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