5 secret things to do in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
What can I do at Nata Lodge?
Visit the Nata Bird Sanctuary
The best thing to do in Nata is to visit the Nata Bird Sanctuary.
Ok fine. Our first activity is not so secret, but perhaps you didn’t know that Nata Bird Sanctuary was Botswana’s first community-based conservation project.
Most famous for its thriving flamingo population and ephemeral lake, the sanctuary is set inside the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan network and is the easiest way to access this fantastic landscape.
Established in 1988 by Nata Conservation Committee, with assistance from Kalahari Conservation Society and Nata Lodge, this little reserve protects the northeastern slice of Sua (or Sowa) Pan. Jointly managed by four local societies (Nata, Maphosa, Sepako and Manxotae), these communities share proceeds from the sanctuary for development projects.
Nata Lodge offers daily three-hour sunset drives in open game drive vehicles to support the community-run reserve.
Meet the locals on an authentic Nata village tour
See the modern face of Nata on a responsible cultural village tour.
Led by a resident, our village outing goes beyond the main tarred road and explores the daily sprawl of dusty tracks that wind between mopane trees and grasslands of the Makgadikgadi.
The immersive tour begins at the core of all Batswana culture with a visit to the Kgotla. This traditional meeting place is the most significant site within any village and recognised as a place of respect. It is frequently found in the middle of the town or under the largest tree. When the village head (kgosi) is present, guests can meet him to ask more about the vital role he plays in society.
Botswana has no single tribal culture, and Nata is a great example of regional diversity. The San – also known as the Bushmen or Basarwa in Botswana – are the original inhabitants of southern Africa and Nata owes its name to these indigenous people. Nata means ‘Wow!’ and is named for the Nata River because it brings vitality and life to the arid region. Being home to such a life-giving water source and a transit hub at the intersection between Zimbabwe and Maun, Kasane and Francistown, Nata has attracted people from various backgrounds and has a population of roughly 11,000 people.
A traditional homestead visit is next to learn about the traditional circular huts and their fascinating architecture. Termite mounds reach staggering size here out. in the Makgadikgadi – some a lofty five or six metres tall. Many houses exploit the strong concrete concoction secreted by termites to make their mortar.
Conscious travellers will love meeting a talented basket-weaver. Welcomes you into her home, she’ll unravel the ancient art of entwining. Baskets in Botswana are woven by women and take at least a week to complete. Translating Setswana to English, Nata Lodge guides iron out the intricacies of basketry patterns because every design has a unique story.
Walk through across Nata Lodge and discover a wilderness haven
Shaded by indigenous trees, the grounds of Nata Lodge are a sanctuary for many species.
Grab your binoculars and take a slow walk through the campsite. Meyer’s parrots like to nest in the palm trees, boarding a hole into the towering trunks. At dusk, Lesser Bushbabies bounce between the acacia trees. Open the doors of your veranda and step onto the deck quietly and you might just spot a delicate duiker treading across your view.
Find the baobab tree at the Nata Lodge restaurant
Is that a baby baobab I spy?
Enjoy your breakfast coffee at our outside restaurant and examine the treeline. Can you see our baobab tree? It is a skinny young specimen and sits right between our reception and bar area. We dream that one day its broad boughs will twist right over our tables, providing plentiful shade.
Nata marks the start of an unofficial baobab capital. Known locally as mowana, these trees love the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. You can find several special specimens from the Nata Bird Sanctuary (where vultures like to roost) to Gweta to Nxai Pan National Park, where the famous Baines’ Baobabs have stood sentry for centuries. (It’s just a three-hour drive to visit them from Nata).
Enjoy a delectable Dom Pedro
Don’t miss our Makgadikgadi milkshake!
The dessert you can drink, the Dom Pedro is a delicious milkshake mixed with liqueur, such as Africa’s favourite Amarula, Kahlua and even Amaretto. Synonymous with special occasions and lively banter, this blended ice cream treat is rich, creamy and a tasty way to end your stay at Nata Lodge.