While I was planning my itinerary in Botswana, I wanted to find some unique things to do in addition to the amazing more traditional safari we had planned at Muchenje Lodge. My research brought me to the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans area, spectacular salt flats which are now national parks and home to an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking semi-desert scenery. Although they are lesser visited than Chobe Park and the Okavango Delta, they are easily accessible from the popular tourist hub of Maun. We were thrilled to find the perfect place to stay in the area, Leopard Plains Lodge, a recently built eco-lodge nestled in the middle of a private game farm at the edge of the pans. Join us below at this wonderful oasis of tranquility, natural beauty and laid back luxury.
Off-the-Grid in Offbeat Botswana
The small lodge is located on an 8,000 hectare farm covered in indigenous vegetation and the fine sand that cover the area. The beautiful buildings were constructed by the lodge’s co-owner himself, Tim Flachberger, and using predominantly local materials including wood and reeds from the property. The lodge furthers its dedication to its natural setting by being entirely off-the-grid. It produces its own solar power, but also has organic sewage systems and grey water utilization systems for watering the garden.
A Relaxing Oasis Within Nature
These natural features are complemented by stylish decorative touches in the form of attractive animal cushions, ratan seating and cool handcrafted lighting. You’ll likely relax in the bar area at some point during your stay, which Tim built out of local volcanic rock. You’ll also find this bordering the small pool, the ideal place to cool down at the end of the day. A highly original infinity pool, it looks out towards the farm’s closest watering hole, so you can spot some kudu or impala who are also keeping cool with a refreshing sip.
The dining pavilion has a cozy reading nook and at night it is the magical setting for candlelit dinners prepared by the lodge’s talented chef Kabelo. As you dig into her delicious meals, you can share with the fellow guests stories of your day out at the Pans or the wildlife you observed right on the property. At the end of your evening, Tim or one of the team will escort you back to your tent… you just never know what might be out there… we did hear lions roaring one night while we were drifting off to sleep.
Enchanting, Rustic-Chic Luxury Tents
The lodge has 10 luxury “tents,” well spaced out from each other and surrounded by bush trees. Not exactly tents in the traditional sense of the word, the custom designed rooms have tented walls with large mesh “windows” and a metal roof. This gives you the feeling of being completely immersed in nature. Since the lodge is approximately 3 kms in from the road, the only noises you’ll hear are the chirping birds in the morning and possibly some larger animals as indicated above (don’t worry, it’s totally safe!). The spacious rooms have two ¾ beds beyond which are creatively separated from the en-suite bathroom by a section of wooden poles. Each room has its own private deck where you can sit and take in the sights and sounds of the lodge’s beauty and wildlife.
Visiting the Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans
Of course, one of the highlights of a stay at Leopard Plains is visiting either the Makgadikgadi Pan Game Reserve or the Nxai Pans National Park. You can do this on an excursion arranged through the lodge and the team will be able to tell you which one is best for the time of year you are visiting. The roads are very sandy within the park, even with your own 4X4 it is difficult to maneuver them, making it very worthwhile to take a proper safari vehicle. We visited Nxai Pan with the lodge’s guide Kellar where we came across a dozen different mammals including a massive herd of hundreds of springbok. I was also thrilled to see some wildebeests and oryx which I hadn’t spotted on safari in Chobe.
After a light lunch under a shady baobab we journey over to see the park’s famous “Baines Baobabs”, a group of seven ancient trees “discovered” by painter and explorer Thomas Baines in 1862. These sit at the edge of the salt pan, which extends into the distance like a mirage. Click through the slideshow above to see more images of the Park.
Wildlife & Nature Tours on the Farm
We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion to Nxai, however, you can also see a whole range of wildlife right at Leopard Plains. The farm is home to eland, impala, kudu, blue wildebeest, zebras and even some giraffes. You can enjoy straight from your room, from the dining area or by taking a game drive or guided walk on the property. We did both and thought the walk was offered a great chance to understand the ecosystem of the area firsthand. We learnt about the medicinal plants, spied on some animals at the watering hole and even saw various sets of lion tracks… perhaps from the one who was roaring the night before? Sadly the lions which have snuck onto the property remained evasive during our stay, only to be spotted by Tim lounging next to the road two days later. I guess we’ll just have to come back again soon to see them for ourselves!
Leopard Plains is a wonderful and one-of-a-kind place which we highly recommend. They have also aimed to provide an affordable safari experience in Botswana and have very reasonable prices considering the quality of the lodge and the overall experience. Read more about and see the seasonal rates of this excellent eco-lodge on their website here.
I was a guest of Leopard Plains Lodge, however, all of the opinions expressed above all entirely my own.
A special thank you to Josh Heise for taking many of the beautiful photos of Nxai Pan!