Etosha Pan, Namibia

The Etosha pan is a vast endorheic salt pan, situated in northern Namibia, which covers approximately 4,800km² of the awe-inspiring Etosha National Park. The extensive shimmering green and white salt pan is the largest of its kind in Africa, at 130kms long and up to 50kms wide. It is the Etosha National Park’s most extraordinary geological feature and is even visible from space.

Etosha means “great white place” in the language of the Ovambo tribe, due to its characteristic white and greenish surface appearance. The natural mineral pan was formed over 10 million years through tectonic plate activity. It is believed that about 16 000 years ago, the Kunene River in Angola flowed all the way to Etosha to form a deep lake, but the tectonic plate movements caused the river to change course, resulting in the lake drying up and leaving the salt pan behind.

The Etosha Pan is mostly dry – with the mineral rich clay mud split into hexagonal shapes as it dries and cracks. However, after heavy rains, a shallow sheet of water can sometimes be seen covering the expanse, which is heavily salted by the mineral deposits on the surface of the pan. 

 

When the pan is occasionally filled with water during the wet season, the rainwater pools attract pelicans and especially flamingos. Up to a1 million flamingos have been witnessed in the pan and it is the only known mass breeding ground for flamingos in Namibia.

While the salt pan itself contains very little vegetation (only some soft tolerant, halophytic grasses and algae), the surrounding area is covered in grasslands which play host to a variety of grazing animals – mainly during the wet season when there is water. Elephants, zebra, blue wildebeest, springbok as well as black rhinos, lions, leopards and antelope can all be found roaming the savannas and watering holes that fall within the Etosha National Park.

The rich diversity of wild life in this extreme landscape can be experienced to its fullest on a luxury Rovos journey which offers an overnight stay in the park at one of the surrounding lodges and fantastic game drive opportunities.

Image sources:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/Dry_Etosha_Pan.jpg

http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/6000/6513/ISS011-E-9504_lrg.jpg

http://www.etoshanationalpark.org/wp-content/gallery/etosha-pan/etosha-pan.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Etosha_Pan_Water.jpg

http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/304/cache/10-namibia-etosha-national-park-flamingoes_30412_600x450.jpg