Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Makgadikgadi Pans Landscape

Date of Submission: 27/05/2010
Criteria: (v)(vii)(viii)(x)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Department of National Museum and Monuments
State, Province or Region:
Central District
Coordinates: 20 53 7.40S 25 49 426 E
Ref.: 5559

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Makgadikgadi Pans Landscape is located in the north-east of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and south-east of the Okavango Delta. It is linked to Okavango Delta by the Boteti River and supplied with water from Zimbabwe by the ephemeral Nata River. This makes the area the largest salt pans in the world covering an area of over 30 000 km2 and one of the former largest inland sea in the world.

The geology of the area consists of granite basement, flanked by the Karoo rocks, within the Kalahari Sand.  The area comprises relics of paleo-climatic and ecological processes, harbours unique and threatened plant species (Hoodia, baobabs of historical importance). It is a breeding place for flamingos and major habitat for various wildlife species.

The area is characterized of early Stone Age to historic sites, with Boteti River and  Ngxaisini Pan yielding  Acheulian Tools, Middle Stone Age  and Late Stone Age tools. Makgadikgadi Pans area is also rich in fossiliferous deposits comprising faunal remains including bones, elephant tusks and mammalian teeth fragments imbedded in calcareous material. The Early Iron Age consists of settlements associated with Toutswe tradition in Lekhubu, Tlapana, and Mmakgama sites. Historical aspect of the area depicts foraging and farming communities at present day Mosu and Kedia Hill. Lekhubu Island, Khama ruins, Xanikaga Pan, Ngxaisini Pan, Baine's baobabs, Green's baobabs, Unikae Springs, Mmakgama spring, Thitaba Ruins, Kaitshe Ruins are some of major sites out of about 200 recorded including over 500 individual stone walls of the Sotho-Tswana tradition within Makgadikgadi Pans.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are the largest salt pans in the world and display a unique expanse of landscape with fascinating natural scenic beauty. It has a dramatic geological and climatic history in the sense that in its initial stages of development, it was one of the largest inland sea in the world covering over 275 000 km2. It is one of the most diverse in terms of ecological habitats ranging from the Lesser and Greater Flamingo breeding and feeding area to one of the most spectacular zebra-wildebeest migration on Earth as they move from Boteti River to Chobe during dry season.

The Makgadikgadi Pans has evidence of traditional human habitation and land use dating from the Early Stone Age to the historic times. One recorded prehistoric settlement has one of the largest concentrations of cultural material comprising 500 individual stone wall structures and 450 stone cairns.


The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans Landscape fulfills criteria v, vii, viii and x for mixed sites.

  • Criteria (v): be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea- use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

The Makgadikgadi Pans have evidence of traditional human habitation and land use dating from the Early Stone Age to the historic times with a prehistoric settlement that had more than 500 individual stone wall structures and 450 stone cairns. The resilience of these inhabitants in a seemingly harsh and hostile environment is portrayed by their relics suggesting long term usage and adaptation.

  •  Criteria (vii): contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans landscape is a superlative natural phenomenon that is of exceptional natural beauty with expanse of flat white baked featureless surface. The Makgadikgadi Pans landscape provides a spectacular contrasting scenario during wet and dry seasons whereby one of the two major pans, Sowa, becomes flooded and turns into a sea of endless waters during wet summer season while during dry winter season the pans become white baked producing clouds of dust that travels as far as Johannesburg in South Africa.

  •  Criteria (viii): be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans present a major geologic tectonic activity that led to diversion of major inflowing rivers subsequently resulting in drying up of what used to be the greatest inland lake to the largest salt pan in the world. It also presents a record of life as evidenced by diverse fossilised animal foot-prints and combined fossils of macro-mammals and stone tools.

  • Criteria (x): Contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in- situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans contain some of the most important natural habitats for in situ conservation such as Makgadikgadi National Parks, Nxai Pan National Park and particularly the Nata Bird Sanctuary which is one of the largest breeding sites of Lesser and Greater flamingo in the world.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans is a massive physiographic feature that covers over 30 000 km2 area with a wide range of natural features that have only been undergoing geological processes. The area also represents the best example of geomorphic features, natural habitat and biological diversity. The nominated area has little interference from humans in terms of intensive economic activities hence the stratigraphy of sediments bearing palaeontological and archaeological materials remains intact. Only a localized soda ash mining is major threat to the area's integrity.

The Lekhubu Island which is managed by Gaing-o Community Trust in conjunction with the National Museum has a Development and Management Plan which was formulated in 1998- describes environmental and Archaeological resource, Guides on management and development of the resource for the benefit of the community. There is Lekhubu Tourism Management Plan which outlines how Lekhubu and surrounding environments will be utilized for tourism purposes, and is zoned into two: Kubu wilderness area (core are) and Pan wilderness area (buffer area).

The Botswana Government has established several Management and protection measures to protect and conserve the nominated area. There are national parks protected by the Wildlife and National Parks Act of 1992, Monuments and Relics Act of 2001 administered by the National Museum and Monuments which protects monuments and heritage sites. The Department of Environmental Affairs protects the site through the Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 2005.

The Botswana Government aspires to maintain the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in its natural form and cultural material context by continually reviewing management plans and encouraging research focused on conservation and management of the area. Plans are underway to formulate an integrated management plan that will also facilitate the site to being declared a Ramsar Site. Currently a framework management plan which will inform the above stated plan is under compilation and will be completed by the end of 2010.

Comparison with other similar properties

Makgadikgadi Pans are the largest salt pans in the world covering an area of over 30 000 km2.  Its sheer massive size surpasses the Bolivian Salar de Uyuni salt pan which is the largest continuous pan in the world. However, the animal diversity and zebra-wildebeest migration found in Makgadikgadi Pans is unmatched by any habitat of similar nature. In terms of cultural heritage, the diversity of traditions that span over long period of time cannot be matched by any salt pan habitat. In Makgadikgadi, the occupation relics range from Early Stone Age to historical times and their distribution are found both along the outskirt and in the core of the pans which is indicative of tolerance of this harsh environment by the inhabitants.