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Etosha Pan

Tourists at one of the Etosha Pan look out points in Etosha National Park, Namibia

Naturally, aside from the wildlife, Etosha Pan is the other main event when it comes to Etosha National Park.  This vast saltpan, shimmering in shades of green and white, has fascinated travellers since 1851.

It is believed that the pan was formed 100 million years ago and is the remains of a massive lake.  Thousands of years ago, upheaval of the earth’s tectonic plates changed the course of the Kunene River, which choked the lake and caused it to disappear.

Hostile and beautiful at the same time, the Etosha Pan attracts animals and birds in great numbers, closely attended by man – initially armed with hunting rifles, and in more recent times, with camera and notebook.

What’s the attraction?

1. Etosha means ‘great white place’
2. The Etosha Pan is the largest in Africa
3. Etosha Pan is visible from space
4. The pan is more than 120km long and over 50km wide in places.
5. Etosha Pan is designated as a World Wildlife Fund Eco region.
6. The pan was used as a backdrop during the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
7. Wild animals are attracted to the small mounds of clay and salt, which are sprinkled across the pan and are used as natural salt ‘licks’.
8. During the wet season, parts of the pan fill up with water, attracting flocks of flamingos to breed and roost.
9. Evaporation causes this water to disappear fast, once again exposing the brackish clay floor of the pan.
10. This surface is easily eroded by wind, causing the pan to deepen slightly every year.
11. Near Namutoni, parts of the pan are filled with water that is often twice as salty as seawater.
12. The pan seldom fills up entirely and the most recent flood was in 1978.
13. Flooding leaves behind a saline crust, mineral deposits and algae, which gives the pan its eerie green and white hues.

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