Kudiakam Pan & Baine's Baobabs
Sandwiched between Nxai Pan and the main road, Kudiakam is the largest of an interesting complex of pans lying in sparse bush east of the track to Nxai. The game here doesn't usually match Nxai's, but the main attraction is an extraordinary beautiful group of trees known as Baines' Baobabs, which stand at a spectacular site on the eastern edge of the pan. They were immortalised in a painting by Thomas Baines who came here in May 1862 with James Chapman and wrote:A lone circuit brought me, with empty pouch, to the clump of baobabs we had seen yesterday from the wagon; five full-sized trees, and two or three younger ones were standing, so that when in leaf their foliage must form one magnificent shade. One gigantic trunk had fallen and lay prostrate but still, losing none of its vitality, bent forth branches and young leaves like the rest... The general colour or the immense stems was grey and rough: but where the old bark had peeled and curled off, the new (of that peculiar metallic coppery-looking red and yellow which Dr Livingstone was wont so strenuously to object in my pictures) shone through over large portions, giving them, according to light or shade, a red or yellow, grey or a deep purple tone.
The baobabs themselves have changed very little since Baines painted them: the one lying prostrate is still thriving, having lost none of its vitality.
Having thought of the baobabs with reference to a fairly recent Victorian painter, it's perhaps worth reminding ourselves that Baines was far from the first person here. Lawrence Robbins (see Further Reading
) and others have conducted archaeological surveys of this area and discovered extensive remains dating from the Middle Stone Age period 'especially on the eastern side within a 4km radius of the Baines baobab grove'. Many stone tools were found, plus ostrich eggshell remains, a zebra's tooth and the bone of a fossil hippopotamus.
This site has been dated to between about 105,000 and 128,000 years old, around which time this was probably a beach location on the edge of the great superlake. This Middle Stone Age period has a special resonance, as this is the period during which we think the first homo sapiens appeared.
Where to stay
In the last few years, there has been an increasing numbers of visitors to Baines' Baobabs, and in the last decade this pan and its trees have been included in the National Park to protect them. Campers were becoming a problem here, and their fires a real danger to the trees, so camping is no longer allowed here.