Tau Pan is one of nearly 100 named pans in the great Kalahari Desert located in the northern end of the reserve. Pans are the nickname for a geological depression, or mild sink hole, that drains heavy rains so quickly and then dries so quickly than nothing but sand and salt remain. You can see the pan in this aerial photo appearing as a slice of uniform sand-colored material just below the horizon. It is actually nearly round.
As with all pans, Tau Pan is surrounded by small, relatively deep linear pools of water and scrub consisting mainly of grasses, short thorn bushes and acacia trees. The verdant ring around the salt lick becomes a wildlife magnet.
Dramatic and powerful summer thunderstorms begin by December and temperatures become exceedingly hot, approaching 110oF by day. Tau Pan bursts with sweet grasses and enormous amounts of wildlife migrate into the area, dominated by springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest in the thousands. There are also many non-migratory herbivores including eland, steenbok, gemsbok, hartebeest, kudu and duiker. All the predators are resident including lion, cheetah, leopard, jackals, brown hyaenas and wild dogs. Meerkats are numerous. Birdlife is plentiful with nearly 200 species found year round and 300 during the summer rains.
During the dry season (May – October) the temperatures drop dramaticially and the migratory animals move far north, but the residents remain, and game viewing concentrates among the known water sources. Although the pan itself is dry, its edges preserve water throughout the dry season, attracting the game.