Southern Africa is still recovering from so many of the injustices of colonialism and apartheid. As such it is a real pleasure to be able to support initiatives which are at the heart of healing and justice and !Xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park does just that – it is remote splendour and responsible tourism at its best!
As with the formation of most national parks throughout the world, the formation of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in 1931, as the South Africa part of the Kgalagadi was known, was accompanied by the eviction of the San and Meir communities from the area – even though it was land which they had lived on and nurtured for time immemorial. With the end of apartheid the community applied for land rights and were one of the first communities to be successful with their claim. Land was returned to them in the form of Erin Farm, joint management arrangements were negotiated and a section of the national park was returned to their ownership – The !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park.
!Xaus Lodge is a 4 star luxury lodge owned by the #Khomani San and Meir communities and run in partnership with Transfontier Parks Destinations. It is certainly off the beaten track – the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a 2 hour drive from the town of Uppington in the Northern Cape and !Xaus Lodge is a further 3 hour drive through the park. But it is well worth the effort for those who are self-driving through the area or who want something extra special in their itineraries.
You arrive at the lodge after a 1 hour drive cutting across 99 of the Kalahari’s magic red sand dunes. The drive itself is so special and as you crest each new dune you are greeted by a new vista of red sand, golden grasses, khaki green camelthorn trees and possibly the black spot of an ostrich or the red curves of a dainty steenbok.
You then drive up to the unimposing entrance of !Xaus Lodge and walk through the entry area to be met by the most spectacular of views – the stark white !Xaus Pan, living up to its heart-shaped name with red game trails all converging on the waterhole far down at the base of the massive red dune upon which the lodge is perched. A stunning viewing area, lounge and dining room all face onto this view as does one of the best pools we’ve ever swum in. The lodge’s chalets are strung up and down the crest of the dune and with their high peaked and thatched roofs they make quite sight – each with their own magical view.
Once you arrive at !Xaus you are welcomed and briefed by one of the managers about the role !Xaus Lodge plays in enacting responsible tourism before meeting your #Khomani San guide. Our guides – Donovan, Kallie and Castro – were so lovely, warm, hospitable and incredibly knowledgeable.
Depending on how long you stay your itinerary is tailored to make the most of your experience and will most likely include:
A night drive (to make the most of the cooler night temperatures to spot some of the unique animals of the Kalahari),
A very early morning walk (making the most of the cooler morning hours to walk through the dunes with your San guide sharing some of his amazing knowledge of tracks and signs, animals and plants with you),
Time with a San family at the craft village (have some cash handy to buy some awesome craftworks – mobiles, bracelets and necklaces),
And possibly a gorgeous sunset drive where you find yourself perched on a dune overlooking the pan and lodge enjoying a drink and watching the sun sink below the horizon.
Depending on the time of year you visit you may be lucky enough to see some of the Kalahari’s famous black-maned lion, or one of the leopard who occasionally visit the lodge’s waterholes. But regardless of what you see it is what you experience whilst supporting responsible tourism that will stay with you forever.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of our favourite places and so well worth the effort to visit. See the following Travel Africa itineraries for ideas on how we can integrate it into a fantastic safari for you in southern Africa: