THE KALAHARI by fjzhangweiqun


									                THE KALAHARI

                                                                                                                                      Close encounters with relaxed meerkats in the Makgadikgadi Pans

                                  Despite what is said, the Kalahari isn’t strictly a desert: it’s a fossil desert, a vast          Boteti River Area
                                  sand-sheet, now largely covered in bushes, trees and grasses. Most of the                         The Boteti River, which forms the western
                                  Kalahari remains arid and untouched, as it has been for about 65 million years.                   boundary of Makgadikgadi Pans National
                                  Here you’ll be struck by the feeling that you’re light years away from modern life.               Park, ceased to flow in the early 1990s. It
                                                                                                                                    began again in late-2008. Nobody knows if
                                  There are many special sights in the Kalahari, magical places where you can pick
                                                                                                                                    this will continue, but now – during the dry
                                  up tools last handled in the Stone Age; examine the world’s first paintings; look                  season – it attracts thousands of jostling
                                  around at the earth’s curvature; and – occasionally – see vast herds following                    zebra and wildebeest, together with
                                  ancient migration routes. It’s a fascinating place, but above all the Kalahari is a               elephants, giraffe, many predators and even
                                  wilderness; that’s what captivates us about it.                                                   the odd white rhino. Both of the camps here
                                                                                                                                    are set high above the riverbed; excellent
                                                                                                                                    vantage-points for game-viewing.
                                  THE GREAT SALTPANS                                 dining tent and a Persian-style ‘tea tent’
    Quad biking across the pans                                                      complete with a small ‘museum’. San            Meno A Kwena Tented Camp is an old-
                                  In the middle of the northern Kalahari lies a      Camp opens only from mid-April to end-         style safari camp, run by a really engaging
                                  complex of huge, flat saltpans. It’s a harsh,       October; its six tents are built in similar    old Botswana hand, David Dugmore. The
                                  spare landscape, not to everyone’s taste,          style on decks, with en-suite bathrooms,       camp isn’t palatial, though royalty have
                                  but it offers isolation as complete as             but are made of white canvas,                  stayed here: it is very laid back. There are
                                  anywhere in Southern Africa, and a wealth                                                         eight fairly simple tents, all new for 2009;
                                                                                     By comparison, Camp Kalahari is more
                                  of hidden treasures. The pans play a vital                                                        each has a separate rondavel bathroom,
                                                                                     basic and more affordable. It has a
                                  role in the area’s ecosystems, their geology                                                      with a flush toilet, and a private outdoor
                                                                                     thatched living/dining area with earth floors
                                  and history are fascinating, and they’re                                                          bucket shower.
                                                                                     and ten walk-in tents, each with an open-air
                                  especially photogenic.
                                                                                     bathroom, hot/cold running water and a         Many visitors want a restful start or end to a
                                  Makgadikgadi Pans                                  flush toilet.                                   safari, so they just relax in camp.
                                                                                     Activities from all these camps are the        Alternatively, activities include 4WD sorties
                                  The great Makgadikgadi Pans cover about
                                                                                     same, focussing on the area’s geology,         (up to full-day drives with a picnic) and
                                  10,000km² of the Kalahari in salt. Around
                                                                                     archaeology and anthropology, as well as       visits to the local community. Stay for
                                  these are rolling grasslands overlooked by
                                                                                     its wildlife. Expect 4WD nature drives,        longer, and you can also visit the saltpans
                                  the occasional picturesque palm-tree
                                                                                     walks, night drives, seasonal quad-bike        and spend a night under the stars.
                                  islands. It’s an eerie and intriguing
                                  environment.                                       excursions, and visits to archaeological       Further south, Leroo La Tau is a more
                                                                                     sites. Big game is usually scarce here, but    substantial, luxurious lodge, with 12 very
                                  Around January to March, if the rains have
                                                                                     resident researchers have habituated brown     comfortable chalets with glass fronts, large
                                  been good, these pans flood. Then grasses
                                                                                     hyena and meerkats to human observers,         verandas and individual raised decks. Like
                                  spring to life, and often flamingos arrive,
                                                                                     so relaxed sightings of both species are       the buildings, Leroo La Tau’s activities are
                                  together with a huge migration of zebra and
                                                                                     common.                                        more structured, focusing on morning and
                                  wildebeest. Although very unpredictable,
                                                                                                                                    evening game drives.
                                  this is one of Africa’s great wildlife
                                  spectacles. On opposite sides of the
                                  Makgadikgadi Pans National Park are two
                                  contrasting areas: the Central Pans and the
                                  Boteti River area.
                                  Central Pans
                                  Three sister-camps stand on palm islands
                                  outside the Makgadikgadi National Park; all
                                  differ in style but offer similar activities. If
                                  you visit, then stay for three nights.
                                  Jack’s Camp is beautifully constructed in a
                                  classical safari style, with lots of thoughtful
                                  touches. It has 10 spacious, walk-in tents,
                                  each with an en-suite bathroom including a
                                  flush toilet and two showers (indoor and
                                  out). There are two swimming pools, a                                                                                       Herds of zebra migrate through Nxai Pan

54 | BOTSWANA                                                                             has thousands of unedited travellers’ reviews
Baines' Baobabs, on the edge of Kudiakam Pan, have been standing virtually unchanged for centuries

Nxai Pan                                                                                                              permanent floodlit waterhole. This can be
North of Makgadikgadi, Nxai Pan National                                                                              busy in the dry season; on our last visit,
Park is fascinating, though often underrated                                                                          several white rhino came down for an
because of the unpredictability of its game.                                                                          evening drink. Activities include tracking
During the dry season the grassy pans here                                                                            rhino on foot and gentle 4WD safari drives.
host herds of springbok, giraffe and                                                                                  Most visitors also make a visit to a local
gemsbok, which swell between December                                                                                 San/Bushman village, Xharo's Post, from
and April as the rains turn the pans into a                                                                           where you can join villagers in their daily
veritable salad bowl. You’ll also find                                                                                 activities – which can be fascinating.
hartebeest, along with lion, cheetah and both
brown and spotted hyena. Don’t leave
without seeing Kudiakam Pan and the
                                                                                                                      THE PANHANDLE AREA
famous Baines’ Baobabs.                                                White rhino at Edo's waterhole                 North and west of the Delta, in an area            Fishing from Nxamaseri
The new Nxai Pan Camp stands to the west                                                                              known as the ‘panhandle’, stand several old,
of Nxai Pan and has eight spacious chalets,                            a waterhole. Each of its ten en-suite tents    established camps. These are often viewed
including a family room. Each has a private                            are built on raised platforms with private     as fishing camps, as the tiger-fishing here is
deck, an indoor and an outdoor shower and                              decks. The main tent holds a lounge and        particularly good, but the birdwatching is
small lounge. Game drives explore the pan                              small library, and hammocks tempt readers      also first class, with rarities like skimmers, as
and its desert environs; a day trip to Baines’                         outside. Activities at both camps centre on    well as a host of egrets, storks, kingfishers
Baobabs is also possible.                                              4WD game drives.                               and warblers all present. Big game is very
                                                                       Lodges outside the park                        scarce here, but these camps do offer a
                                                                                                                      great-value Okavango experience, and can
CENTRAL KALAHARI                                                       Outside the fences which bound the CKGR,
                                                                                                                      be included into self-drive trips which focus
                                                                       several lodges offer a Kalahari experience –
                                                                                                                      mainly on Namibia.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (aka                                 conducting activities on their own patches
CKGR) covers over 50,000km² and is the                                 of the Kalahari, without visiting the main     Nxamaseri Island Lodge (see also page 33)
ultimate in ‘remote’ destinations. Until the                           game reserve.                                  has six solid, en-suite, brick-and-thatch
late 1980s this park was closed to visitors,                                                                          chalets (plus a ‘tree-house’) on its own very
                                                                       Deception Valley Lodge is a high-quality
although there have always been small                                                                                 tropical island. This stands on the edge of a
                                                                       retreat with eight thatched bungalows. Each
groups of San (or Bushmen) living here.                                                                               classic, shallow-water Okavango Delta
                                                                       is large and comfortable, with luxurious
                                                                                                                      environment – perfect for boat trips, fishing,
The Central Kalahari is at its most enticing                           sofas, a lovely en-suite bathroom, an
                                                                                                                      birding and sometimes mokoro excursions.
when travel here is most difficult: during                              outside shower, heavy teak furniture and a
                                                                                                                      Booked in advance, full-day trips to explore
and just after the rains, around January to                            private deck. Activities here emphasise the
                                                                                                                      the Kalahari’s Tsodilo Hills are possible for an
May. Then the beautiful inter-dune valleys                             area’s flora as much as its fauna; they
                                                                                                                      extra cost.
flush with green, attracting thousands of                               include walks and 4WD day and night
springbok and gemsbok. You’ll also find                                 drives. They operate with a guide and          A little further north, Drotsky’s Cabins is a       Hills and Caves in the
ostrich and giraffe, herds of wildebeest,                              tracker who often come from the Naro           long-established lodge beside the Okavango          Kalahari
excellent cheetah and the Kalahari’s famous                            group of Bushmen.                              River, with comfortable bungalows and its
                                                                                                                                                                          For adventurers, the magical
black-maned lions. Leopard, cheetah, lion                                                                             own special atmosphere.
                                                                       To the north of the reserve, next door to                                                          Tsodilo Hills is an intriguing
and brown hyena are common, though                                     Deception Valley Lodge, is Central                                                                 place which rises out of the
rarely seen.                                                           Kalahari Game Lodge, whilst to the west is                                                         undulating Kalahari. This is one
                                                                       Grassland Bushman Lodge. We’ve not yet                                                             of Africa’s greatest sites for
Lodges inside the park
                                                                                                                                                                          Bushman rock art; Laurens van
The more obscure corners of this park are                              visited these two lodges ourselves – but ask                                                       der Post famously described
still best experienced on a mobile safari                              us for the latest news.                                                                            them as a ‘Louvre in the
(see Wild about Africa, details on page 68),                           Far from the main reserve, in the northwest                                                        desert’. Even more isolated,
but there are two new permanent camps in                               Kalahari, Edo's Camp is a small tented                                                             Drotsky’s Caves (in the
                                                                       camp on a game conservancy covering                                                                Gcwihaba Hills) and the Aha
the CKGR.
                                                                                                                                                                          Hills are also fascinating spots
Tau Pan Camp sits on a sand ridge with                                 1,200km². Unlike the other camps here,                                                             in the Kalahari which are
eight en-suite chalets all overlooking Tau                             Edo’s can be included into a fly-drive trip                                                         possible destinations for
Pan. In a remote spot southeast of                                     from Namibia.                                                                                      adventurous private mobile
Deception Valley, Kalahari Plains Camp is                              Edo’s takes up to eight guests in en-suite                                                         safaris; they cannot easily be
a very comfortable tented camp overlooking                             tents on wooden decks, overlooking a           Exploring the rock art at Tsodilo Hills             visited on a fly-in safari.

See our places to stay on satellite maps at                                                                                                               BOTSWANA | 55

To top