Makgadikgadi Pans, Ntetwe Pan Private Concession
Simple Style in the Kalahari
The laidback little sister of Jack’s and San Camp, Camp Kalahari is our understated and affordable base in the heart of the great Kalahari. Set amongst the waving palms and acacia trees of Brown Hyena Island, the 12 funky Meru tents are perfect for families, groups and couples, and are an ideal base for discovering the charms of the desert and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, a landscape that’s as surreal as it is sublime, and as mysterious as it is magical.
And if you’re looking for adventure, then look no further! We’ve got quad bike adventures, across the otherworldly salt pans, walks with the Zu’/hoasi bushmen to discover the amazing creatures that somehow manage to survive (and thrive) in this harsh environment, and our very own ‘’Kalahari cool cats,’’ the habituated meerkat family who like nothing more than to use unsuspecting guests as lookout points. Come for a day, and you’ll be wowed by the landscape and the people; stay for a few days and you might never want to leave…
Laidback and understated, nothing is overly elaborate at Camp Kalahari. Instead, you’ll find 12, Meru-style canvas tents filled with fresh textiles, Moroccan kilims and funky four-posters. Shower alfresco in the open-air, ensuite bathrooms (there’s definitely no one around to disturb your privacy here!), and there’s plenty of hot and cold water available throughout the day. If you’re travelling with your brood, choose one of the interconnecting family tents; with a bathroom linking the space for children and adults, it’s ideal for families and groups.
The common areas include a central library and a living and dining area, festooned with an eclectic mix of original African furniture and colonial antiques. Meals are refreshingly simple and wonderfully tasty, and served, family-style, at the long table. There’s also a thatched swimming pool, providing the perfect place for a refreshing dip on a hot afternoon – just watch out for the eles who might pop in for a quick drink too. We’ve kept our use of electricity to a minimum too; there are electrical lights in the bedrooms, but when night falls, the majority of camp is lit by twinkling paraffin lanterns (but camera batteries and other appliances can be charged in the safari vehicles when required).
In the desert, rain is everything. When the drops start to fall, the transformation of the desert around Camp Kalahari is remarkable – the words chalk and cheese spring to mind! From November onwards, the cycle of life is stimulated, and algae blooms, crustaceans breed, and clouds of flamingo descend. Then comes the rumble of Africa’s second largest ungulate migration; epic herds of 30,000 zebra and wildebeest chased by black-maned lion, cheetah, wild dog and leopard. Dramatic to say the least.
In the dry season (May to October), normal, desert duties are resumed on the Makgadikgadi Pans. A haze settles above the salt, and the sun shimmers on the scorched, dry ground. And those photos of us racing across the landscape atop roaring quadbikes? This is the perfect time of year to try it out.
Camp Kalahari sits amongst the acacias and mokolwane palms of Brown Hyaena Island, on the edge of Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and adjacent to the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park. So, what on earth does that mean, we hear you cry? It means that you’re surrounded by dry savannah and the semi-arid Kalahari Desert. The salt-baked, sun-scorched pans are clear of vegetation, quite simply because it can’t grow, but around them are glittering grasslands and profusions of enormous baobabs. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than that.
Brown Hyaena Island, the palm dotted island that Camp Kalahari calls home, took its name from (can you guess?), the brown hyaena. Bashful yet brilliant at foraging and scavenging, this is the third rarest large carnivore in Africa, and an animal that’s virtually impossible to see elsewhere on the continent. But that’s just the beginning of what you might see in the Makgadikgadi: look out for bat-eared foxes, aardvark and aardwolves scampering across the salt, elephant plodding through on their nomadic journey (our swimming pool is a welcome refreshment stop!), and dazzling numbers of zebra and wildebeest. And where there’s a zebra, a predator will never be far away, so keep an eye out for cheetah and lion, close on the hooves of the herds. Not to be forgotten are our cheeky, habituated meerkats, a constant source of amusement and a regular feature of a safari at Camp Kalahari.
In the 1960s, crocodile hunter Jack Bousfield crossed the mysterious Makgadikgadi, armed with a ragged map and not much else. Struck by the eerie emptiness of the pans, he rolled out his sleeping mat in a peaceful spot beneath the mokolwane palms of Brown Hyaena Island, and drifted off to sleep. A few decades later, we built Camp Kalahari in this exact spot in homage to Jack. We wanted a camp that made every guest feel like an explorer, and so came the traditional design and style that evokes memories of old. What we didn’t want was a camp that dominated the landscape and instead, the buildings celebrate the rugged beauty of the surroundings.
While Jack was one of the first foreigners to cross the Makgadikgadi in a century, Zu’/Hoasi Bushmen called the area home long before. They are the true legends of the pans, and find opportunity in the queerest of places. For an insight into their incredible way of life, join the Bushmen on a morning walk or multi-day adventure – you might just come to appreciate this otherworldly landscape from a different perspective.
Natural Selection Safaris
Semi-Permanent Tented Camp
Max. clients in vehicle
Game Drives, Meerkat Visits, Village Visit, Traditional Lunch, Baobab Walk, Quad Biking, Overnight Pan Sleepouts, Horse Safaris