!Xaus Lodge, Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape Province, South Africa
Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape Province, South Africa
$1,030 for three nights (including all meals and some activities)
!Xaus Lodge | Berne Broudy
GETTING THERE A safari in itself . . . From Johannesburg, fly to Upington, hire a jeep, and drive two and a half hours to Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, which is the size of Switzerland. Check in at customs, pay for a pass, use the restroom, and drive for two hours to Kamqua picnic site, oohing and aahing at springboks, gemsboks, giraffes, wildebeests, ostriches, jackals, and a lion with her freshly slain eland. At Kamqua, meet !Xaus guides, climb into a canvas-covered truck bed, and hold tight as the driver floors it through red sand dunes for another hour and a half. Arrive at !Xaus Lodge, politely drink a glass of water with the hosts, then jump fully clothed into a pool to escape the heat that would melt pavement if there were any.
BEST MOMENT Boarding !Xaus's game truck at sunset for a night drive while a rare drizzle produced a rainbow spanning the massive salt pan. A guide trained his spotlight on a big male lion lounging roadside, then leaped into the jeep from his hood-mounted spotter's seat, freaked out to have been bait moments earlier.
WORST MOMENT Listening to a fellow traveler incessantly complain about the desert heat and the lack of air-conditioning, while also refusing to cool herself in the pool.
FAVORITE CHARACTER Hosts Anel and Abraham's charming nine-year-old daughter, Shalome. Isolated by many miles of dunes from TV, shopping, and other kids, she is permanently self-amused and desperate for friends. She flushed barn owls from hut rafters for the camera over and over and nearly exploded with excitement to show me the secret hiding places of desert fauna. In an act of total friendship, she offered me a sip from the syrupy green soda she gets only once a month. (The family has since transferred to another park site.)
Map by Peter and Maria Hoey
WHAT'S GREEN Electricity is on for just five hours each day to cool freezers and charge batteries. Light comes from candles, cool air from open windows. A raised wooden deck links chalets with the main building to prevent dune degradation.
WHAT'S NOT GREEN No solar power in a place that's sunny about 360 days a year; all electricity comes from a gas generator. Because the lodge is located in a national park, they're not allowed to grow food, and it's a 58-mile drive to wash guest sheets and towels. And safari, the primary lodge activity, involves lots of driving.
PLANET SAVING OPPORTUNITIES
Buy crafts made from locally found objects and donate to the TFPD Foundation, which funds community projects in the Mier and *Khomani San (Bushman) communities. —Berne Broudy