Deception Valley Lodge is a comfortable and peaceful camp situated on its own private concession.
Deception Valley Lodge: Our full report
Deception Valley Lodge is a traditional family-run lodge on the outskirts of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Because it is set in a private reserve, there is more flexibility with activities than in the neighbouring national park – meaning they offer day and night drives and extended walks, all accompanied by qualified guides and Bushman trackers.
Within the main building are a cosy lounge, pub-style bar area and indoor dining room. The lodge has an ethnic-African twist; think animal hides and dark wood antiques with colourful rugs and elaborate ostrich-egg chandeliers.
But it’s Deception Valley’s outdoor lounge area that is the focus of the building, remaining cool with leather sofas and day beds under a high thatched roof with open sides. It’s a favourite spot to relax – although you may notice some marks on the sofas; apparently some lion cubs thought so too one night! (To put your mind at rest, they now have an electric wire surrounding the deck which they connect at night to prevent this happening again.)
Off to the side and slightly removed from the main area is a small pool. The concrete deck is not the prettiest setting, but the opportunity for a dip in the cool water is nevertheless a welcome relief on a hot day. At the other end of the main building is a firepit set in a wooden deck for outdoor dining.
The eight large chalets at Deception Valley Lodge are linked to the main area by low wooden walkways. Each chalet has a separate lounge with a comfortable sofa and coffee table, a well-fitted bedroom, and a bathroom with indoor bathtub, washbasin and flushing toilet, as well as an outside shower. There are ceiling fans, mosquito nets over the beds, a lockable storage chest, and a small fridge/minibar in one of the cabinets. The brick-and-thatch design and the dark teak furniture tend to make the rooms dark inside, but they are nonetheless comfortable and spacious, while a narrow but shaded porch is a pleasant place to sit outside.
There are two inter-leading chalets designed for families. However, the stairs to the additional loft room are very steep and felt decidedly precarious – we wouldn’t want our children climbing up and down them. Families might consider, instead, the colonial Kalahari Manor house, which boasts a large, elegant lounge with dining table, two en-suite bedrooms, and an extensive sunny veranda. Although very private, it’s within walking distance of the main lodge. Booked on an exclusive basis only, for up to four people, it comes fully serviced and includes both a private chef and a private guide with vehicle.
Activities at Deception Valley Lodge include day and night 4WD game drives and bush walks. Although we weren’t so fortunate on our game drive, you might spot some of the wildlife that can be found in the area, including lion, cheetah, kudu, giraffe and occasionally even leopard.
The team at Deception Valley Lodge includes Bushman trackers (from the !Naro tribe) who will share their knowledge with you – translated by one of the other guides – over the course of a walk. This was definitely the highlight of our most recent stay in May 2011.
We recommend the lodge for the really interesting, informative and, frankly, entertaining walk with the Bushman trackers. They don’t pretend that they still live in the traditional way, so there wasn’t any of the awkwardness that is sometimes associated with similar cultural activities. We got the distinct impression that our !Naro Bushman guides enjoyed the walk as much as we did.
But although the Bushman walk was fantastic and our (usually very shy) trackers’ personalities really came to the fore – the rest of the staff were very much in the background. So despite the hospitality of the owner and managers, we were left with the feeling that there was something missing.
That could be why it took us a little while to settle in and warm to the place initially. However, by the time we left we felt we’d had a really good stay – almost certainly helped by some outstanding food and great memories from our walk.
At Expert Africa we generally take the view that walking activities in areas with dangerous big game should be led by qualified and armed guides. Despite relatively low densities of the most dangerous species on this reserve, and the amazing bush skills of the Bushmen trackers who normally accompany the walks, we would still take this view here. So we are delighted that, from November 2011, the owners committed to ensuring that their walking activities are all led by qualified, armed guides.
It is usually also possible to organise whole-day trips into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The CKGR has the potential to offer some of Botswana’s better summer game viewing, with a plethora of plains game – and subsequently predators – attracted to the vast pans which boast delicious, nutritious grasses. There's an extra cost for these trips, and they are very long days with about a two to three hour drive to reach the first of the pans. But they can be very rewarding. (Best ask us to organize one of these trips in advance for you if you want to go into the national park.)
Our viewDeception Valley Lodge is a decidedly traditional lodge, with very hands-on owners who will often guide at the lodge, or at the very least try to meet every guest who comes to stay. It’s a very comfortable place to get a very real feel for the Kalahari – this highlight is ofte the informative and very entertaining walk with the Bushman trackers.
Ideal length of stay: Two–three nights is probably the optimum stay here, although if you opt for the full-day trip into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, then best stay for three nights.
Directions: Access is usually by light aircraft to the airstrip on the property, and then it is around 15 minutes’ drive between the airstrip and the camp.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We enjoyed superb meals on our last visit to Deception Valley Lodge in May 2011, and were really impressed by the quality and variety of food.
The day begins with a very light breakfast of cereal, yoghurt and fruit. Brunch is a much more substantial meal served on returning from the morning activity. We feasted on muffins, a variety of cheeses and cold meats, toast, fresh fruit and a full cooked breakfast.
Afternoon tea will generally be a sweet and a savoury dish. We were treated to moist chocolate cupcakes and mini butternut quiches.
Dinner was a perfectly cooked kudu steak with peppercorn sauce, mashed potato, roasted vegetables and roasted sweetcorn. However, we ate so much tea, that we didn’t leave room for the soup starter or pudding after!
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, local-brand beers and spirits, and a selection of red and white house wines are included. Champagne and cellar wines, imported beers and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
Attitude towards children: Generally children over the age of eight years are welcome. No children under the age of eight years are accepted at the main lodge, unless by special arrangement, and then only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use. Families with children aged between eight and twelve years old, will need to book a private vehicle at extra cost. Children of all ages are accepted if booking the two-bedroom Kalahari Manor.
Equipment: No special equipment is available but there are two inter-leading chalets which can be used for families.
Generally recommended for children: We think that the two-bedroom Kalahari Manor could make a good choice for families at Deception Valley Lodge. There is ample space to spread out, children can make a noise without worrying about disturbing other guests, and there is maximum flexibility with private activities and a private chef.
Notes: Deception Valley Lodge and the Kalahari Manor are unfenced and dangerous wildlife, including lion, are known to move regularly through camp. The pool at the main lodge is unfenced. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no telephone or cellphone reception at Deception Valley Lodge. There is WiFi in the main area. It is slow but adequate for e-mail, although travellers need to bring their own devices (laptop, smart phone etc).
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun, a drive of at least four hours. Medivac rescue is available in case of emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their rooms after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. A safety briefing is given on arrival. However, note that there is currently no means to communicate with the managers at night in the event of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside all the rooms and in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included and, weather permitting, items will be returned the same day.
Money: There is a lockable chest in each chalet, although it didn’t seem particularly secure on our visit in May 2011. No exchange facilities are offered.