The thatched chalets at !Xaus Lodge are on top of red Kalahari dunes.
!Xaus Lodge: Our full report
!Xaus Lodge lies within a private reserve run by two San/Bushmen communities – the Mier and Khomani groups – who originally lived in this part of the Kgalagadi Tranfrontier Park. Perched on a dune, overlooking a saltpan and a fresh waterhole, it is the only camp in this park where all meals, guided game drives and walks are included in your stay.
!Xaus Lodge has 12 thatched chalets, modestly furnished with twin beds, a free-standing wooden cupboard and a writing desk. There are ceiling fans and gas heaters, and a flask of purified drinking water is provided. As the camp's generator only runs for a few hours every day, we'd recommend all travellers here to bring a good torch.
En-suite bathrooms incorporate a shower, washbasin and separate toilet, with complimentary toiletries provided. A wooden sliding door leads from each chalet onto a private deck with beautiful views across the saltpan. The name !Xaus – meaning 'heart' in the Nama language – was inspired by the distinctive heart shape of the pan.
Walkways over the dunes connect the chalets to the hub of !Xaus Lodge, built on a wooden platform and open to the surrounding desert. There is a reception area with wall hangings made by ladies in Upington, a craft shop where you can buy local Bushman crafts, a cosy lounge with fireplace and a couple of leather sofas, and a small dining room with hand-made furniture adorned with images burned by Bushman artists. That said, meals are usually hosted in the boma where chairs are placed around a large round open fire pit – a very sociable experience!
On the deck in front of the dining room a telescope affords the opportunity for stargazing and further along the platform you'll find a swimming pool overlooking the pan.
Activities at !Xaus Lodge are all run by members of the local community, and they include game drives on open-topped 4WDs – usually operated with a tracker and a driver/guide. These operate on the tracks around the camps area – rather than the park's main roads. On the sundowner drive that we took during our visit, the game was fairly scarce and so the focus was more on plants than animals.
Walks are probably a bigger draw at !Xaus, and typically last a few hours in the early morning. Our guides were not armed, but they were highly knowledgeable; their English was basic but perfectly adequate – and they were very keen to answer questions.
There is a 'Bushman craft village' a short drive from the lodge, often visited after brunch, where members of the local community come to sell the crafts that they make to the camp's visitors. When we visited this was fairly small – and had just five crafts-people there.
Unlike the Kgalagadi's other camps, the focus of !Xaus is not just on game-watching, it's also on the community which owns and runs the camp. So although it does organize game drives and walks; it's likely to be the interaction with the people here that you'll remember most. !Xaus is more costly than the park's other camps – if you're seeking insights into Bushman life it'll probably be worth it.
Ideal length of stay: 2–3 nights
Directions: Self drivers heading for !Xaus rendezvous at Kamqua Picnic Site, within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Those with 4×4 vehicles, and the ability to drive over sand dunes (91 of them!), may drive to the lodge in convoy with lodge vehicles. Because the road is a single track, no guests may drive to the lodge unaccompanied. Those who do not want to take their vehicles over the dunes leave them in a demarcated zone off the road and are transferred to the lodge in an open safari vehicle.
Owner: Commercially managed by Transfrontier Parks Destinations.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: !Xaus Lodge offers good, home-cooked, traditional food.
Breakfast is a simple affair with yoghurt, fruit and cereals. A cooked option is available too.
For dinner on our recent visit in May 2011 we were treated to traditional potjiekos and roosterbrood – literally 'small pot food' a stew prepared outdoors in a traditional cast-iron, three-legged pot, accompanied by soft bread baked over an open fire. Dessert was a baked fruit tart with cream.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Beverages are not included
Attitude towards children: !Xaus Lodge welcomes children.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Generally recommended for children: Yes, but children should be supervised as the lodge and the swimming pool are not fenced. At the guide's discretion, children under 12 may participate in wilderness walks only within sight of the lodge and under parental supervision.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no regular communication at !Xaus Lodge, but there is a satellite telephone and internet connection for use in an emergency.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: No
Medical care: The closest doctor or hospital is in the town of Upington. In the event of medical evacuation, light aircraft can fly in to Twee Rivieren and helicopters can fly directly to the lodge.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in each chalet as well as in all public areas.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is not included.
Money: There are no safes in the rooms and the lodge does not have any facilities for currency exchange.
Accepted payment on location: Cash payments in South African rand are accepted, as are Visa and MasterCard.