Deception Valley Lodge

Deception Valley Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
8 chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (95%) From 4 reviews
Children
Best for aged at least 8+
Open
All year

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, bar area and indoor dining room. The lodge has an ethnic-African twist; think animal hides and dark wood antiques with colourful rugs, elaborate ostrich-egg chandeliers and bushman artifacts.

Deception Valley's outdoor lounge and dining area are 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 claw 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.)

This main area overlooks a small waterhole that can be quite productive. On a previous visit, there seemed to be a continuous procession of wildebeest, kudu, oryx, zebra and giraffe coming down to drink. Apparently it is even better in the peak months of July – October, as most other water sources have dried up. Sadly on our trip in June 2017 we weren’t as lucky.

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 tiger print ottoman, 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 (with two bedrooms and two bathrooms) designed for families. There are stairs to an additional loft room however as they are very steep the lodge no longer makes use of this room and has a chain across the bottom of the stairs to prevent use.

Activities at Deception Valley Lodge include day and night 4WD game drives and bush walks. Although fortune wasn’t with us on our last 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.

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.

Although the Bushman walk was fantastic and the trackers' personalities really came to the fore – the rest of the local staff were very much in the background. So despite the great hospitality shown by the owner and manager, we had little contact with any of the other staff.

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, the owners are committed to ensuring that their walking activities can be led by qualified, armed guides, if requested.

It is 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 a considerable extra cost for these trips (in the region of US$500 per person, with a minimum of four people required), 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.)

It is worth noting that whilst the game viewing in the reserve itself is considered better during the summer this isn’t necessarily the case for the Deception Valley Lodge. The fences that keep game on the property and safe during the winter tend to keep the migration out in the summer months. So in contrast to the migration centric cycle of game viewing in the CKGR cycle at Deception Valley Lodge is more similar to the seasons of the Okavango Delta. Meaning it is at its peak in the dry season when the vegetation has died back.

Our view

Deception Valley Lodge is decidedly traditional, with very hands-on owners who will often guide, or at the very least try to meet every guest who comes to stay. It's a comfortable place to get a very real feel for the Kalahari – the highlight is often the informative and very entertaining walk with the Bushman trackers.

Geographics

Location: Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana

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.

Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Gerard and Annelize Slabbert Jacobus Slabbert Braam Badenhorst

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We enjoyed superb meals on our last visit to Deception Valley Lodge in June 2017, and were 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 a variety of cheeses and cold meats, toast, fresh fruit and a mini frittata with sausage.

We didn’t have afternoon tea on our last visit but it will generally be a sweet and a savoury dish. On a previous visit were treated to moist apple cake, a cheese and chicken salad and a selection of sandwiches.

Dinner started with a tasty aubergine and beetroot vegetable stack.This was followed by a perfectly cooked impala steak with corn on the cob, cheese and potato rosti. For pudding we pears poached in red wine.

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.

Further dining info: There is no room service.

Children

Attitude towards children: Generally children over the age of eight years are welcome.

Property’s age restrictions: 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.

Special activities & services: There are no special activities or services.

Equipment: No special equipment is available but there are two inter-leading chalets, which can be used for families.

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.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: Batteries are used to provide power when the generator is turned off at night,

Communications: There is no telephone or cellphone reception at Deception Valley Lodge. There is Wi-Fi 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.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: All the rooms have hot and cold running water and flush toilets. The tap water is very salty here.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun, a drive of at least four hours. Medical evacuation is available in case of emergencies. Please note that it is only possible to fly out of camp during daylight hours as the bush airstrips do not have any lighting at night.

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.

Extras

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. No exchange facilities are offered.

Accepted payment on location: There are no credit or debit card facilities at the lodge. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted, but note that the local banks do not accept or change foreign coins.

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