Into the Wild: 7 Kalahari Staysby Herman Botha on 1 February 2018
Why would you want to visit a parched landscape that turns into a furnace in summer and a deep-freeze in winter? Why would a Jo’burger follow the signposts to Kuruman, Kakamas and Kathu to get to a land where water has to be squeezed from an obese carrot-like vegetable, and where the difference between life and death often hinges on the ability to track down said obese carrot? OK, so maybe we’ve taken it a bit too far, maybe it’s a tad easier to find some H2O and a comfy place to sleep in the Kalahari. Maybe every sunset in this semi-desert softens the arid plains and after magnificent displays of pink and purple gives way to a night sky that fills the thorn trees with starlight.
There are many reasons to visit this great region that straddles South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana: It’s home to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Augrabies Falls, the Richtersveld, Namaqualand, and the Orange River. Interesting hamlets and cultural experiences are also found at various places that can all be described as ‘in the middle of nowhere’.
We’ve tracked down seven outstanding Kalahari stays for city slickers in desperate need of an uncluttered horizon. Travellers in search of a sublime stopover on their way to tick off one of the above-mentioned attractions are also advised to keep reading.
Fountains in the Wilderness
Perched on a koppie overlooking the fertile Orange River Valley, Slypsteen Guest Farm is arguably one of the leafiest spots in the Kalahari. Each chalet boasts an individual braai and the communal swimming pool offers a welcome respite from the baking sun. Hikers, mountain bikers, and fishermen wil love this thatched hideaway.
Distance from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: 346 km.
Top tip: Bring your pooch but keep him on a leash ─ there are game and farm animals around.
Tutwa Desert Lodge provides a tranquil oasis in the heart of desert landscape punctuated by granite outcrops and koppies. Guests are treated to a delectable breakfast after the early-morning game drive. The rest of a typical day at Tutwa includes more game drives and fine dining presented by their resident chef. View leopard, giraffe, zebra, antelope, and the abundant birdlife by day, and find a comfortable seat on the veranda to view the kaleidoscope of colours when the sun sets.
Distance from the Namaqua National Park: 282 km.
Top tip: Book a spring stay en route to the Namaqualands spectacular wildflower display.
Vaalkloof Boskamp offers quaint cottages on the orange sands on the edge of the desert. If you’re looking for a true Kalahari experience this is it! Here you can cozy up to Mother Nature: At night the chorus of nocturnal animals will lull you to sleep and by day the deafening silence will soothe your soul. There’s no better way to get the office out of your system than spending a few nights in the middle of nowhere, 50 kilometres north of Putsonderwater as the crow flies, to be exact!
Distance from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: 351 km.
Top tip: Depending on the condition of the gravel road a high-clearance vehicle may be needed, please enquire.
African Vineyard Guesthouse & Wellness Spa provides a stunning vineyard abode on Kanoneiland that’s less than a 40-minute drive from Upington. Among the treats in store for patrons of this fine establishment, are country-style breakfasts featuring fresh fruit and herbs sourced on the farm, food and wine pairings, and treatments at the wellness spa. An ideal spot for some R&R before your Kgalagadi adventure.
Distance from Augrabies Falls National Park: 94,9 km.
Top tip: Kanoneiland, or “Canon Island”, is the largest inhabited island in South Africa. It’s fertile alluvial soil facilitates the cultivation of sultana grapes, lucerne, pecan nuts, and even cotton. Spend an afternoon exploring this inland island oasis.
Ou Skool Guesthouse is an upmarket one-stop shop in Keimoes. From air-conditioned rooms and a conference venue, to a coffee shop and farm stall ─ Ou Skool has it all! Beauty and wellness treatments will get the smog out of your system and the picnic baskets are ideal for an open-air experience in the platteland you don’t even have to plan for.
Distance from Augrabies Falls National Park: 79,7 km.
Top tip: Book the function venue for an intimate family celebration.
Lake Gappa Guest Farm & Ski School is an adventure destination on the Orange River on the outskirts of Kakamas. Self-catering and B&B options are available and the patio was designed with sublime sundowners in mind. Activities on the farm include skiing, canoeing, game drives, 4×4 adventures, mountain biking, bird watching, and grape picking (in season).
Distance from Augrabies Falls: 20 km.
Top tip: Visit the hot springs at Riemvasmaak!
You may well book Plato Lodge for a spot of fishing on the Orange, outstanding bird watching, or to test your hiking boots or 4×4 on the nearby trails, but the main reason to stay here is the crystal clear views of the Milky Way.
Distance from the Richtersveld: 40 km.
Top tip: Bring your mountain bike and explore the Green, Red, White, Brown, or Black Route.
TravelGround staffers remember the Kalahari:
Annelene Minnie grew up in Kakamas. She remembers the ‘boulders, vineyards, and river’ of her hometown vividly, and insists that the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is the main attraction of the Kalahari. She says watersports on the Orange is always fun. ‘Augrabies Falls is only spectacular when the river is in flood, but the National Park is always worth a visit,’ she adds.
Jurgens Liebenberg says his colleague is ‘spot on’ about the Kgalagadi. His favourite feature of the Kalahari: ‘You don’t have to find the views, the views find you – everywhere! The plains stretch endlessly to the horizon in every direction.’
Whether you’re heading to the Kalahari to get away from it all, or finally preparing your 4×4 for that trip into the wild ─ we’ve got you covered all the way!
Feature image: Vaalkloof Boskamp
Photo attribution: TravelGround.com (unless otherwise indicated)