Ever had car trouble on the way to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, only to get there and find the entrance gate closed till the next day? Or are you desperate for a booking in the park but you’ve left it too late and now it’s full? The new Kgalagadi Lodge , just 5km from the gate into the park, is the answer to your prayers.
It’s set on 20 hectares of Kalahari duneveld where SJ Koortzen and his wife Denise manage the lodge and own it together with his parents.
One of the first things they did was to sort out the water question, an intelligent decision given the scarcity of good-quality water in the area. A sedimentation filter, reverse osmosis unit and storage capacity of 90 000 litres means that all water you drink or use at the lodge is clean and safe. (And if that doesn’t sound like a big deal, you obviously haven’t sampled some of the water in the surrounding areas.)
So what’s on offer?
There are 12 self-catering chalets, where the décor is simple but attractive. Dinky little kitchens are well-designed and equipped, the bathrooms what you’d expect at an upmarket lodge where the prices are much higher than they are here. Each unit has an air conditioner for those searing Kalahari summers.
There are also 19 campsites, each with its own private ablutions – and the bathrooms are probably the nicest I’ve seen at any campsite. Ever. No wonder the campsite has already earned a four-star rating. The ablutions are definitely a reason to camp here, but for my taste, the campsite is still a little stark – all red sand and just a shade-cloth awning next to the ablution. But it’s early days yet; the lodge has only been open for a few months. Once the campsite is softened by some vegetation, its place in the wild Kalahari dunes is bound to make it a winner.
There’s a pool deck where you can cool off on hot afternoons, and a small licensed restaurant serves good food at reasonable prices. On our recent visit to the park we found ourselves leaving the southernmost camp of Twee Rivieren for a treat lunch and breakfast there. We tried the burger & chips (R45), the steak burger (R50) and a huge omelette (R49). All were excellent.
The adjacent shop offers 5-litres of bottled water for just R20, ice, wood, and a good selection of toiletries, groceries and cold drinks. Prices are lower than inside the park (even though a six-month trial during which the park is running its own shops has seen prices fall a bit from the stratospheric highs we saw under the previous contractor). For instance, a can of tomato & onion mix is R10.50 at the lodge shop compared to R13.00 inside the park. But best of all are the fresh bread and rolls baked on site (a refreshing change from the pre-frozen bread in the park’s shops), fresh fruit & veg, and cold meats.
At present the lodge is an oasis in a desert of red sand, and baking under the summer sun. The Koortzens have already put in trees and grass near the restaurant/shop, but as soon as good rains come, they plan a flurry of planting – shade trees, grass and local plants between the chalets and in the campsite to soften the landscape.
They have lots of ideas for the future too: a butchery, liquor store, info centre & curio shop, even a spa.
Right now, though, the Kgalagadi Lodge is all about good value, fresh food and hands-on management. Next time you go to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, stop and nose around; who knows, you might want to make it a soft landing after your visit, to see just one more Kalahari sunset.
R750 per family unit – 2 adults, 2 kids on sleeper couch (R450 single)
R600 per standard unit (R400 single)
R180 per campsite (4 people), R70 per extra person (max 6)
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