Article and photos by Josette King
With my recent visit to Botswana came the opportunity to explore some of the many faces of the Kalahari Desert. Derived from the Setswana word kgalagadi usually interpreted as “the great thirst,” or “thirstland,” the Kalahari is a mantle of sand that covers roughly 70 percent of the country. My Kalahari experience began with a bush plane flight from Maun, the main gateway to Bostwana’s safari areas. For almost an hour, the plane droned on and the sun-baked emptiness below never seemed to change. Then suddenly the swirling horizon of dusty sandbars and gleaming salt pans was interrupted by an incongruous line of fan palm trees. “Jack’s Camp,” the pilot announced with a nudge in the direction of the palms.
Located in a remote oasis overlooking the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Jack’s Camp was a magical place reminiscent of the grand East African safaris camps of a bygone area. The spacious tents were decorated with antique furniture and oriental rugs, their interior draped with faded chintz and their en-suite bathrooms featuring indoor and outdoor showers with flawlessly polished copper fixtures. Service was commensurate with the elegance of the camp. But the superb accommodations and service were but a prelude to the outstanding quality and variety of activities provided by the expert guiding staff of Jack’s Camp.
I spent a delightful morning standing among a colony of meerkats (although wild, these squirrel-sized mongooses were sufficiently habituated to humans that they were unconcerned by my presence). I marveled at the daily sight of hundreds of zebras and wildebeests arriving from the Boteti River to the west for their yearly migration to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. I went on a nature walk with a Zu/’hoasi bushman elder who showed me the plants that had ensured the survival of his ancestors for millennia. I rode a quad bike ride deep into the Pans to watch the sun set and the moon rise over their blistered infinity. Click here to read more about the many unique experiences of my stay at Jack’s Camp.