In the pristine vastness that is the Makgadikgadi Pans, Jack’s Camp rises out of its arid surroundings like yet another of the area’s shimmering mirages. The olive-green canvas tents trimmed with fluttering scallops evoke traditional 1940s East African safari style, an effect underpinned by the lush Persian carpets that adorn the wooden decking underfoot.
The camp – consisting of 10 spacious tents with en-suite bathrooms featuring flush toilets and both indoor and alfresco showers – is set into a palm grove that lends it a Moorish ambience. The decor taps into this, with bedroom suites decorated in rich, exotic prints with a decidedly ‘Arabian Nights’ air. Furnishings throughout are true to the period: picture yourself – ice-cold gin and tonic in hand – gazing out from the comfort of a velvet-upholstered campaign chair as hordes of zebra stroll past, possibly stalked by one of the Kalahari’s famous black-maned lions.
Given the inhospitable harshness of the surroundings in the dry season, the swimming pool at Jack’s Camp certainly gets our vote as the most impossibly luxurious pool in Africa. It is fitting that instead of 24/7 wifi and other intrusive modern ‘conveniences’, this colonial-style safari camp offers such facilities as an award-winning museum (for wildlife and archaeological artefacts), a library, pool table and swimming pool – clearly, such old-fashioned pursuits never do go out of style.
Once you’ve soaked up all this luxury, it’s time to discover the things that brought you to Makgadikgadi in the first place. In the wet season the arid landscape transforms. The fresh grasses attract vast herds of zebra and wildebeest, while the wetlands become home to great clouds of flamingo and other migratory bird species. This is the time of year to enjoy day and night game drives, bird walks and game walks. In the dry season, you can also take a 4×4 quad bike trip into the hinterland of the Makgadikgadi to explore remote archaeological sites and fossil beds. Soak up the absolute stillness of the immense pans, and look out for desert-adapted species such aardvark, gemsbok and springbok, as well as the rare and elusive brown hyena. A highlight is being able to walk through the Kalahari with a gang of habituated but wild meerkat. Alternatively, ask about the five-day fly camp option to Kubu Island (weather permitting) with quad bikes for parties of at least four guests.
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