Kalahari. The word conjures scenes of long-horned oryx striding across terracotta-coloured sand dunes, huge sociable weaver nests in camel thorn trees, tiny meerkats digging through flying sand for beetles and scorpions.
Experience all this and more at Kalahari Anib Lodge some 25km east of Mariental and enjoy these 12 things in Namibia’s Kalahari:
- Get a walking trail map from reception and stride out into the wilderness at your own pace. Choose from 5km to 16km self-guided trails, where you may spot tracks in the sand, antelope and birds, and enjoy the environment of camel thorn trees and three-thorn bushes.
2. If you prefer, do a guided walk along a red dune to see the small wonders of the area, from plants and tracks to insects and animals. Hear the bird calls and smell the air while your guide interprets it all to enrich your experience.
3. Go on an early morning drive in an open 4×4. Feel the cool of the early morning (cold in winter) before sunrise colours deepen across the landscape and the sun warms you through. You may see antelope, zebra, blue wildebeest (gnu), giraffe and birds like kori bustard and black korhaan, and you’ll certainly enjoy the views of Kalahari thornveld and red sand dunes that stretch across the landscape.
4. In the late afternoon, go for a sunset drive and learn about the amazing sociable weaver colonies in the camel thorn trees, listen to the sound of the Namaqua sandgrouse as they fly overhead, feel the breeze as it ripples the silky grasses. End your drive with sundowners on a burnt-orange sand dune, the Kalahari laid out below you as the sunset paints neon colours across the sky.
5. Don’t miss a chance to grab one of the lodge’s e-bikes with fat tyres for a cycle through the sand, perhaps along one of the walking trails around the lodge. Your pedalling powers an electric motor so you glide along with little effort. Just don’t make the mistake we did. We stopped for a while to look at tracks and when we got back in the saddle, cycling through the thick sand was so hard! We hadn’t realised that the power automatically switches off when not in use. Once we turned the key again, we flew across the sand like a dream once more.
6. Admire the fat quiver trees near the pool. They’re particularly healthy specimens of these hardy succulents, the Aloe dichotoma. The San used the trunks as quivers for their arrows, while large branches were turned into coffins or fridges to keep food cool in the old days.
7. Swim in one of the lodge’s two pools. The larger one in the central grassed courtyard in front of the reception areas is for dedicated sun- or shade loungers, but I preferred the smaller, wilder one to the side which overlooks a waterhole. It’s a great place to kill two birds with one stone – to read a book while waiting to see what wildlife comes to drink.
8. Enjoy a relaxed à la carte lunch in the shade of a giant tree on the deck that looks out over the veld, thorn trees and termite mounds. Order a cold beer or glass of wine and soak up the Kalahari ambience.
9. Don’t miss sundowners in the bar, which is beautifully decorated and has fireplaces in the centre of two large Kalahari sand pits for a special close-to-nature feel. Feel the warmth on a cold winter’s night, hear the crackle and spit of the fire, and stare into your drink as you remember the day’s highlights.
10. Enjoy the food. Indulge in an enormous buffet dinner in the spacious dining room, with more choices of food than you can possibly eat. Much of the produce comes from the Sustainability Centre at Gondwana Collection’s Kalahari Farmhouse Lodge in Stampriet about 25km east of the lodge. This means all the veggies and salads are super-fresh. The centre also processes its own meat and it’s all treated with farm-to-table respect by Kalahari Anib’s chefs.
Get up the next morning for a buffet breakfast – everything from porridge, cereals, fresh fruit, cheese and cold meats, to kick-ass croissants (so good you’ll think you’re in France) and a profusion of bacon, sausages and eggs. If you’re lucky, Doreen Fransman will be on duty during breakfast – she’s like an irresistibly happy ray of sunshine first thing in the morning (though I have to admit that all staff are warm and friendly).
11. Once night falls, don’t forget to look up to enjoy the throng of stars in the Kalahari sky. The air is clean and dry here, making it great for stargazing. If you can move a little away from the lodge’s main lights – for instance at the campsite – you’ll see even more.
12. Try to stay more than one night to revel in the peace of the morning after most overnight guests have left and before others arrive. An early morning activity leaves plenty time to enjoy the quiet, have a light lunch or sit around the pool.
Definitely spoil yourself or your family with a weekend away to the Kalahari and enjoy a few of these activities.
Writer: Roxanne Reid is a freelance writer, photojournalist, blogger, editor and proofreader. As a travel writer, she has walked through the Kalahari with a San tracker, camped under the stars in the bare stillness of the Richtersveld, and drove along the Roof of Africa in the high mountains of Lesotho. She also enjoyed breakfast in the Okavango Delta with a herd of elephants, walked among the wild horses of the Namib Desert and felt the spray of the Victoria Falls on her face. So, please do enjoy her complete blog by clicking here: Namibia’s Kalahari.
What are some other things to do in the Kalahari? Share some of your favourite experiences in the comment section below.