Did you know?
The San or Bushmen were South Africa's first inhabitants.
Although the traditional Kalahari Bushmen or San way of life is fast disappearing, there are still places where their ancient culture flourishes. Experience this by going on a guided trail where Bushmen trackers share their stories, knowledge and skills.
Internationally renowned zoologist Professor Anne Rasa runs a simple, comfortable lodge in the Kalahari Trails Nature Reserve, just 35km from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the first trans-border park in Africa, which stretches across the Kalahari Desert between South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
Rasa was a pupil of the late San tracker, Vetpiet Kleinman, who was born in the park and whose skills were world-famous.
On an early morning or evening walk, she will interpret tracks, and talk about the sand, rocks, plants, animals and birds. That night, after a hearty supper, you'll sit by a crackling fire and listen to Kalahari Bushmen stories as old as time.
In the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park itself, you can choose between the park's regular accommodation or the first fully catered luxury lodge, !Xaus (pronounced 'Kaus'). !Xaus means 'heart' in the San dialect and symbolises the business relationship between the local San community and private enterprise, which gave birth to this striking, remote lodge.
Walk with some of the local Kalahari Bushmen, and see where the well-known San artist, Vetkat Regopstaan Kruiper, whose paintings hang in the chalets, was laid to rest following a traditional burial ceremony.
Visit a local craft village, see San craftspeople at work, learn about medicinal plants and follow wildcat, jackal or aardvark spoor.
Your guides demonstrate how the San chew roots as a substitute for water and how they defend themselves against a lion by holding burning grass above their heads.
And at night, as the Bushmen say, you will hear the stars sing, and maybe even hear a black-maned Kalahari lion's roar.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
South African National Parks Central Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Reception (Twee Rivieren rest camp)
Tel: +27 (0)54 561 2000
Tel: +27 (0)21 701 7860
Kalahari Trails Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)54 511 0900
Cell: + 27 (0)82 4482945
How to get here
The Kalahari Trails Nature Reserve and !Xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park are accessible by road from Upington, which has air and rail links with all major cities in South Africa. Upington is approximately 800km from Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Best time to visit
Winter (May to August), as it gets very, very hot in summer. If you visit in summer, most of your activities will be at sunrise before it gets hot, and just after sundown.
Roads to and from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park are fine for two wheel-drive cars, but you'll need a 4X4 for some of the more remote camps and lodges in the park. If you stay at !Xaus, the lodge will collect you from the park's main road.
Length of stay
At least three nights, more if possible.
What to pack
Light clothes for the day, a warm jacket, scarf, beanie and gloves for early morning and evening – desert temperatures can drop to freezing at night. And don't forget plenty of sunscreen and a hat, even in winter.
Where to stay
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has several rest camps offering camping sites, air-conditioned cottages and wooden chalets. !Xaus Lodge has air-conditioned luxury chalets in the depths of the desert.
What to eat
If you're self-catering, it's a good idea to stock up on food in Upington, although there is a shop for basics at the main Twee Rivieren camp in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. !Xaus supplies all food and drinks.
San crafts and curios, which are often sold at the roadside.