!Xaus Lodge is at the centre of a piece of land that has been given back to the Khomani San and Mier communities, setting right injustices that took place decades ago. Now it is a source of both income and pride for both communities.

Did you know?

'!Xaus' is correctly uttered with a click of the tongue, but most people just pronounce it 'Kaus'.

 

So much about !Xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park revolves around matters of the heart.

For a start, the elegant lodge, with its dwellings strung out over a curved red dune, overlooks a heart-shaped waterhole. But the most touching part of it all is that !Xaus Lodge represents a heartfelt return to the land for the Khoisan.

The story starts centuries ago when this land was inhabited by the San (or Bushmen) people, and later by the Mier community. When the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park was created in the 1930s, all these people were displaced to make way for the game reserve.

The chance to reclaim their lost land came when the national park was joined to its Botswana counterpart to create the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The Khomani San and the Mier communities then finalised an historic land settlement agreement with each other and with the park authorities in 2002.

About 50 000 hectares were ceded to the community, who leased it back to South African National Parks. In essence, they were now able to financially benefit from the land while retaining it for conservation. They could also revive their old customs and ceremonies linked to living on their ancestral land.

!Xaus Lodge was built in the middle of this area. !Xaus means 'heart' in the Nama tongue, and was chosen by the Mier and Khomani communities together. It is symbolic of the healing of relationships, the uplifting of previously deprived communities, and the return of dignity.

It is wholly owned by the the two communities, and they benefit from a percentage of the profits.

The 12 chalets all have their own decks and splendid views over the waterhole. From this peaceful vantage point you can birdwatch (the Kalahari has the highest concentration of raptors in South Africa) check for black-maned lions or watch the stately oryx toss their heads.

And all the while, you will know in your heart that you have become part of a great healing process, and the return of ancient people to their land.

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