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WWhen you’re tracking with the Khomani San in the desert dunes of the southern Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, you move as quietly as you can and listen to the words of your guide as he takes you on a dawn tracking adventure into the world of small things.
Often, when you walk with a ranger in Africa, your eyes get used to skimming the horizon, the wide spaces, in search of what scientists quirkily call the 'charismatic megafauna' – the Big 5.
The Khomani San are a group of San, Southern Africa's aboriginal people, who live in the southern Kalahari.
When you're tracking with the Khomani San in their sacred grounds of the southern Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, you suddenly find yourself on a 'belly safari' – concentrating on the world of small things.
It's that half-light just before dawn, and you're walking in the dunes with all senses on high alert.
You and your guide move quietly: here the tiny spoor of an ant lion, there the prints of a ground squirrel and here, the tsamma melon it bit open for those nutritious seeds.
Every movement of the night is written in the red Kalahari sand.
Your tracker may point out the trudging spoor of a tired, thirsty oryx looking for a cool spot at the top of a dune and, lower down, the massed footprints of an opportunistic hyena pack that followed it in the dark.
The best trackers don't only look at spoor. They decode the almost invisible signs an animal leaves behind – a broken strand of grass here, a browsed twig there.
They can see which way the wind was blowing and whether an animal was tired or injured. They can tell when the spoor was made and predict where the animal was headed and why.
Tracking with the Khomani San (who usually prefer to call themselves Bushmen) opens your senses to the Kgalagadi wilderness – the sweet smell of grasses in the morning, the busy twitter of white-browed sparrow weavers, the delicate patterning of a millipede and the tracks of a honey badger.
And then it's breakfast time back at !Xaus Lodge, the high-end community-owned accommodation where, over fresh coffee and a delicious spread, you can reflect on a morning spent wandering in a desert world of magic – in the company of ancient-knowledge bearers.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)21 701 7860
How to get here
Take the R360 north from Upington to Askam. Make your way to the Twee Rivieren main camp of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. From there, drive 64km towards Mata Mata then turn left towards the lodge (signposted) and drive for 35km.
Best time to visit
If you can, travel in the autumn months of April/May or the spring months of August to October when the weather isn't as extreme as in summer (November to March) or winter (June to August).
Tours to do
!Xaus Lodge offers game drives, guided dune walks, village visits and a special night skies outing.
You will be transported in the lodge's vehicles.
What will it cost?
!Xaus Lodge rates for non SADC residents: R5 000 per person sharing per night. This includes full board, all activities and drives. Occasionally, the lodge offers special deals – call to enquire.
Length of stay
Plan for at least 2 nights in !Xaus Lodge.
Where to stay
Apart from !Xaus Lodge, you may want to book a few nights in the nearby Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and/or the Augrabies National Park closer to Upington. See the South African National Parks' website listed for more details.
Crafts from the local village visited on your drive, or items from the lodge shop.