Surrounded by red sand dunes in the Namibian section of the Kalahari Desert, 250 kilometres south of Windhoek, Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch is an upmarket, owner-run lodge with a range of delightfully-decorated chalets. Guests can partake in a number of activities which allow for a better understanding of the Kalahari’s natural and cultural treasures, while enjoying home-from-home facilities and heart-warming cuisine.
Guests are treated to magnificent views of the colourful Kalahari landscape, whether they stay in the raised dune-top chalets, or the cleverly designed ‘hay bale’ chalets in the dune valley. The farm is home to some of the highest sand dunes in the region, and plentiful wildlife can be seen on guided nature drives, which end with memorable sundowners on the peak of a dune. Other ‘must-do’ activities include close-up interactions with the farm’s four captive cheetahs, as well as illuminating walks with traditional San Bushmen. A swimming pool will keep you refreshed on hot desert days, while roaring log fires provide all the cosiness needed during cold winter evenings.
The vast expanses of the Kalahari Desert stretch across South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, painting the landscape in red sands, thorny shrubs and golden grasses. In Tswana, the name means ‘the great thirst’, but despite the dryness and extremes of temperature, the Kalahari is not actually a true desert.
Semi-arid savannah and dry river beds give life to the region, and more than 80 of Africa’s iconic mammal species, along with a myriad of birds, amphibians and insects, have managed to thrive here. The Kalahari covers most of Namibia’s eastern side, and most of the region is covered with acacia trees and succulent plants such as aloes, broken up by small red sand dunes. Elusive cheetah use the grass as cover to hunt springbok, the remarkable gemsbok glean sufficient water from just leaves and grass, and small carnivores such as the rare black footed cat pick off reptiles, insects and birds. A closer look will reveal scorpions, tortoises and frogs. Look out for other desert specials such as meerkat.
The Kalahari is also famously the home of the San Bushmen, the remnants of Southern Africa's original inhabitants who occupied the whole sub-continent. The remarkable resourcefulness of the tribe, along with their unique clicking language, are extraordinary to behold. The Kalahari is sparsely populated and is not packed with tourist attractions, but its remarkable solitude and unpolluted night skies are exactly what make it special.
Bagatelle was originally a sheep and cattle ranch, but the old farmhouse has been extensively renovated to meet the needs of guests, while staying in touch with its homely roots. This main area contains a lounge, dining room and bar, along with a wine cellar, curio shop and library, all beautifully decorated in earthy tones that reflect the surrounding landscape. During the day, guests can soak up the silence from the loungers next to the shaded pool, or from the comfort of a hammock.
There are three types of chalets at Bagatelle, all providing a distinctly different experience but the same standards of luxury. For the best views, guests should choose one of the stilted wooden chalets on top of the dune. The six chalets in the valley feature an innovative ‘hay bale’ construction that need to be seen to be appreciated, while the garden court chalets are attached to the main lodge and are ideal for families (children of all ages are welcome). Facilities in all the chalets include minibars, tea/coffee stations, air conditioning and ceiling fans.
Guests can choose between bed and breakfast and full board, with meals consisting of mouth-watering African favourites such as springbok venison or bobotie. Breakfast is a continental spread with a cooked option, and times are highly flexible depending on when guests want to wake up.
The early mornings can be spent on a nature drive, horseback safari or Bushman walk, the latter of which is a very special experience. The Bushmen will take you to a demonstrational village to acquaint you with their unique way of life, show you their remarkable survival skills and ancient secrets. For optimum authenticity, the Bushmen will speak their own extraordinary clicking language during the tour, but the lodge’s guide will translate everything into English.
Visits to the cheetahs also take place in the morning, so you may want to make allowances for getting both of these activities done during a stay.
The hot midday hours are best whiled away in and around the swimming pool, and this is also the perfect time to book a massage treatment or take a nap in your air conditioned chalet.
Lunch is another leisurely affair served until 14h00, followed by more off time and an afternoon tea at 15h30.
Head out for another game drive if you want the chance to tick off the wildlife you didn’t see in the morning, stopping off for a magnificent sundowner along the way.
The day normally ends with sublime stargazing and a sumptuous home-cooked dinner in the open-air boma.