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Kgalagadi Lodge(Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park)
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All reviewssalt pangame drivesremote placesand dunesour night staythere is no air conditioninghot water bottlesfamily roomnight skiessunset drivestunning positionliving museuman unforgettable experienceoverall impressionfabulous staylocal communityvegetarian food
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Reviewed 7 August 2016

This review has taken some time to write since our stay.
I was really looking forward to staying at !xaus and was firmly convinced that this would be a place I would not want to leave. Indeed, I was convinced that by starting with this hotel the rest of my holiday would be spoilt by comparison. Being , in the event, somewhat disappointed I decided, in fairness, to stay at all our other accommodation to make fair comparisons and write this review last. This lodge was built as part of a land settlement for the San and Mier tribes to run as a community lodge. It is staffed by locals but managed by a
white couple. The eco concept , putting back into the community and no wifi etc I get and approve of totally. The view over the salt pan is beautiful and the night sky is beautiful.

Thereafter apologies for the length of this review but I feel it needs to be said.

The problem is that the web site oversells the facility which does not deserve a 4 * rating which creates higher expectations. 3* would be more appropriate. We chose this place as a place for some of the group to relax after 6 busy days of travelling and for others to join the group as the first leg of the stay. and were seduced by the website. What we were not expecting was the overall amateurish service and what seems a lack of genuine interest or respect for the locals by the male manager. Indeed he described them and their behaviour in less than edifying terms which I found astonishing from someone presumably brought in to promote the business and help the locals who are, after all, the owners.

It was clear that the locals had little experience in the leisure industry and were not very proactive. Given that managers had been brought in I would have expected them to guide them more but it soon became apparent that the husband ,at least ,had no leisure background himself and seemed to be there for reasons to suit himself and not apparent from his service. He was responsible for the outside activities which seemed to be merely sending off and greeting guests from game drives. There was no attempt by either the managers or the game drivers to sit down and talk about the locale, bushmen or anything. The husband did not in anyway act like a host which is the norm at other lodges. Given that learning about the bushman culture was one of the advertised attractions this was disappointing. Star gazing was also one of the big sells for us. The site is about to be awarded its dark site accreditation apparently. It deserves it but the attempts by the manager to point out anything of interest coupled with some excuse as to the why the telescope had not been mounted were feeble.

Food took a long time to get to the table and was usually lukewarm. Juice only appeared once at breakfast. Things ran out , or were not replenished, despite a constant daily turn around of guests. Rooms would begin to be made up the minute you left them meaning staff were in them when you returned from breakfast. Given that activities started at 08.30 or 09.30 this could have waited. Again the managers did not step in to help move things along. The staff were sweet but seemed to lack confidence and were unsure of themselves.

The game activities consisted of a walk with a guide , sundowner and night drives. The walk was excellent and the guide doing this pointed out the most interesting and unexpected things. Again the website talks about dune walks according to fitness but there were no options given and it this was one walk of about an hour. I was looking forward to the opportunity to do longer walks. In terms of the drives, the guides are in an enclosed cab so the usual interaction between guides and guests was missing. Game was very very limited to non existent at this site ( we saw more driving ourselves in) and the guides were more like drivers with guests doing the spotting though they would answer questions if asked. Go for the peace and blissful lack of wifi rather than the game. The lodge cannot be held responsible for the lack of game of course but do not go here if this is the only place you intend to do game viewing.

The bushman village experience is highly unauthentic and very staged. We waved to the villagers as they made their way every day in western garb to the village. It taught nothing about the way of life and was more for sale of mass produced souvenirs. Not helped by the manager telling us before we went that 'they' all had WiFi,tv , satellite etc. Also not helped by the obvious discomfort of some of the teenage girls who were participating in the village activities. It is so unauthentic why put them through it.

Some things that may be helpful to know:

You will be met at the entrance to the park or a pick up point some way in. Our ‘meeter’ was at the main gate but we found her not the other way around. She was just sitting in her van and there she remained , not checking formalities were ok or remaining while we let down tyres but drove off up the hill. You need to reduce air pressure once in the park but if there is a queue this can take time. Take a pump if you can. !xaus lodge would be advised to have a pressure gauge to lend guests on arrival if meeting at the main area. Our luggage needed to be loaded into the back of the !xaus lodge 9 seat land rover. We did this ourselves with minimal help by the ‘meeter’. The drive in is around 90 minutes from the second pick up point. Come equipped for the cold and do not be fooled by the day time temperature. No blankets were provided for this journey which again should be standard for an afternoon to evening drive.

All washing water is salt water which supports eco credentials. No problem with this but so you aware.

Hair dryers are available on request.

The rooms are basic but comfortable with stories being left out on beds each night. Again inconsistency with sweets being left on one pillow but not another. All rooms have a balcony overlooking the pan. A flask of fresh water is left in the room at night. There is a heater. Overall the rooms are getting tired and need some TLC.

Breakfast was excellent with a range of cooked options. Dinner was an ‘interesting’ range of flavour combinations of some originality but not necessarily successful but overall food was ok to good. There were 2 occasions when many guests ate little of 2 dishes but , again, no attempt to follow up why this might have been the case. Feedback was given regarding undercooked chicken and the strange combination of mussels and sweet potato soup raised a few eyebrows. Comment on this combination was met with a shrug from the male manager. No choice was given for any of the courses and the only attempt to assess guests' needs or preferences was in asking for allergies. Muslim guests did get fish but were then given the tipsy tart for pudding! Bizarre.

On one occasion 2 members of staff were taken ill. This left the cook to do everything including waiting at table. Again no help was given with waiting by the male manager. She was amazing and the game was raised. We gave positive feedback twice regarding her standards to the male manager but it did not appear to be well received. For example we commented on the fact the plates were, for the first time, warm. His response was words to the effect that they were always heated but it took the staff too long to get them out.

Dining is around a communal table where you are told where to sit. This works well if other guests are excellent company, as ours were, but being assigned seats in a group might otherwise be a problem.
Tea and coffee was available on tap.

Overall a place that took a great deal of effort to get there. Given its aspirations felt let down and it is not the luxury option it purports to be. This lodge needs a manager with a genuine commitment to the community to make it the destination it deserves to be.

Room Tip: all rooms have excellent view of the salt pan and nothing to choose between them
  • Stayed: July 2016, travelled with friends
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank packyderm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 July 2016

A lodge in the dunes. This lodge is all about the experience and the people of the Kalahari. We did not encounter a wealth of animals, but we did see a sky filled with stars at night, dazzling sunsets, and quiet desert evenings. We had fun walks through the dunes, wildlife drives with amazing red dunes, and tasty food at mealtimes. The lodge belongs to and benefits the local people. I frankly did not enjoy the visit to the "San village" but this was mostly due to the insensitivity of the group towards an obviously embarrassed teenager at the village. We would have liked more animals but we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the lodge.

  • Stayed: July 2016, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank majiksea
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 July 2016

If you are travelling with 2WD you will be pickup at Kwamka picnic area, otherwise with 4WD you can follow the jeep of Xaus.
Xaus means heart and the chalets are situated around the pan.
Stunning accommodation, no electricity betweem 2200/0700 hours, no Phone, no wifi no nothing, only peace and quietness.
The water is saline - brak, when you take a shower is feels like gellywater.
Good excursions, walks and game drives. The meals and wines are delicious.
Meet Claudine and the 2 other house animals, who there are, look for yourself! Its worth a visit.

  • Stayed: June 2016, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
1  Thank Andrea S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 June 2016

What a venue, very different, 91 dune is absolutely correct, best thrill is to drive yourself in a 4 x 4 over the 90 dunes, 30 Kms, +- 45 minutes, an experience! If you don't have a 4 x 4 or don't fancy the drive, the lodge will arrange parking for your vehicle and ferry you to the lodge. The welcome is very friendly and informative, everything is done for you, you may mange to carry your handbag if you insist. By the time you reach your room everything is there for you to unpack. The view over the salt pan is beautiful, sundowner drives are great,good sunsets, as is the night drive, guides are very good, very knowledgeable and find all sorts of nocturnal animals to see. Service both bar and dining is good, food was good and varied. everyone dines together at the same time, separate tables for couples or groups. At night you hear different animal calls and bird calls when you in your rooms.

Room Tip: All rooms are the same, all in line either side of the main lodge area
  • Stayed: April 2016, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank Richard G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 June 2016

Family chalet at the end of a string of cabins set overlooking a salt pan was perfect for us. Great view. Space for all but children were within talking distance (nice when we needed to explain in the middle of the night that "yes, it is lions you hear outside roaring!") Small pool was enjoyed by kids. Our two guides were superb - patient with our questions and very knowledgeable. Go for the remoteness, the landscape, and the silence- and consider animal sightings as bonus. There is plenty out there and night drive is nice time to spot some things you may not get to see elsewhere in the park. Be sure to stay at least two nights to fully unwind, settle in, and enjoy all aspects of being so far away from it all.

  • Stayed: June 2016, travelled with family
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
1  Thank W3897MNamyr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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