There are things we all do and come to understand in the course of living a normal life in the modern world. There are a different set of customs and attitudes that one learns while on Safari in Africa. But in the Kalahari desert, on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan, none of that stuff really matters. Jack’s Camp is unique in the extreme, and it was the most fun and eye-opening experiences we have ever had.
So what can you expect to see?
You will see meerkats. Some might even stand on your head as they scan the horizon for predators.
You will most likely see a brown hyena, which is one of the rarest predators in Africa. It has a mocha-colored mane, striped front legs, and a handsome, intelligent face with bone-crushing jaws. Their den is not far from camp.
You might see some lions. The lions of the Kalahari are massive, muscular creatures and we were fortunate to have had several encounters during our short stay. The first was somewhat comical. We went for a run to the salt pan in the middle of the afternoon when all the sensible animals (and humans) are napping in the shade. Our guide followed us in the Land Rover. When we got back to camp, another guide asked us if we had seen the lion that was lounging 20m to the side of the trail. We were stunned. Sure enough, when we drove back out an hour later, there he was. This lion had almost certainly looked straight at us as we ran past, considered the heat of the day and the lack of meat on our bones, and decided to pass.
Our second lion encounter was even more incredible. We were on our way back from “sundowners” on the salt pan when our guide heard on the radio that two lionesses were hunting wildebeest not far from our location. We drove into position. It was too dark to see clearly but we couldn’t use our lights lest we tip the balance of the hunt in one direction or another. With quick flashes of a red light (which is less disruptive), we could just make out that a herd of about 40 wildebeest was directly in front of us and the two lionesses were approaching from the right. Suddenly, the herd split as the lions attacked. It appeared that they had failed, but then we saw one of the lionesses lying down to our right. We approached cautiously and found it suffocating its quarry by holding the wildebeest’s entire nose and mouth in her massive jaws. The other lioness looped back around and started feeding straight away. A few minutes later, the alpha male lion that we had seen earlier casually sauntered past. He greeted the two lionesses warmly and set to work on the hindquarters.
The Kalahari has been home to the San people, or bushmen, quite literally since the dawn of man. They are kind, curious, and supremely respectful of the land and of each other. Their knowledge of the bush is astonishing. They demonstrated how to find and dig up edible bulbs. They made a fire by rubbing sticks together. They showed us their favorite game, a sort of musical version of rock-paper-scissors. They are beyond doubt the most culturally different people I have ever met. I wish that I could have stayed with them for a month.
Jack’s camp sits on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pan, one of the largest salt flats on earth. It is at once featureless and captivating.