Jack’s Camp – Kalahari Desert, Botswana

 The Kalahari’s Best-Kept Secret

Ostrich Jack – hunter, explorer, bush hero – fell in love with the magic of this remote corner of Botswana in the 1960s, pitched camp, and never left. Today an old-fashioned permanent safari camp run by Jack’s son, Ralph Bousfield, sits on the edge of the Makgadikgadi salt pans in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. Ralph has inherited his father’s passion for this eerie lunar landscape and he and his partner, Catherine, share it with their guests.

Even for those who have seen it all, the light, silence, solitude, and sheer vastness of the space here guarantee an uncommercial and unusually authentic safari experience. A Bushman tracker escorts guests on walks, opening their urban eyes to the subtle vagaries of the unique and delicate ecosystem. But Jack’s Camp has a double life. When the rains come, the salt pans, once the bed of a lake the size of Lake Victoria, sprout green and create a vast water source for enormous flocks of flamingos. It becomes one of the last open migration routes in Africa; wildebeest and zebra arrive by the thousands, with lions, cheetahs, and hyenas fast on their heels.

This is unblemished, wild Africa at its best, evocative of other times. So are the five classic 1940s canvas tents set up in a palm oasis and furnished with the iron beds and worn Persian carpets that once belonged to Ralph’s grandparents. There are clouds of mos­quito netting, chambray sheets, silver tea service – altogether an incomparable romanti­cism that’s hard to resist.

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