I have always preferred camping to lodges. Being married to a mobile safari guide, that is what we do – we head to the bush on weekends, pitch a tent and light the campfire. You cannot beat the feeling that you are the only people for miles. No light pollution, no distant noises, just the sounds of the bush.
On our last trip out of Maun, I convinced my lodge-allergic husband that I needed to inspect a lodge on the way, combining our camping exploration of the Central Kalahari with an overnight at Kwando’s Tau Pan Lodge.
What a BIG mistake that was. We had such a lovely stay that my six year old daughter declared lodges are now her ‘thing’ and she is no longer interested in getting her hands dirty while camping. She could not believe we had conned her all these years. She’d spent her whole life until now slumming it – the four of us squeezed into a tent, fighting over blankets and swimming in rivers (camping’s answer to taking a shower).
My daughter revelled in the delights of Tau Pan Lodge. Two showers, two basins, a big bed piled with pillows and a thick warm duvet. Not to mention attentive staff that read books to her, kept her brother off her back with games of chess, and handed out marshmallows for roasting over the campfire BEFORE dinner (completely against normal family camping policy). She enjoyed the luxury of a sleep-in on a very cold August morning while her brother and I went walking with a San guide to learn about fire making, shooting bows and arrows and setting snare traps (along with a few ‘boring’ adult things, like the medicinal uses of plants in the desert).
As we were heading back to the campsites after Tau Pan, I had to act fast to remind my daughter of her love for getting back to basics. There would be no VIP treatment once we left, just the necessities. When we arrived at the campsite after a long and dusty day of driving, the lodge felt long behind us. When my daughter saw the basic but effective shower set-up (think bucket on a gum pole with a privacy screen – bring your own water) the lodge felt even farther away. Thinking quickly, we filled the bucket shower, scrubbed our dusty feet and brought a little luxury into the bush with a mini spa treatment in the Kalahari. Fifteen minutes later, with my daughter decked out in clean clothes with painted toenails, she was finally ready to go and play in the dirt again.