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Kgalagadi’s positive new tourism story

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“We are thrilled that a community-owned tourism operation is adding to the good news stories of great places to visit in Southern Africa.”

KGALAGADI’S !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park (and !Xaus Lodge in particular) has been featured in National Geographic’s Best Trips for 2020, released yesterday.

The park is featured under the heading: Count the stars in one of the darkest spots on the planet.

“One of only a few International Dark Sky Sanctuaries, the vast 120 000-acre !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park is among the world’s darkest places. Distances in this remote border region between South Africa and Botswana are measured in dunes. Year-round stable temperatures, extremely low humidity, virtually zero light- or sound-pollution, and lack of cloud cover make the park – which scored an almost perfect 21.9 on the SQM (sky quality meter) scale of darkness – one of the planet’s best stargazing destinations. Stay inside the park at the 12-chalet !Xaus Lodge, staffed and co-owned by the Khomani San and Mier communities. Use the telescope on the open deck to observe the Southern Cross and other night-sky sights unique to the Southern Hemisphere,” the article reads.

A letter, from the author who nominated the park for inclusion in the list, states: “Now I can reveal to you why I have nominated !Xaus – for the stratospheric access it grants to a Dark Sky Sanctuary, something that is not only a rare find, but also poetic and important to appreciate in our fast-paced screens-always-on world. I hope more people accept to disconnect, even for a brief while, from the modern lifestyle, and connect with the stars, nature, and a deeper sense of belonging. Thank you for the hospitality, for the opportunity and for your entire team’s dedication to preserve and protect such a unique corner of our magnificent planet.”

Eleonor Muller, from Transfrontier Parks Destinations, pointed out yesterday that this was a positive new tourism story for South Africa.

“We are thrilled that a community-owned tourism operation is adding to the good news stories of great places to visit in Southern Africa.”

Pronounced ‘kaus’, !Xaus Lodge is described as a place to experience a unique desert environment, providing accommodation in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for eco-tourists and visitors to this wilderness area in the Kalahari.

“A unique living space, highlights of the lodge include a cosy lounge with a fireplace, an art and craft shop, a large observation deck perfect for stargazing, a refreshing swimming pool and a heart-warming fire in the boma, perfect for enjoying the beauty of the silence of the night while keeping warm.”

The Khomani San and Mier communities reached a historic land settlement agreement with the government of South Africa and SANParks in May 2002, which restored a large tract of land to the communities that had once roamed or farmed this area.

SANParks is responsible for the environmental management of the park, while the land settlement agrees to provide the communities with an allocation of funds for the purpose of constructing a tourism facility to be jointly owned by the two communities.