by Ron Swilling
The soft red sand of the Kalahari dunes makes its appearance east of Mariental, with the long linear dunes extending further eastwards into Botswana, their striking intensity accentuating the green of the trees and grass, creating landscapes- that dazzle the eyes with their contrasting colours.
Once a sheep and cattle farm, Bagatelle was bought by Fred and Onie Jacobs in 2000 and converted into a lodge in 2004. The 10 000-hectare farm now boasts a wealth of Namibian animals, including red hartebeest, wildebeest, eland and four giraffe. Four cheetahs are kept in enclosures adjacent to the lodge, the three males raised by the Cheetah Conservation Fund after they were found as cubs, their mother probably killed by farmers, and the female raised on the premises.
Cheetah viewing is a half-hour activity recommended by the lodge for the morning, as is a scenic sundowner drive in the afternoon to appreciate the colourful land and its array of animals. A cheetah feeding in the afternoon while enjoying a sundowner is an optional activity, and a morning scenic drive is offered in the summer months. A circular unguided 6.5-kilometre walk into the veld and through the red grassy sands is a popular excursion for guests wanting to stretch their legs and feel the soft sand underfoot.
Bagatelle provides accommodation in six straw-bale chalets positioned on the flat red sands, four wooden dune chalets perched on a bank of sand overlooking an expanse of green and red land, and two garden courtrooms next to the central area.
The straw-bale chalets have sleeper couches to provide extra sleeping facilities for families. The large chalets, painted in terracotta inside and out and blending into their surroundings, offer comfortable and attractive accommodation. Springbok-horn lamps, animal-print pillows and blankets, safari chairs and springbok skins create a Kalahari game-ranch atmosphere. The straw-bale chalets have a wide veranda; the dune chalets, a wooden deck; and a large deck next the dune chalets provides a sundowner spot for all guests to enjoy the scenery.
The original farmhouse, extended to create the central area, comprises a small library with a large trophy head of a buffalo shot by Fred attached to the wall, a lounge area with comfortable couches bedecked with springbok hides, a dining room, a curio shop, and a bar and a reception area. Animal-hide tablecloths and rugs, two fireplaces, springbok-horn lamps and animal-print cushions are softly highlighted by a series of yellow lights. A terracotta floor and traces of red echoed in cushions and curtains enhance the richness of the colours. Outside the dining area a pool is surrounded by loungers on a patch of green grass, the preferred habitat of several peacocks, and a boma area, which is used as a supper venue on warm summer evenings.
The lodge is 50 km from Mariental off the Stampriet C20 route, which is fast becoming a popular destination to include on any Namibian itinerary.
The rich red sands and small herds of springbok and ostrich that wander through create a striking visual experience unique to the surroundings. The scenic sundowner drive is highly recommended for a taste of Kalahari wilderness. It leaves you gasping with the loveliness of colour and the visual joy of seeing gemsbok crest a soft red dune or springbok pronk through the acacia savannah.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘11/ Jan ‘12 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Additional photos courtesy of https://plus.google.com/117832452182271454005/about?hl=en