The warm welcome and thoughtful attentions of management and staff made me feel like a personal friend whose preferences were promptly catered to. Not only was I remembered by name by everyone from the moment I arrived, but seemingly trivial details were immediately noted, such as how I preferred my tea, or where I liked to settle to tend to my e-mail. On my second morning at Haina, I found a card table and chair set for me at the exact spot I had favored the previous day.
Game watching around Haina exceeded my expectations. One especially memorable day started with a cheetah stalking an impala for its breakfast, and after many sightings of smaller predators, antelope and birds, ended with a thrilling encounter. We had stopped near a quiet waterhole for a relaxed sundowner break when a powerful growl erupted nearby. It amplified to a full-blown roar that made the air around us vibrate as it rippled through the bush; a stern notice that we were trespassing! Our unflappable guide Mike Itatolneng calmly motioned us to return to the land cruiser. Instants later we were slowly driving in the direction where the sound had originated. We soon came across two male Kalahari lions with their distinctive black-tipped mane, lounging under a thorn acacia. We observed each other for endless minutes before they became bored with us and regally vanished into the bush.
Another unforgettable experience of my visit was a daylong drive to Deception Valley, the dusty bed of a river that meandered through the area some 16,000 years ago. Today only the illusion of water remains, in startling mirages that can be observed in the distance. Game viewing, mainly antelopes and birds on the day we visited, was remarkably abundant for such an arid land. We visited the area where American Zoologists Mark and Delia Owens had lived in tents during their seven-year research sojourn on Kalahari lions and brown hyena (their findings were later chronicled in their book Cry of the Kalahari, which had kindled my interest to this little known area when it was first published a quarter of a century ago).
For me, Haina Kalahari Lodge proved an ideal place to settle in and explore at leisure the unique environment of the Central Kalahari. Because of the seclusion of the accommodations, which also included a dedicated Family Tent, and the flexibility of the staff, it was a family-friendly lodge where children of all ages could be accommodated without negative impact to other guests. I was only aware that one such family with three small children was visiting while I was there because, having noticed the well-mannered youngsters by the pool, I chose to enjoy time in their company. I will recommend Haina to any Kalahari-bound friends, regardless of the demographic composition of their party.
Class Of Accommodation Luxury wilderness lodge
Communications Reliable satellite WiFi Internet access was available at the main lodge. Satellite phone was available for emergencies. There was no mobile phone service in the area.
Handicapped Access No
Length Of Stay Four nights
Location On the northern border of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the center of Botswana, 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of Maun.
Owned-Managed The lodge was privately owned by Jannie Rautenbach and Andre Du Preez, and Drs. Heloise Smit, Johan Venter and Tom Meyer. Deon Cuyler was general manager.
Power Electricity was solar-generated throughout the lodge, with a back-up diesel generator for emergencies.
Size The lodge occupied a 10-acre (four hectare) area within the 27,000-acre (11,000 hectare) conservancy. It consisted of 10 guest tents capable of accommodating up to 22 guests. It employed a staff of 22 including two guides and two rangers.
Transportation It was an easy 30-minute flight by bush plane from Maun airport, the main gateway into Botswana’s safari areas, to Haina’s private airstrip. Flights could be arranged through the lodge, that also provided transportation to and from the airstrip. Haina could also be reached by road from Maun with a four-wheel drive vehicle. The drive was said to take approximately three hours. Getting around the property and the conservancy was either by land cruiser, quad bikes or on foot.
Year Open-Renovated Haina was built in 1998 as a private retreat for the five owners. It was renovated and opened to guests in 2007.
An expansive hardwood platform under a peaked thatched roof held by rough-hewn tree-trunks formed the main lodge. It housed the lounge on the right side of the entrance steps, with the library on the left. The dining area and bar were to the rear. The décor throughout was contemporary African style: modern furniture mingled with African occasional pieces and art. The structure was opened on three sides to overlook a large fenced courtyard in the front, with the sundeck and pool area to the right and the open-air lounge and boma to the rear.
In the lounge area, two tan leather sofas and three matching cocoa brown armchairs were arranged around a square wooden coffee table. A long brown leather banquette flanked by two black African carved barrel end tables completed the seating arrangement. Toss pillows were made of local textile with natural geometric designs on black and brown background. Behind the rear sofa, a long credenza held the all-day coffee and tea service, and a large jar of home-baked cookies. The library featured two overstuffed loveseats covered in natural canvas, and two leather armchairs matching those in the living room. They were arranged around a rectangular wooden coffee table on a cowhide throw rug. Tall glassed-in cases held a variety of books on local flora, fauna and safari-related topics, and a small display of local artifacts. The dining area had a long, family-style wooden table surrounded with matching chairs. Along the back wall, a tall glass-fronted beverage refrigerator formed a backdrop for the bar. Next to it, a long built-in counter served as a buffet table for breakfast and lunch.
Room My 580 square foot (54 square meter) superior luxury tent under thatch, Pangolin, had a deep front veranda with an African carved chaise, a square wooden table and two director chairs. The chaise was my favorite spot to doze off in the heat of the afternoon, lulled by the sounds of the bush. From the veranda, a center-zippered opening led into the wide, airy tent with an open floor plan. On each side, three net-screened windows allowed the light to filter in and enhance the elegant black and white color scheme. The floor was dark hardwood with black cowhide patchwork throw rugs. The furniture was of dark polished wood. In the center of the tent, the king-size canopied bed draped in white mosquito netting faced the veranda. The headboard and two bedside tables with their netting backdrop formed a visual divider between the sleeping area and the bathroom. On the backside of the bed’s headboard, a long dressing table with a bench seat doubled as a writing desk. A long black leather bench outlined the foot of the bed. In the front corners of the tent, two armchairs with black and white graphic cushions provided indoor seating. A butler tray held a full coffee and tea service. At night, lighting was provided by two tall bedside lamps with square burlap shades.
All meals, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages were included, as were all daily game viewing and desert experience activities.
Pool The 13 foot x 23 foot (four by seven meter) swimming pool sat in the center of a large, sun-drenched deck. Four wooden lounge chairs with green and white-striped cushions and rolled pool towels were lined on the deck. On the far side of the pool, a long dining table surrounded with folding teak chairs sat under a thatched awning. Most meals were served there during my stay.
Date Of Last Visit October 2009
Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King
Service Excellent. Every member of the management and staff was attentive and thoughtful. My tent was serviced twice daily. Laundry service was especially prompt and with every piece returned meticulously ironed.
Would You Stay There Again Yes