We've recently stayed at !Xaus Lodge, in KTP, and spent a little time with the bushmen. There's not much to be found in the forum about them and the lodge - so let me share some thoughts.!Xaus lodge:
A special place that will probably appeal more to Kalahari afficionados who have fell in love with the Kalahari before, than to "newcomers"... The chance for wildlife sightings is much higher in Nossob and Aoub valleys, and the animals there are much more used to cars. So !Xaus lodge is rather about the quiet tunes in the Kalahari song, about the smaller flora and fauna of the Kalahari dunes, and about the solitude of the Kalahari. There are major advantages even to the SANPark wilderness camps: you can walk around with a bit more freedom; there are flexible and customised activities with knowledgeable guides in small groups (walks, drives); the experience is much more personal; and of course they cook for you :-) The downside for many is above all the price. I think that most people don't stay longer than 3 or so nights, but the experience is very atmospheric and relaxing.The bushmen:
There are most probably no more bushmen left in this world who live their traditional hunter and gatherer lifestyle - even if some of them would like to! The bushmen staying at the lodge are there on a voluntary basis, and come and go as they like. For the older bushmen it means that they can actually be in the park, "the place of their ancestors", which important to them. For the younger it's maybe a chance to get in contact with tourists. They are paid a modest sustenance just for being there; most of them spend their days at the lodge with the creation of crafts (necklaces etc. similar to those you can also buy along the Askham-Twee Rivieren road), and some of them work as trackers - but an important aspect is to just spend time with their friends and family. They dress as they like - sometimes in springbok skin and sometimes in western clothes. Yet they stay in the staff quarters, not in the "Bushmen village". The latter is only their crafts workshop. No romantic illusions here...
So you can visit the bushmen, talk to them (speaking Afrikaans is an advantage), buy crafts - just be there with them. And of course you will be guided by one of the bushmen trackers, during walks and drives - a good opportunity for foreigners to chat, since the trackers speak some English. Yet the community's experience with tourists is limited; there are no self-driven activities (yet) like joining women in going out in the veld to collect plants, or meeting a healer (in case one is present), or even join a hunt (in case any of us actually had the stamina to do this...).
Piet, the lodge's host, seems to have a genuine interest in their well-being; he is serious about not turning it into a people viewing show with "dance & trance on order" for camera-touting tourists; he is also very knowledgeable about their history. He might consider making such activities available to interested visitors, but they will very much depend on the bushmen community's interest in sharing their knowledge with visitors.
So summarising my experience: it is not the place to experience a full immersion into bushmen culture and traditions, it's rather a cautious approach to meet fellow humans with an entirely different background. I have read a bit about bushmen, as well as their medicinal and food use of plants, prior to this visit, and a lot of it remains theoretical knowledge even after the visit. Yet I was not at all disappointed, and enjoyed meeting them; meeting some of them on a more personal level would require more time. !Xaus is a good place for First Contact...
A bit more info is in my diary, you find it here:http://www.pangolin.li/index.php?id=214
- including diaries of our visits to Kgalagadi and Krueger
Last visit: KTP in March 2009