The magic of Bagatelle
Photo: Chloe Durr
The magic of Bagatelle
02 March 2020 | Tourism
With every journey my passion for Namibia grows deeper. For a city girl like me the once daunting expansive nothingness now holds a consoling freedom from the pressures of urban life, for even in solitude I never feel alone.
With a full heart and hungry soul I continue to travel with excited anticipation as to what I am going to experience next. But little can prepare one for the sensory overload encountered once you enter the gates to Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch in the South of Namibia. The view of saturated red sand dunes that emerge from the whitewashed gravel road, set against a backdrop of cobalt-blue sky and dramatic cloud formations, is unlike anything you are likely to have seen before. The Kalahari sounds like the blood flowing through ones eardrums and smells heavily of heat.
The French expression for something small or insignificant, Bagatelle, refers more aptly to the humble nature of this establishment, rather than its size. The lodge lies camouflaged in the desert landscape and the campsites, equipped with private ablutions and kitchen facilities, hide neatly in the rolling red dunes. Springbok, wander lazily amongst luxurious chalets that sit proudly on stilts along a dune ridge with vistas across the Kalahari Desert and a watering hole, frequented by eland, kudu, giraffe, rhino and other animals that have found sanctuary on the sacred grounds of Bagatelle.
The hub of all human activities is the main lodge, where meals, drinks and afternoon tea are served around the azure swimming pool that mirrors the blue of the sky. One can choose to laze away the day in the cool of the lodge reading from the collection of coffee table books or lie at the pool mesmerized by Meerkats that nosy around your toes. Or you may gaze at the iridescent train of a peacock dancing on the red sand. The beauty of Bagatelle extends into the night when the sky is lit with the fire of starlight.
During the late afternoons and early mornings, when temperatures are more bearable, one can choose to experience the many activities Bagatelle has on offer: horse-riding safaris through the dunes, informative San-guided (Bushmen) walks, game-viewing trips, and my all time favorite - the cheetah feeding.
High on Bagatelle’s agenda is the conservation and protection of wildlife, evident in the peaceful groups of animals that roam freely within this sanctuary. Working in association with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), Bagatelle is home to a number of rehabilitated cheetahs that are unable to be released back into the wild. Students from around the world choose to come and assist in the feeding and care of these orphaned animals, and they become members of the Bagatelle-family while staying here.
The “Cheetah Whisperer”, Goran, is in full command of the cheetahs and I was honored to spend a great deal of time with him. Goran has spent 30 years of his life being the father to orphaned, injured and sick felines. He is a minefield of information, has a heart of gold and tells stories that keep one hanging on his lips. I still find myself teary-eyed as I reflect upon my experience of witnessing the intrinsic bond that he has with each individual cheetah.
Goran spends all of his waking hours in the company of cheetahs, which are totally at ease in his alpha-male presence. Whilst the relationship between them seems impossible, Goran cannot emphasize enough the importance of respect for these wild animals that he is humbled to have been accepted by. Goran can be found lying in the shade of an acacia tree together with his cheetah family gently grooming and playing with them. In the evenings one can choose to accompany Goran to feed the cheetah. They excitedly chase after his truck, mimicking their chase for food and in the process securing meat morsels, which he offers them by hand.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, Flash will even jump through the open car window and join Goran in the passenger seat to meet guests for sundowners. Flash sits proudly next to Goran, licking his arm and watching the setting sun. This is a truly memorable and humbling experience for any visitor.
Bagatelle is every bit as magical as I have described and more. It is a destination in its own right and is more than likely to appeal to families and travelers of all ages. Facilitated by a team of attentive staff members, the lodge offers comfortable accommodation, delicious food and multiple activities to choose from.
Quote: A stay at Bagatelle may be likened to joining a cruise on a ship, which floats on the expanse of the Kalahari Desert’s sands.