If the title misleads you into thinking that Planet Baobab is a completely new planet in our solar system, made available to the most enthusiastic daring and exotic travellers of all time, my unbound apologies awaits your affirmation . Though the intention wasn’t that of misleading, the high hopes of experiencing the most exotic and out-of-the world holiday spot ever, thus, nurtured are not quite deserted here, as this little new Planet adorned with an “Afro-funk-décor”, within the our very own planet Earth, brings forth an opportunity to elope into the indigenous, and traditional cultural village luxury lodge in Gweta. Planet Baobab, named after the baobab trees overlooking its thatched African huts is listed as the second “most extraordinary hotel in the world” by Lonely Planet and is also featured on CNN International. It houses 14 rooms and is one of the rarest examples of modern-meets-traditional hospitality establishments located on Makgadigadi Pans in Botswana, which is crowned as the world’s largest network of salt pans.
Now, let’s trace out the itinerary to this unbelievably enchanting luxury lodge situated at the very heart of the outstretched network of the athirst, hypnotic-mirage panorama of plane, sparkling expanses underneath the scorching azure skies-Makgadigadi salt pans -remains of what used to be a huge ancient inland ocean. Along this porous, fractured and barren moonscape, on the trail betwixt Maun and Francistown, a place haunted by the humongous grey giants and if you’re lucky enough, you might just get a glimpse of those wild elephants strolling at the fringe of the road. But, soon enough as the life-like statue of a giant anteater looms into sight, you know it’s there to guide you. Follow the side-path pointed out by the anteater snout and soon would arrive at the bewitching “Planet Baobab”, where the average age of each tree is approximately 4000 years or beyond adorned with a boundless lunar landscape of the Makgadikgadi salt pans.
This beautiful place is carpeted with sandy walkways winding through narrow lanes between baobabs, while their hefty trunks support the intricate branches that form canopies illuminating the path with sparkles of seeping moonlight at night. Then comes the beautiful pool, which is the biggest in Kalahari and funky Afro-chic bar-restaurant with scrumptious pan –African dishes, positioned deep in the bushes with an air of exotic sheen hung around the hazy setting of the Kalahari sunset. The lodge also runs excellent excursions into the pans, including a night under the stars followed by a dawn meeting with meerkats.
An Insight into the interiors:
Now that you’ve arrived it’s time to settle down, and Planet Baobab provides amazing options to choose from. First comes, the traditionally styled Bakalanga or Baobab huts, built from mud, with super luxurious complete en suite showers, dome tents with fully made up stretcher beds, where you can pitch your tent or start a barbecue next door, all with the best ablutions in the bush. The walls here are unique and originally of Botswana style- smeared with cow-dung and adorned with art made with natural pigments found in the many termite mounds in the area. And, then the traditional grass hut, made in the way the Bushmen used to. Both these types of huts at Planet Baobab are made from natural materials indigenous to the Makgadikgadi area in Botswana, and are perfectly temperature-controlled which eliminates the dire need for air-conditioners and makes the huts extremely comfortable and cool. On a whole, the lodge consists of 13 twin Bakalanga huts (for two inmates), 3 Family Bakalanga huts (for four inmates) and amazing campsites with funky eco-ablution facilities.
Things to do:
Its time to gear up for activities once you’ve settled down, and Planet Baobab, apart from providing the utmost luxury of relaxation in the tranquillity of the outstretched pans, also boasts an array of activities awaiting the visitors!
- A date with the super-friendly habituated meerkats, is the best way to start the journey. Then, go for a tour into the local village where you can discover afresh the Botswana culture-get a taste of the authentic luscious food of the locals and meet the ancient traditional healer, and then go for a sip of the local favourite red bush tea, or even the locally-brewed organic beer! After that, visit a local cattle post and unearth the hidden history-buff within you, in the company of an array of ancient stone tools and fossils at the Nxai Xini Pan. When all this local sightseeing is done, a visit to the famous Green’s Baobab, which is a walk through a baobab forests.
- During the dry season, go for a quad bike across the Makgadigadi Pans, enjoy sleeping out under the sparkly starry skies or even gear up for a 5 night quad bike expedition to the remote and mysterious Kubu Island.
- And, if you’re the adventurous photographer or nature-lover type, you would never want to miss the annual migration, which though is scarcely known, but is one of a kind. During this time, which is mostly in the wet season, a host of approximately 35-75000 zebras and wildebeests migrate to this region for Southern Africa’s last yet spectacular migration.
- Though activities can be never-ending, yet a visit to Makgadikgadi without having gone for the Kalahari Surf Camp, is incomplete!It is a very popular trip consisting of an overnight stay at the Kalahari Surf Camp, in the isolated bush camp in the interiors of Ntwetwe Pan.
Hence, if one plans to go to Makgadigadi pans, and stay at Planet Baobab, the two best seasons to visit would be either the wet season of summers, which is from 1st November to 15th April or the dry season of winters, the period from 16th April to 31st October.
In this endeavour to the Planet Baobab, which is truly a planet full of surprises, the traveller not only discovers at every stage and every turn, interesting and astounding tales told by the Guides or companions, but also finds his or her own tale. In this region which at a glance would seem like a barren space symbolizing nothingness, the traveller finds solace in the place, Planet Baobab-which is really something extraordinarily memorable!