In April 2012 I went to a place that completely blew my mind and is still ranking no.1 as the most incredible place I’ve ever been.
Jack’s Camp is a safari settlement situated on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan in the Kalahari desert, in Botswana, Africa.
A relic of one of the world’s largest super-lakes, roughly the size of switzerland, the Makgadikgadi dried up thousands of years ago as a result of the continued shifting of the earth’s crust. When the lake was formed, some five to seven million years ago, its shores were the setting for the transition from ape to man. The location of the cradle of man.
Fast forward to the 1960’s; While on a trapping expedition in the Makgadikgadi Pans, Jack Bousfield, a legendary crocodile hunter and safari specialist (in the Guinness book of record noted for most crocodiles kill by one man, a stagering 53,000), stumbled upon this location.
In 1992 Jack’s life came to a tragic end; On a routine flight with his son Ralph, on the hunt for new safari locations, a steering cable snapped and the tiny cessna plane crashed into the bush below. Ralph was so burnt trying to save his fatally injured farther from the wreckage, that he spend two years in the hospital in a protective pressure suit. Everything but his face was burnt. His upper body and feet so damage that he can never expose them to the sun again or go without shoes.
As a homage to the vision of his farther, Ralph, and his partner Catherine established Uncharted Africa Safari Co, with Jack’s Camp as the first settlement, styled in the traditional East African 1940’s style.
Ralph was our guide for the duration of the stay; An encyclopedia of information and knowledge. From early childhood, he was surrounded by Zu/’hoasi Bushmen, speaking their complicated click-based language, and learning from them how to hunt. An ethnographer who regularly talks at Harvard, he is sort of the real life Indiana Jones, but not hunting treasure, only knowledge of the ancient world of the bushmen and the flora and fauna that surounds him.
The choice of location for the camp is nothing short of Epic; The mind bending contrast between the palm-tree covered oasis with the luxurious Moroccan tents and the violently desolate Makgadikgadi salt pan, leaves your mind wondering and your heart pounding. The fact that you can travel across the pans at great speed for hours and still arrive nowhere, only underlines the pans immensity. There is nothing out there. Absolutely nothing. As Ralph describes; “One of the only places in the world where the silence is so complete, you can hear the blood circulating through your ears.”
The camp it self is a explorers dream come true; Cabinets filled with bones and skulls from extinct species of animals, old maps showing migration routes, paraphernalia from Zulu wars and all situated in the most beautiful Moroccan tents with Mahogany tables and chairs. One could presume that a Dr.Livingstone would stop by for a afternoon cup of earl grey.
The nearest neighbors are a Zu/’hoasi bushmen tripe, living and working as knowledgeable guides, keepers and informers of their ancient history.
My stay at this camp was only 2 days, but I will never forget a single minute; from roaring, matting lions to meer-cats playing around you at arms length, a night sky so clear that one could feel the universe it self approaching earth, an endless telling of stories and encounters with the raw nature, the Zu/’hoasi bushmen falling deep into a trans state accompanied by the womens chanting song only lit by a fire.
This place is adventure in it’s purest form; out of this world, never seen, never tried, a first.