Monday, March 8, 2021

Botswana hotel second ‘most extraordinary’ in world

Planet Baobab, an “Afro-funk-d├®cor” cultural village in Gweta which at this point doesn’t have a single Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) star, has been voted the second “most extraordinary hotel in the world” by Lonely Planet and featured on CNN International.

An international travel publisher of note, Lonely Planet is owned by BBC Worldwide and its guides are published in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. The most extraordinary hotel on the Lonely Planet is the Mihir Garh in India and the only other hospitality establishment in Africa featured on the list is Thonga Beach Lodge in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa.

Listed as a cultural village on the BTO website, the 14-bed, 14-roomed Planet Baobab is a modern-meets-traditional hospitality establishment located on Makgadikgadi Pans, the world’s largest network of salt pans.

This is how the cultural village describes itself online: “The accommodation at Planet Baobab is truly original, reflecting the traditional building methods of the original inhabitants of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana. You can choose between a traditional Bakalanga hut, built from mud, and a traditional grass hut, made in the way the Bushmen used to. Because both these types of huts at Planet Baobab are made from natural materials indigenous to the Makgadikgadi area in Botswana, they are perfectly temperature-controlled without the need for air-conditioners. The Bakalanga mud huts are en suite and equipped with linen. The interiors of these huts reflect what Planet Baobab is about: true creativity. The walls are smeared with cow-dung in traditional Botswana style, and adorned with art made with natural pigments found in the many termite mounds in the area.”

One James Bainbridge stayed at Planet Baobab on a two-night side-trip from the Okavango Delta and was overwhelmed by the experience.

“Seeing lions in that bleached-out landscape was certainly memorable and I loved the lodge’s Afro-funk d├®cor,” CNN quotes him as saying.

In a press statement, LonelyPlanet.com editorial director, Tom Hall, says that the collection of winning hospitality establishments is “one-of-a-kind, carefully curated by the most well-travelled people on Earth. Our authors provide their honest opinion and never take freebies in exchange for positive coverage, so you can trust our reviews.”

On another less inspiring note, while Planet Baobab is a Botswana-domiciled operation, it is essentially South African. This means that both winners on the Lonely Planet list are South African-owned. While the BTO website contains Botswana telephone numbers, the village’s own website lists a South African number and provides an “Afrikaans” link that part-yields the following if you click on it: “Baie unieke en bekostigbare luukse lodge op Makgadigadi-panne by Gweta in Botswana.”

Translation: “Very unique and affordable luxury lodge on Makgadigadi Pans at Gweta in Botswana.”

Planet Baobab is part of Temba Safaris, a South African empire that was founded in 1988 by Andries Erwee “due to his love for Africa and young people.” Headquartered in Somerset West, a town in the Western Cape, the company operates hospitality establishments in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. In Botswana it operates under the name Sabaki Safaris.

The thumbs-up from a travel publisher associated with BBC and mention in yet another major international news channel means that Planet Baobab is about to reap its richest rewards ever.

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