Dynasties of the Makgadikgadi

Author Pru Allison
Date December 30, 2020

Those based in the UK or China are likely to have seen Dynasties, the new documentary series from the BBC, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Meerkat: A Dynasties Special. The film follows the trials and tribulations faced by queen meerkat Maghogho as she tries to secure her mob’s future and her own dynasty in one of the world’s harshest environments.

Anyone who’s stayed at one of our Makgadikgadi camps will instantly recognise this inimitable landscape, and will almost certainly have their own photos with the lovable meerkats, not to mention their own tales to tell. If you missed the show, you can catch up here on BBC iPlayer if you’re in the UK. ttps://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000qqv5/dynasties-meerkat-a-dynasties-special

Previous Makgadikgadi visitors may well recognise guides Villa and Greg who feature in the documentary.

The Makgadikgadi meerkats were an easy choice for documentary makers in search of a mob of the tiny carnivores to follow. These meerkats are completely wild, and aren’t even collared, but they are habituated to humans. This was originally done to allow them to be researched, but once the studies were completely, we kept them used to the presence of people by assigning meerkat men to the mobs. These men spend their days following the meerkats as they go about their business, ensuring that the babies never fear humans and keeping the adults used to people being around. This habituation also allows our guests to enjoy unforgettable interactions with the little characters, who’ll scamper happily around their feet, and sometimes even go so far as to hop atop an obliging head in order to get a really good view of the land around them.

Maghogho and her mob might be the dynasty that all eyes are currently fixed upon, but the camps in this lunar abyss are also a legendary legacy. The Makgadikgadi extends to one million acres, and we have just three camps in it – all of which are part of the Uncharted Africa family.

In the 1960s legendary explorer Jack Bousfield set out on a trapping expedition through the Pans, and he came to a spot that so captured his imagination that he immediately decided to set up a camp there, with a steadfast belief that others would want to visit. And they did, but it was as much to see Jack himself as the place. This enigmatic place was Jack’s home, and the very first Jack’s Camp. Here he raised his son Ralph, who was entirely at home amongst the bushmen who’ve lived in the area for generations.

In 1992, Jack sadly died in a plane crash, and Ralph and his wife Catherine set up in Uncharted Africa Safari Company in honour of his father’s vision. Kitted out in 1940s campaign style, the camp became as much of a legend as its namesake. A more feminine counterpart was established – San Camp, which is now known as the most romantic camp in Africa, and Camp Kalahari became the Pans’ brilliantly family friendly offering. A brand new Jack’s Camp is about to be launched in January 2021, bigger and better than ever before, but with lashing of its famous atmosphere and style.

Nowadays, guests who come to experience the famous ‘real adventure in unreal style’ that Uncharted Africa serves up, and of course, meet the meerkats, might just spot Ralph out and about with his own son, who’s also named Jack. The Bousfield dynasty reflects that of the meerkats and is also inextricably linked to the mysterious and beautiful Makgadikgadi Pans.

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