Located about 100km south of Gaborone, the Big Valley Game Lodge is a new(ish) lodge near the capitol city which aims to offer visitors a scenic, relaxing bush experience not too far from home (for those who live in Gaborone).
A short 1.5 hour drive from Gaborone, past the town of Lobatse and you can't miss the massive sign on the left-hand side of the road indicating the turn-off to the lodge. Another 7km along a dirt road (reachable by a sedan, although not recommended as there are some slightly rocky sections which may damage your low vehicle if you go fast), cross the railway line and you come across a couple of gates before the main reception area greets you. The reception, restaurant and pool section are all on the same spot, and what a spot it is. A massive ledge was made overlooking the valley below and you can sit by the clear blue pool having lunch or a drink with a great view onto the valley, the waterhole and campsite.
Away from the pool area are the chalets, all overlooking the valley as well. The road past the chalets leads down past the campsite and to the water hole, which has a small island in the middle which can be reached by pedal boats. Apparently the plan is to have a bar on the island as well.
The lodge boundary encompasses a variety of game as well, from warthog (of which we saw a couple on the drive in) to zebra, giraffe and antelope. There are game vehicles to hire out for game drives to see the animals around the lodge. Guests cannot go on self-drives however.
Our day-visit was rather short and not all that enjoyable. It was pleasant enough but one would be forgiven to think they hadn't even opened yet, as there was still work being done around the kitchen, there were trucks passing by and the kitchen/bar options were very limited. We sat outside by the pool under a shady thatch roof and admired the view of the valley. There was one other group of 4-5 people who came to relax by the pool for the afternoon. The waitress/hostess was friendly and informative but the overall service was poor. We were told that for lunch there was only chicken and steak, there was no beer (even though no one asked), cold drinks (Coke, Fanta etc.) were only served along with lunch and coffee was brought in a "DIY" manner - a tray with a saucer of coffee grains, a saucer of sugar, hot water, milk and two teaspoons...
The lunch itself wasn't too bad, although it took too long to prepare, considering the two of us were the only ones that ordered anything to eat. It was pricey too - P150 (+/- $15) for a small piece of chicken, a few fries and a salad, which doesn't include the Coke and Fanta, which are charged extra...yet you can't order them without ordering the lunch?
An entrance fee of P100 (+/- $10) is charged per person as well and for that you can basically just sit by the pool as everything else is charged extra. Game drives cost around P250 (+/- $25) per person (if I recall correctly), but we were hoping to go for a self-drive, which isn't allowed. Pedal-boat rides are P350 (+/- $35) (if I recall correctly), but a ride around the small water hole in the midday sun didn't seem that appealing. While sitting around the pool we noticed a large crack in the concrete pavement between the one side of the pool and the wooden fence at the edge of the ledge. This didn't seem all that safe nor pleasant to look at, especially considering the lodge is only about two years old.
One more group of young people came up from the campsite a short while later to hang out by the pool. It turned into a mix-music party at this point, as the kitchen radio was blaring music, the first group of visitors had their car radio going (with all doors open) and the group from the campsite played completely different music (but equally as loud) from their car (with all doors open). Subsequently we paid our hefty bill, thanked the waitress for her friendliness and made our way back home.
Friends of ours had been before to the Big Valley Game Lodge for weekend visits and they raved on and on about it. I can see why though, as the lodge does have the potential, and if you come with a group of people and stay at the chalets, go for the game drives and have outdoor barbecues, then I'm sure it could be a great experience. This was not the case during our short, day-visit. Regardless of how long we stayed, the overall service of the lodge did leave quite a bit to be desired. Perhaps with time, more effort on part of the managing team and perseverance, the Big Valley Game Lodge may reach it's full potential yet and we hope to come back then and have a more enjoyable experience.
There doesn't seem to be a website for the lodge, (or it's hard to find on Google) but there is a Facebook page that you can check out and get their contact details from.
"We are a young, married, Botswana-based couple with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"