Red Sands Country Lodge is a tranquil and blissful place to stay whether you are here on holiday, on business, just passing by or wanting to break away.
Because it is nicely located between Kuruman and Kathu, it offers an excellent stopover point for travellers heading to Namibia, other Northern Cape towns, the West Coast or the Kgalagadi National Park.
It’s a chilled Tuesday mid-morning when I sit down with owner and manager Richard Kaufmann (36) with sounds of birds adding to the peace, quiet and bliss.
Red Sands is situated in a 1,800 ha private nature reserve with 17 different game species. Guests are welcome to explore the reserve with their own vehicle or discover the bush trails on foot or by mountain bike. It is a bird watcher’s paradise with over 50 different species identified on the property.
The lodge offers a choice between thatch rondavels, self-catering chalets, or camping sites. There are 32 units, accommodating up to 68 people.
‘We live on the property’
I wonder what it takes to run and manage a place such as this.
Richard tells me that he lives, breathes, and sleeps Red Sands. His family lives on the property and his children are homeschooled here and one day they will probably take over the reins from him, just like he took over from his parents.
Richard is also a member of the Cadwallader Farm, which is a separate entity.
“My mom and dad used to own the place and they did everything under Cadwallader. When I took over to ease finances and to separate roles, really, I decided to open my own business and take over the lodge as a going concern. So, the lodge pays the main farm rental. I pay the landlord, which is Cadwallader, a monthly rental fee, which is how my parents get their pension.”
Richard adds: “I took over in 2016, but I have been here since 2006. I was here for 10 years before I decided … before then I was in Cape Town working at the Cape Milder Hotel in Tamboerskloof. I did my training in Cape Town.”
When is your busiest time?
“It varies. We have different seasons. We are quite blessed that when one season ends another one picks up. Monday to Friday it’s corporate clientele, which is the mining industry. And on weekends it’s travellers and businesspeople and just some locals who want to break away. From March to April we get a lot of campers, a lot of caravanners; a lot of people travelling from Joburg to Kgalagadi or Namibia or to the Richtersveld or to the Orange River … that kind of stuff.
“So, we are a nice half-way stop. From Johannesburg to here by us it’s about 600km, and from us to Kgalagadi it’s 600km. For tourists, we are a stopover. But business guests stay for up to four or five business nights. We run an occupancy of about 80% throughout the year, which is very high.”
The lodge offers a thatched reception, pool bar, wedding hall and restaurant building with a continental a-la-carte restaurant, serving some of the best food in the area.
It caters for conferences and it’s a popular venue for all sorts of functions. It also boasts a swimming pool to cool off on those hot Kalahari summer days. Red Sands employs 42 permanent staff and about six on a contractual basis.
Red Sands employs 42 permanent staff and about six on a contractual basis.
Richard says it’s difficult to single out what would be a memorable experience of managing the lodge because he has been here since its inception. So, I ask, what keeps him going then.
He says what keeps him going is that he is not limited to someone else’s directive every day.
“What keeps me going is my own drive. I can do what I like and build what I want to, when I want to. I can change things.”
And at this point, I give him a high-five, literally.
He adds: “Because the days of working for an employer are gone. There is much more responsibility on me. When you are an employer yourself, you have so much freedom in your own business. And yes, you will make mistakes and you will learn by those mistakes. But you are not stifled by someone micromanaging you. I can work 16 hours a day without looking at my watch the whole time and being concerned about what time I’m going home, what time I am eating … In my case, I even forget to eat because I am so busy running around.
“I have challenges, I have things I need to do. I have hopes for the future. I have ideas. I am busy developing a petrol station next to the road, on the N14, just a few kilometres from here. And it’s two years that I have been busy with the planning. It’s in the finalisation stages.
“It’s entrepreneurial work. It’s better to go into something young and master it than to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you want to do in life. Our circumstances allow us to school our children on the farm. We have this environment. It’s an environment where they are constantly learning. I am pulling them in and showing them how to cook, and how to count money and all that kind of stuff. They apply on a daily basis what they learn on the textbook.”
The father of three continues: “I went to school, I went to college and I hit the real world and no one told me what Sars (South African Revenue Services) was. And Sars affects every employer and every employee. As an employer, no one teaches you about the taxman and the obligations you have towards tax. You must pay vat and income tax and so forth. And how you do it to get a grasp of such a thing … there is no subject at any level of schooling that teaches you that.
“So, we need subjects like that because it’s going to help more South Africans instead of living in fear of if they are doing it wrong or right. So, we teach our children how to apply that knowledge. The world is changing so fast. The stuff that’s in the textbooks from 20 years ago is outdated because of the Internet. You can read up on something on Wikipedia and have a good general knowledge of it.”
Richards says they have a child who is interested in the lodge and the other who is interested in animals.
“So, we have a petting zoo that we are starting. We have a pig, a horse, goats, sheep and springbok. She feeds them every morning and afternoon and she walks the horse. She learns when an animal is pregnant and how long it takes, she learns their diet. That is already such practical learning that most city children have to pay money to go and participate in. Whereas for us here (Kuruman) it’s part of life.”
‘Hospitality is a lifestyle’
Richard reiterates that for him, it’s more than just managing or running the establishment, Red Sands is an integral part of their lives.
“We live on the property. Hospitality is a lifestyle. It’s not …”
And we say it together: “It’s not a job.”
He continues: “When people come to me and ask for a job, I ask them what it is that they do. And when they say they just want a job, I tell them: no, I’m sorry, I don’t have any work for you. Because it means that they are looking at it from the wrong perspective. You should not work to live. You should work to live in that sense. If you do what you love, whatever your job is you will enjoy it. You will have your trials and tribulations, we all do. We all have tough times. Some people are artists, some are dancers, and some are bookkeepers. So, for me, I was born into hospitality and I have known it my whole life.”
All Red Sands Country Lodge photos provided by the establishment.