A Journey into the Heart of the Kalahari

Having just returned from a long-awaited visit to Twsalu in South Africa, I wanted to share my observations with you.

Tswalu is a brand that goes hand in hand with commitment to conservation. Their efforts and initiatives are industry-leading. When a property combines this admirable ethos with first-class accommodation, activities and dining, this is something I feel is worth writing about. 

Spread over a vast expanse of South Africa’s Kalahari desert, Tswalu offers an experience different from any other in South Africa. Here you can expect a balance of luxury and wilderness; a serene and unique escape miles away from other lodges and camps.

Time at Tswalu is not just about traditional game viewing, although there’s plenty of that on offer; it’s an exploration into the Kalahari’s landscapes, culture and wildlife. With its meticulous design, top-notch hospitality and overriding conservation ethos, I believe Tswalu stands out as one of South Africa’s premier destinations.

Tswalu Loapi

WILDLIFE & CONSERVATION

Tswalu Kalahari is the largest privately protected conservation area in South Africa. It’s located on the southernmost edge of the Kalahari, where it transitions into arid savannah. 

The reserve is heavily involved in conservation work, with extensive land acquisition to protect and restore the Kalahari’s natural habitat. Tswalu’s ethos revolves around sustainability and ecological balance, providing a safe haven for various species. The on-site veterinary clinic further emphasizes their commitment to wildlife care. You can read more about their efforts here.

The Kalahari’s unique ecosystem makes it a complementary experience to traditional safaris; game viewing includes sightings of black-maned Kalahari lions, black rhino, meerkats, porcupines, cheetah, aardvarks, wild dogs, and, if you’re very lucky, pangolins.

Accommodation Tswalu

ACCOMMODATION

There are three different properties at Tswalu: Loapi, Motse and Tarkuni, each with its own distinct feel. 

We stayed at the recently-opened Loapi, which I consider to be one of the most beautiful lodges on the continent. The concept of Loapi is unique. It has six tents that function as stand alone units to maximise privacy. There is no central area in the camp. Each luxury ‘tent’ comes with its own private butler and chef, as well as outdoor plunge pools.

Interiors, designed by Gregory Mellor, are exceptional. They manage to combine warmth and homeliness with an incredibly high-end contemporary elegance. Calming silence is everywhere, creating a sense of peace and allowing you to enjoy the vast wilderness of your environment; impressive views look out over valleys and rolling hills. With one and two-bedroom tents, the latter are very family-friendly, with no additional charge for children under 12.

ACTIVITIES

Experiences range from photography-led safaris and rock art excursions to bush walks and time with meerkats. A Junior Ranger program will appeal to those with children. We enjoyed riding, where we rode on well-trained, former racing horses. This is a wonderful way to explore the landscape, providing a different perspective from on safari.

An offering we were lucky to experience during our time was the sleep-out at Malori. About an hour’s drive from Loapi, the set-up includes a rustic yet comfortable tent with an outdoor bathroom and wooden deck. The stay offers stunning views of the valley, perfect for watching sunsets and stargazing under the crystal-clear Milky Way. Guests can choose to have staff present or enjoy complete solitude.

Dining at Tswalu

DINING

A highlight of Tswalu is the stand-alone Klein Jan restaurant, housed in the oldest building on the land. Curated by the only South African chef to hold a Michelin-star, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, this fine-dining restaurant is a celebration of Kalahari culture and Afrikaans cuisine, interpreted in a sophisticated, multi-course format. A one-of-a-kind dining experience, the ambience is exceptional; warm, cosy and relaxed, which all adds to the charm. The journey within the restaurant is an experience in itself, with various stops along the way enhancing the dining narrative.

Sunset at Kalahari

Image credits: Thank you to Tswalu Kalahari.

If this has inspired you to learn more about Tswalu, please get in touch. I’d love to share my time there with you in more detail. Please email me at [email protected] and I’ll get back to you.