Harland’s Tswalu Kalahari Experience

In the last three years, my wife and I have travelled tens of thousands of kilometres in southern Africa. These travels have included Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Driving east out of Namibia about a year ago, we enjoyed a five nights’ stay at South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve. We have stayed at over a dozen safari destinations, and Tswalu is our favourite. Covering over 1,100 km2of spectacular grasslands and mountains, this is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. Not only that, but it is a game reserve truly passionate about and committed to conservation.

Imagine . . . that entire expanse, yet a maximum of only 30 guests is accommodated at any given time.  Talk about exclusivity!

Accommodation is provided at the Motse, (meaning “village” in Tswana language), and at Tarkuni, a homestead that accommodates 2 to 10 people. We stayed at the Motse which comprises a handful of secluded legae, (Setswana for “home”), situated at the bottom of the Korannaberg Mountain.

Constructed from local sand, clay and stone, each capacious, thatched-roofed legae has an open fireplace, en-suite bathroom, indoor and outdoor showers, a separate dressing area, and a spacious reading area. All of this is complemented by luxury fittings and furnishings. Legae amenities include WIFI, direct telephone and air conditioning and well-stocked refrigerator. A covered outdoor deck provides a view of the nearby waterhole.

The main lodge facilities include a walk-in wine cellar―with award-winning wines―a boma, heated outdoor infinity pool, spa, gym, and a loft library with satellite TV.  We thought it was perfect, so you can imagine our surprise when we received an email from Tswalu a few weeks ago announcing that the Motse is closed for several months for extensive renovations!

The day we arrived, we went on our first game drive. In no time at all, we came upon two magnificent cheetahs—brothers. On day 2, we were delighted to find black rhino, the only one of the Big 5 we had not yet seen anywhere else. (Although we had seen plenty of white rhino in previous safaris, only the black rhino qualifies for the Big 5.) Later that day our guide and tracker, (Nelson and Ari), worked hard and finally found a pride of 11 lions.

Dinner was beautifully set up in the boma, but the real surprise was a spirited and fun-filled presentation by the local children’s choir and dancers. The performance and the setting were absolutely transfixing!  All of this—and it was still only our second day.

On Day 3 we were up at 5AM and out before 6AM, as usual. This was to be the day of the wild dogs—and they eluded us until the end of the day.  Our last day was filled with sightings of all kinds of wildlife, from a mob of meerkats (about 20 of them), to a hyena running with a black-backed jackal in its jaws.

The dining facilities and all of the meals were excellent. One of the unique features we enjoyed was that there are no set meal times. We could eat whenever we wanted. Sandwiches and snacks were available all day, and of course there was a lavish afternoon tea!  Even more special was the fact that, although the lodge had a four day menu rota, on our fifth day, instead of reverting to the Day 1 roster, we were offered our choice of anything we wanted.  Having enjoyed four days of sumptuous meals, I chose simply chicken with mashed potatoes and veg.  That too was perfectly cooked and served with the same flare to which we had become accustomed at Motse.

We enjoyed and appreciated the impeccable service throughout our stay and became friends with not only our wonderfully skilled guide and brilliant tracker, but also the caring and attentive managers; not to mention my good friend, Freddie the server, who never let my wine glass run dry! Many of the previous lodges we visited had efficient, friendly managers and staff— but Tswalu takes the biscuit! Everyone was genuinely friendly, efficient and patient, without the slightest hint of obsequiousness.

They made us feel . . . at home!

We recently heard that South Africa’s first Michelin-star chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen is coming home, and KLEIN JAN will be opening at Tswalu! This, together with the renovations at Motse may very well have us returning for another visit in the near future.

Special thanks to Tswalu Kalahari Reserve for the use of some of their pictures