Last weekend the Iconic Africa team was treated to an exclusive weekend at Tswalu. And wow… was it incredible! Definitely a destination for the bucket-list and one that will never be forgotten!
From the minute we were collected from the airport and taken to the incredible Fireblade Aviation airport hangar/luxurious waiting area we felt like kings. The hangar was complete not only with all the refreshments one could imagine but also filled with contemporary art pieces, a spa, resting room, conference room – the works! Nettie the manager and Lyton (our personal butler) made sure we were very well looked after while waiting to board the charter flight to Tswalu.
The charter flight was pleasant and quick, in fact, in just over an hour we had touched down and and were standing on the bright red sand with the magic of the Kalahari unfolding around us. Immediately your breath is taken away as the vast extent of land and space is truly overwhelming.
Tswalu is 100,000 ha (240,000 acres) of pristine Kalahari wilderness. Owned by the Oppenheimer family, this is the largest private game reserve in southern Africa and bares testament to the family’s commitment to authentic conservation and opulent luxury.
After more refreshments we were whisked off in our open-top safari vehicle to an exquisite viewing point where a lavish lunch and a ice-cold G and T was awaiting us. From the high vantage point of the viewing deck we could not only see the great plains of the Kalahari rolling on but also herds of wildebeest, buffalo, oryx, tsebebe and majestic sable antelope. The colors and shapes make you want to take out your paintbrush and immediately paint the beauty that surrounds you. An epic combination of rolling dunes, silver clusters, camel thorns and long Savannah grasses!
Over a lovely lunch of kudu steaks, chicken kebabs, chakalaka, mealies, fresh salads and a to-die-for amarula milk tart our affable guide Richard, took us through the history and the geography of the reserve. In 1998, after decades of bad farming practice the Oppenheimers took over the reserve and committed to return it to its former beauty and preserve all that grows from and walked on the land – a feat which they must be highly commended on.
We were then taken to our exquisite 5 Star accommodation at Motse Lodge. The lodge rests at the foot of the Korannaberg mountains with views of the Kalahari plains stretching out endlessly to the west. The expansive decking, sumptuous lounge and well-stocked mezzanine library offer spaces for quiet contemplation and reading after a day out in the wild. The large infinity pool is an excellent spot to kick-back and relax in the midday sun while the drama of the Kalahari unfolds all around.
On walking into our suite we felt immediately at home. Open, spacious, inviting and warm,its deep colors reflect the beauty of the unique wilderness outside. The over-sized bed, luscious linen and hearty fireplace most definitely make for an extra-special nights sleep. From robes, to wraps for the pool, torches, safari books, wines and sweet treats they really have thought of everything that you could possibly need. Your private balcony is complete with the perfect stargazing couch , candles, board games and if you are lucky you may even find a bush-buck or nyala grazing on your doorstep.
My absolute highlight was the game drives as although I am well-travelled in Africa I don’t think I have ever seen such incredible game in such a short space of time. The power combination of Richard (guide) and Simpiwe (tracker) was ruthlessly efficient! You literally don’t go longer than a few minutes without seeing something… and seeing lots of it. Numbers are certainly not short in the Kalahari as are animals that are rare or sadly even endangered in other areas.
In just 2 game drives our top ten sightings were the following:
- A cheetah playing with her 3 cubs
- A pack of wild dog tearing up and fighting over the remains of a warthog
- 10 kalahari lion cubs lazing in the midday sun
- An aardvark (very very rare in fact John (Founder of Iconic Africa) is very jealous that I have seen one before him)
- Herds and herds of sable (also very rare)
- Wild dog chasing a jackal
- Bat eared foxes
- Meerkats building their burrow
- Hartmans Mountain Zebra
- Red Hartebeest (also a first for me)
After a chart-topping sunset G and T on a dune and an intriguing lesson the stars we headed back to the lodge for dinner.
Dinner was even better than lunch as the staff had prepared a mouth-watering tasting menu: Pea soup, ratatouille braised kingklip, springbok loin, mushroom risotto and to end off a chai spiced pannacotta. Each course was expertly paired with some of South Africa’s flagship wines. The service was impeccable and intimate with most of the staff having been at the lodge for 15-20 years… Denzil, Wendy and Rachel all had smiles that warm your heart and were a treat to chat to!
Make sure to take some time before you go to bed… to go out onto your private balcony with a glass of wine or a whiskey and take in the wonder that is the African night sky. The milky way, star clusters and endless shooting stars are not to be missed.
We were woken before the sun but to help ease into the day the game vehicle was complete with steaming hot water bottles, big blankets and mocha-choca-rula’s (a delicious coffee, chocolate, amarula combination!) As the sun comes up it warms you from the inside out and it’s food for the soul like no other. We left the reserve very reluctantly feeling both alive and rejuvenated but also sad as we really didn’t want to leave.
A huge thank you to Russel, Jeanine, Courtney , Lindsey, Danie, Rachel, Nicky, Richard, Simpiwe, Danie, Ilze, Wendy, Denzil for treating us to a once-in-a-lifetime weekend at Tswalu.
For more on this divine destination go to www.iconicafrica.com