Tswalu was born two decades ago when and English businessman named Stephen Boler began acquiring cattle farms in a far-flung corner of the southern Kalahari. His ultimate goal was to restore a huge swath of the desert back into a pristine wilderness. When Boler passed away in 1998, the reserve was taken over by the Oppenheimer family who continued the work and today the reserve spans 100 000 hectares, equal to (and I had to look this up) 1,000 square kilometres. This is a vast area; in fact it’s so vast that it’s the largest private game reserve in South Africa.
Now that we have the history lesson out of the way, you probably want to know what Tswalu is like as a place. Well, it turns out that trying to describe the Kalahari in general and Tswalu in particular is very difficult. My attempts at a detailed description quickly get bogged down with unwieldy metaphors and meaningless superlatives. As this article is supposed to sway you to go there, I think you’ll agree–we’re not off to a good start.
So, I’ll try and keep it simple. Simply put, Tswalu is epic. Everything, from the grand scale of the reserve, to the wildlife, to the colour scheme (which is remarkable when you realize it’s essentially just shades of two colours, blue and brown), to the landscape to the conservation initiatives and community program is best described as epic. I could go on but I think you’re getting the idea.
There are two places to stay on the Tswalu reserve—the wonderfully earthy Motse or if you roll like a rock star, the private residence Villa Tarkuni. There’s also lots to keep you busy, as well as game drives, there are walks to do, meerkats to visit, rhino and lion to track (on foot if you’re feeling brave) and horses to ride. What really got me though was the absolute jaw dropping beauty of the place. Seemingly over every rise was a view so stunning and dramatic that your mind goes quiet in wonder as you try and process the scale and beauty of what you’re seeing. All you can do is try and capture it with a photo.
Tswalu is as thoroughly different a safari experience as you can get in South Africa. You don’t come here to check the big five off your list. Do that somewhere else first and then come here. It’s nearly as perfect blend of luxury and experience as I’ve ever seen.
Dan is still bogged down with clichéd superlatives, email him if you’d like to hear him wax poetic about Tswalu.