Motse & Tarkuni Lodges, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, Northern Cape
Did you know?
At 100 000 hectares, Tswalu is the largest private game reserve in South Africa.
The Kalahari desert can be a surprisingly colour-drenched place − there are blue skies, pink and crimson sunsets, and blonde grasses and dunes.
Designer Boyd Ferguson took inspiration from the serene beauty of the surroundings and their bright accents when putting together the graceful interiors of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve’s Motse and Tarkuni lodges.
The Oppenheimer family, which owns Tswalu, defines the feel as 'barefoot luxury', at once contemporary and timeless.
Motse (which means 'village' in the local language, Tswana) shelters in the lap of the Korannaberg mountains, overlooking a sweep of grassy savannah.
There are eight 'legaes' ('homes' in Pedi), built with thick thatch, local stone and red earth. Each has an open fireplace, a luxurious en-suite bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers, a large dressing area, study and broadband Wi-Fi access. They are private and gorgeous.
Up at the main house, you’ll find an infinity pool with views to a distant horizon. Mercifully cool in summer, it is heated in winter. There is a museum of intriguing artefacts, elevated decks, a library with satellite TV and a gym with an exquisite spa.
Tarkuni is the Oppenheimers' private home when they are at Tswalu. When they are not, it is perfect for large families or groups of five couples. Set between two parallel mountain ranges, Tarkuni epitomises the height of luxury and comfort, with its own host and private chef. You’ll also have your own game-drive vehicle, field guide and tracker for an exclusive wildlife experience.
Every room (each en-suite) also has a separate shady 'sala' (shaded area) for relaxation and contemplation. There is also a pool.
But this only begins to convey the magic of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve’s Motse and Tarkuni lodges. The Oppenheimer family is passionate about conservation in general and the Kalahari in particular, and have devised dozens of ways for you to enjoy it, too.
These include horseback game-viewing; black rhino tracking; a meerkat bonding experience; gourmet picnics in the bush; a special trip to look for the elusive rare pangolin and aardvark; a private five-course meal on your own deck; and an excursion to see ancient rock art.
That’s apart from the normal game drives where you can see black-maned lions, wild dogs, cheetahs, and other rare animals like tsessebe, sable and roan antelope, and Hartmann’s mountain zebra.
Whatever else you do, take time to lie on your back and look at the stars. There are very few other places in the world where you’ll see such a bright sky.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)53 781 9331
How to get here
Tswalu offers daily flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town. There are also scheduled SA Airlink and SA Express flights to Upington and Kimberley. Tswalu can organise charter flights from either of these destinations, or you could hire a car.
The Tswalu website has detailed directions for those coming from either Johannesburg, Upington or Kimberley.
Best time to visit
Each season has its magic. Spring (September to October) sees the first rains, flowers and wildlife babies. Summer (November to March) greens the desert with occasional afternoon storms, which are often dramatic. Autumn (April and May) is one of the most beautiful seasons, still very green but with cooling temperatures. In winter, you stand the best chance of seeing unusual nocturnal animals like pangolin and aardvark.
Tours to do
You could book a hot air balloon ride over Tswalu, if you'd like. You could also visit a local community health centre and school.
By vehicle, by foot, on horseback and even by donkey cart if you wish.
What will it cost
Rates are approximately R8 000 per person per night sharing.
Length of stay
Three nights or more would be ideal. There is so much to do and see.
Where to stay
Motse is perfect for couples (and there are two legae for families). Tarkuni is great for large families or groups of friends.
What to eat
Tswalu's cuisine is exceptional, featuring local tastes and produce (the rare Kalahari truffle, when available). The wine cellar is world-class.
Ask about the Malori luxury sleep-out experience under the stars.
London jeweller Roger Doyle was so inspired by Tswalu that he created a special range of gold and silver pendants and brooches.