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Tswalu Kalahari: Top Eco-Lodge

A Breathtaking Winter Getaway at One of the World’s Top Eco-Lodges
Tswalu Kalahari is a luxury private game reserve, and one of three South African lodges included on the latest National Geographic Adventure magazine list of 50 top eco-lodges, which means it is among the top environmentally friendly tourism destinations in the world…

What is an Eco-Lodge?
According to the Ecotravel Center, an “eco-lodge” focuses strongly on a greener way of operating, including the support of local communities and the creation of far-reaching conservation initiatives. An eco-lodge always offers a firm emphasis on adventure where guests can expect dazzling locations and unsurpassed service and comfort as well.

A good eco-lodge should engage in responsible practices such as paying respect to local traditions by incorporating cultural elements into the design and décor, disrupting the natural environment as little as possible and using local plant life as much as possible, sourcing food from local farmers, using recycled or recyclable materials in building and bridging cultural gaps by promoting cultural exchanges.

The Tswalu Kalahari is situated in the heart of the Northern Cape Province, 300 kilometres north-west of Kimberley. Johannesburg lies 560 kilometres to the east and Cape Town 850 kilometres to the south.  Tswalu is owned by the Oppenheimer family, whose passion for conservation has led them to a single goal: to restore the Kalahari.

This award-winning lodge offers a superb safari experience, but its primary aim is conservation and socio-economic development in the region. Its architectural designs minimise water and energy usage while extensive use of solar energy and everyday waste recycling substantially reduce the impact on the environment.

Tswalu is committed to restoring and preserving the natural environment and ecological processes that are unique to the Kalahari ecosystems, thereby providing a sanctuary for endangered species such as the African wild dog. Tswalu is involved in many conservation projects, such as a study of the mammals in the reserve and identification of their ecological roles, research into predator-prey relationships of the Kalahari lion in the reserve, a determination of the density of black rhino in Tswalu, the development of a Tswalu spider database and mapping the breeding success of raptors in the reserve, to name but a few.

Winter is an ideal time to visit Tswalu. The dryness of winter brings more sightings of the smaller, rarer mammals. Shy, nocturnal creatures such as aardvark, aardwolf and pangolin emerge in daylight in winter. Additionally, the clear evenings of winter offer the best stargazing spectacle under the Kalahari’s breathtaking “diamond skies”.

Twalu’s main lodge area, called the Motse, nestles at the foot of the Korannaberg Mountains, facing westwards across the grasslands of the Kalahari. Motse means “village” in Tswana and this village consists of just eight spacious and secluded “legae” (another Tswana word, for “little house”) or suites.

These legaes are built of local stone, rich red clay and traditional Kalahari thatch. Recently redesigned by world-renowned Boyd Ferguson, the suites define an elegant, barefoot luxury. Each suite comprises a spacious bedroom with an open fire, a sumptuous en-suite bathroom with both indoor and outdoor shower and a large dressing and study area. The private sun deck overlooks a waterhole and the changing Kalahari animals it attracts.

Set amidst two rolling mountain ranges, Tarkuni is the Oppenheimer family’s own personal home at Tswalu and the ultimate private sanctuary. Tarkuni is an exceptional choice for families or groups of great friends. Its five luxurious suites, accommodate a maximum of 10 guests.

Tarkuni creates an oasis of serenity in the desert. The home has its own dedicated team including a host and private chef to ensure a completely personal service. A private vehicle, personal field guide and tracker ensure an equally custom-designed safari experience.

Tswalu Kalahari Spa
Tswalu Kalahari Spa is a combination of sensual spaces, which combine to create an inspirational venue for what must be one of the most unusual spa experiences in Africa. Designed to enhance the natural beauty of the Kalahari and take advantage of the superb climate, the outdoor treatment area is within an indigenous spa garden where guests may find the occasional antelope grazing alongside them and be lulled into a deep state of relaxation by the sound of birdsong.

Tswalu Cuisine
The Executive Chef, Theresa Fehrsen, has a style, which defines modern South African cuisine. Tswalu is proud to be a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux and to meet its exacting standards. But here you will enjoy food you will never see anywhere else in the world.

With an emphasis on the qualities of individual ingredients, Theresa creates new interpretations of classic South African dishes such as chakalaka or koeksisters. Elsewhere inspiration comes directly from the Kalahari and treasures such as the rare Kalahari truffle. Sometimes local colour creates a simple accent, such as a hollandaise made with inkomasi, the traditional buttermilk of the Tswana.

As menus change, so do the venues. Sundowners are followed by dune dinners and spectacular sunsets. Tswalu’s Kalahari Feast is a modern reworking of the traditional “boma” braai. Breakfasts take place with panoramic views of the waterhole where the Southern Pride of black-maned lions may also start their day. At any time, guests can choose a romantic supper in the privacy of their own deck, with a vintage wine and a telescope to gaze at a thousand stars.

As you may imagine, a stay at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is not cheap, with rates at about R7700 per person per night.  However, the rate includes all meals, drinks, game drives, and game walks  And a guest can feel good that their money is mot only making a contribution to the conservation of the Kalahari, but also has created only a minimal “carbon footprint” on the earth.

By Debbie Banda

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