You might think that after hundreds of safaris, the bush would be a little less thrilling for Absolute Travel’s Daniela Bonanno. Not the case. On the prowl for her homeland’s unmissable experiences, our hip Capetonian left her favorite city behind, her family in tow, to find out for herself the big deal behind Tswalu Private Game Reserve. Learn why it has soared to rank amongst her top five African experiences – ever. We will give you a few clues: Meerkats, San Bushmen, and Bono.
Living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Capetown!) is already a huge privilege, but having easy access to remote places like the Kalahari Desert is a major plus. So last week I decided to take my little family on an(other) impromptu adventure, this time to Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve. Tswalu is renowned in the conservation world, recently commended by The Economist for its wildlife conservation practices. “Our aim is to restore the Kalahari to itself” says Tswalu’s owner, Nicky Oppenheimer. Trust me–you don’t want to miss it.
Plus, getting there is simple. After a short drive to the ExecuJet Lounge at Capetown airport, we were quickly escorted to our two-hour scenic flight over the Kalahari Desert. Already an excellent start; our two-year-old daughter Vesper’s eyes were glued on the wilderness below from takeoff to landing. Before we knew it we were being welcomed by Adrian our ranger and David our tracker with cold ice tea and a big smile! This was easily the most stress-free way to get to the bush I have ever experienced in all my 100+ trips.
As we hopped in our open-air vehicle for the 25 minute drive to Motse Lodge, we were reminded of the San Bushmen who have called the land home for centuries. Everywhere we looked were sightings of Oryx, Tsessebe and Giraffe. We knew we were in for a treat, but we had no clue just how mesmerized by Tswalu we would become. Black-Maned Kalahari Lions, check. The elusive Aardvark, check. Aardwolfs, check. Harmann’s Mountain Zebra, Cape Cobra, Giant Ground Gecko, Eastern Clapper Lark, Orange River Francolin, Cape Fox, check, check, check. A wildlife enthusiast’s dream.
As if that was not enough, the days at Tswalu were filled with incredible sunsets, horseback safaris, dune dinners, late night drives, and the ultimate Kalahari experience: private time with a colony of Meerkats! We had the rare opportunity to have an undisturbed glimpse at their kingdom. The look on Vesper’s face throughout that experience was reason enough to go back. The conservation and research efforts at Tswalu mean that Tswalu’s meerkat colonies are unaffected by close encounters, allowing guests an extraordinary opportunity to witness their charming up close and personal. Amazing!
As if the natural world at Tswalu is not enough, let me add a touch of glamour to the whole picture: Tswalu is where famed photographer Annie Leibovitz photographed U2 lead-singer Bono and his wife, Ali, for the Louis Vuitton Core Values Campaign. Have I said enough!?
Tswalu has now made my Top Five List of favorite places in Southern Africa. It’s a brilliant destination for children and the whole family, but also creates the perfect luxury safari or romantic safari honeymoon. If my experience at Tswalu sparked your interest, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Find more photos from our adventure on Absolute Travel’s Facebook page!