Tswalu: Kalahari Safari
Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Recapping my once-in-a-lifetime safari at Tswalu Kalahari, a private wildlife reserve in the Northern Cape of South Africa.
This South African safari is important for me as a memory - as you can see in the gallery photos below, Tswalu Kalahari is the most beautiful location (literally, it was named one of the top wildlife reserves in the world by National Geographic), and this trip took place exactly one year ago - we landed back in the United States just a few days before borders, and our lives, effectively shut down.
Tswalu Kalahari is located in the Northern Cape of South Africa, and to access the remote destination, we had to fly first from Atlanta, Georgia to Johannesburg, South Africa (the longest flight that Delta Air Lines runs), where we spent the night before waking up the next morning at the crack of dawn and flying to Kimberley, South Africa, about a two hour flight, and then renting a car and driving four hours to Tswalu. It's worth noting that there is a private jet flight from Johannesburg to Tswalu if that's in your budget, but...as a student, well, it wasn't. Yes, the transportation may have been a bit of a pain, but when I look at how incredible the trip was, I would have walked 500 miles just to get there.
The moment we arrived at Tswalu, the staff there led us around the reserve, just the lobby in the main resort area (the Motse) itself featured the most luxurious decor I think I've ever seen. We were shown our accommodations, we got two of the nine lagae which featured two massive bedrooms and bathrooms, each with an indoor and an outdoor shower and bathtub, plus beautiful mosquito netting surrounding the beds. I truly had to pinch myself walking through our home for five nights. Just a few steps away was the dining area and swimming pool with a view of a watering hole where, throughout the day, we'd see wildlife getting a drink. There's no way to put into words the beauty that is Tswalu, so I've attached their master video so you can really envision it for yourself.
Our first safari started around 6 a.m., and that would last between 3-4 hours. Our personal safari guides would ask us each day what wildlife we wanted to see - and these are the best guides in the world. It was fascinating to see how they could track lions, antelope, even the ever-elusive black rhino (which I somehow spotted - I'm putting that on my resume) with just a small mark on the sand. Then we'd go back to the Motse for a few hours, maybe take a little nap or have some lunch, and then head back out around 1 p.m. for a few hours. We returned for another quick rest and then we were out again for the night drive around 8 p.m., so it's safe to say there wasn't much sleep over those five days, but it wasn't necessary!
Activities included a sunset horseback ride, a stunning dinner under the stars, education about their conservation efforts, an afternoon playing with meerkats, wine and snacks at dusk every night in the middle of the Kalahari, and so much more. The moments with the wildlife, like with a lioness and her cubs, hearing a lion roar just a few feet from me, zebra, giraffe, even seeing a pack of wild dogs (very rare) making a kill, which, albeit, was sad, but also a beautiful moment of closeness to how the animal kingdom truly works. I'll never forget a hilarious moment when our guide, Mauritz, was pointing out the wild dogs, and I had heard "wild ducks" and thought I was looking for some ducks. That ended up being a recurring joke the entire trip, amongst other hilarious and unforgettable moments.
We've still maintained close friendships with our safari guides, and with many of the staff members at Tswalu Kalahari. A trip to the reserve is definitely a luxury, but it's worth it in every way to get away to a remote area where looking at wildlife, learning about conservation efforts in the Kalahari, and gawking at the animal kingdom becomes far more important than staring at your cell phone or thinking of any work you have back home.
If you want to learn more about the trip, my good friend Brandi Cyrus (who also traveled to South Africa) and I recorded a podcast about the experience.
Disclaimer: This trip to Tswalu Kalahari was sponsored, meaning we stayed at the resort for a cheaper rate in exchange for rights to our photography. All photos were taken by Rachel L'Antigua Photography.