Tswalu Kalahari, owned by the Oppenheimer family of Anglo American fame, is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. Located in the Northern Cape at the foot of the Korannaberg mountains, it covers over 100,000 hectares of Kalahari wilderness. There are only two lodges on the reserve – the Motse and Tarkuni.
Each provides the ultimate in barefoot luxury. The Motse – Tswana for ‘village’ – consists of 8 individual stone-walled, thatched legae (small houses or suites), while Tarkuni is a private villa set amid rolling hills, offering the ultimate in luxury and personalized service for families and small groups of up to ten guests. The quaint bush suite, the Malori deck, is a raised platform with a thatched overhang for protection should it rain.
Tswalu is driven by two ambitions: to create 1) an inspirational experience for its guests and 2) a conservation vision to restore the Kalahari. This vast area is a haven for many endangered and rare species. Conservation, socioeconomic development, tourism, and responsible environmental management are the four legs upon which Tswalu has been developed. To fund this vision, the Tswalu Foundation was started in 2008.
Home to some 70 species of mammals and over 230 species of birds, Tswalu has embarked on a program to breed certain rare species for distribution to other game ranches and reserves and to establish viable wild populations as a contribution to ensuring their survival.
Eight adult desert black rhino were translocated from Etosha National Park in Namibia to Tswalu in 1995. They adapted to their new home and were monitored regularly by the Tswalu team. Tswalu today has approximately one third of the country’s population. There is an agreement with South African National Parks to exchange animals in order to ensure adequate gene flow through this fragmented population. Tswalu recently purchased four more rhino from Namibia, to supplement the genetic diversity of the population. Other animal breeding programs on the property include the sable and endangered roan antelopes.
At any given time there are some two dozen research projects being carried out at Tswalu, be it in the study of cheetah, raptors, mountain zebra, insects, or plantlife.
Of the resident local community of about 400, at least one member of every family works for Tswalu.
A clinic on the property provides free primary health care for residents of Tswalu and neighboring farms. It also runs an extensive HIV/AIDS awareness program, as well as the WARMTH program (WAR against Malnutrition, Tuberculosis and Hunger). A free preschool for children has been established in conjunction with a literacy program, aiming to address the high illiteracy levels in the area. As literacy rates increase, staff also benefit from new opportunities.
In 2008, Tswalu embarked on the development of a new centralized staff housing complex allowing staff easier access to the clinic, creche, and sports facilities. The houses were designed on environmentally friendly principles, with particular attention paid to insulation, the planting of indigenous trees, reduction in energy consumption through solar power and water preservation. The second phase of 40 houses is due for completion in November 2009.
Since May this year Tswalu has been bottling its own mineral water on site, rather than driving its supply 1500 kilometers from Johannesburg. The Classic Crystal water system is a seven-stage filtration process that ensures the lightest, freshest-tasting water without stripping it of the necessary calcium and magnesium minerals. As a result, Tswalu always has ice-cold still and sparkling water on tap and has reduced its carbon emissions. The classy Tswalu glass bottles cut down on recycling and garner a lot of positive attention.
Solar power is already used extensively throughout Tswalu, whether it is for electric fencing, pumps, geysers, or lighting. In June Tswalu started using lightweight, portable solar stoves for cooking meals and even breads and desserts. The plan is to use them as much as possible for meals in the bush, boma dinners, and sleep-outs. Tswalu also hopes to soon have its staff using solar cookers throughout the reserve.