The Motse itself was beautiful and fresh, reflecting local architecture but grand and still welcoming. Our room was similarly beautiful and unfussy, with the most fantastic plate glass window out to the plain, where a watering hole drew the sable and the warthogs regularly. Every meal was lovely, not Relais and Chateau French, but high quality, fresh and unfussy with great flavours. The treats were many and varied – stopping during the morning and afternoon drives for a snack and a drink, enjoying sundowners with the most spectacular sunsets and no one else in view, the hillside dinners on the open plains, the special evenings in the Boma; enjoying a swim in the cool pool, and a drink as you sat and watched the gently changing scene of the Kalahari in front of you.
With the rooms so relaxing and beautiful, and with the fantastic open air living they made available – both the ubiquitous open air showers but also the lovely verandahs – privacy was always possible outside. Dining was a mix of sociable and private – there were always a few people to chat to, and have a drink with, but couples who wanted their privacy were clearly afforded it in spades. We were there with our 6 year old daughter and being joined for dinner periodically by our guide was great. There were even a couple of other kids she enjoyed playing with one day. But she, like us, was just enchanted with the place – our tracker was fantastic with her, and she learnt with us the habits and details of the ecosystem with rapt attention. The afternoon activities like cookie decorating were of course a big hit. And I love recalling the scene of our daughter sitting under a tree by the waterhole, in view of the pool and having a picnic with her favourite staff member. The staff couldn’t have been more welcoming to her. But equally this is not a place where kids run riot. This is a place where the kids who go there seem to fit with the rhythm of the place, having huge amounts of fun without distracting from the overwhelming peace of the place.
The drives themselves were phenomenal. Our daughter, usually impossible to wake without the requisite sleeping hours, always chose to rise early for a drive rather than go back to sleep. She couldn’t wait to see what adventure awaited and nor could we. You travel with a guide incredibly well versed in the ecosystem, just as the trackers seem to see invisible signs to navigate the ecosystem – an extraordinary team at your disposal and a true gift for the incurably curious.
I know I haven’t mentioned the animals yet. The thing is, the animals were amazing, but seeing them was just part of the whole experience. You could track the lions and enjoy their magnificent behaviour. You could search for black rhino and wonder how they melt away into nothing before you find them again. You could track the cheetah with her cubs and know that you were the first guests to spot them. You could see the giraffe and suddenly realise how bizarrely well camouflaged they are, even though they should stand out a mile. You could count off the antelope species one by one, appreciating the majesty of the gemsbok. And you can’t get much more fun than racing an ostrich at full pelt in a land rover. But even better for me: the things that you can’t keep there with fences. Doing a night drive and frantically driving after a striped polecat. Spotting a baby gecko on a tiny leaf from a moving vehicle and going back to play with it.The amazing giant eagle owl watching over the Motse as we came back one night.Showering with a massive monitor lizard.Watching incredible electric storms in the dusk light. Walking to see the ancient rock art and seeing the plains from a new vantage point. Being amazed at the size and stature of the cory bustard. Wondering for the millionth time how the secretary bird gets its name. Watching the meerkats emerge from a night’s sleep.
The list is endless and if you have the chance, I urge you to build your own list of Tswalu memories. Tswalu is a special place. I have thought about it a lot since our second visit – which by the way, only confirmed our suspicions. Tswalu is one of those places that doesn’t feel like a hotel in which you pay for the privilege of being a pampered guest. It feels like a place that you are being welcomed into, as a guest of the whole place, to appreciate what lies beyond its gates. And it could not do a better job of making that experience all it should be. We can’t wait to go back.
Enchanted by Amy’s description of Tswalu? We have a fantastic offer: book 4 nights at Tswalu and receive a complimentary 3 night stay at Kensington Place in Cape Town, plus complimentary flights to and from Tswalu Kalahari and a complimentary shuttle to or from Kensington Place to the Execujet Hangar in Cape Town.