The arid savannah of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve stretches across a vast area, with iron-oxideladen dunes between the Korannaberg hills. Tswalu has two camps: Motse, a secluded village of nine dwellings, and the the private Tarkuni homestead; each with its own private 4x4, guide, and tracker. Our days are our own; timing and choice of activities are personal preference.
This flexibility is part of the exclusivity at Tswalu, with an important purpose: to keep the visitor footprint as low as possible and minimise the impact on the biodiversity of this fragile ecosystem. The reserve has white and black rhino, shy leopard, and buffalo. One particularly rewarding activity is tracking pangolin using telemetry, after a remote and romantic gourmet picnic. Lunch is at the Motse camp, on the patio overlooking the infinity swimming pool.
Executive chefs curate dishes in partnership with South African chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, whose restaurant Jan in Nice, France, has a Michelin star. Traditional South African fare is given inventive twists. The highlight of our stay is the foodie extravaganza at the new Restaurant Klein Jan. Van der Westhuizen has transformed the quaint 100-year-old Boscia House, with its windmill and corrugated-iron reservoir, into something quite magical. We try the innovative cocktails: ginger beer with a kick, or margarita with melon. The amuse-bouche is piquant brioche biltong Lamington.
A floral decoration in a crystal vase turns out to be lavender fever berry branches infusing spring water in a decanter. We are led outside to a secret door in the reservoir that opens onto a dimly lit spiral staircase, descending 4m to a vast root cellar. Stored in military order in the arched hallway are locally sourced vegetables, preserves, honey, dry-maturing beef, racks of wine, and waxed rounds of cheese. Leaving this pleasantly musky area, we are offered breads, pumpkin soup in a miniature mug, cured ham slices, and red grape compote with a crystal glass of jerepigo. In the main dining space, we are seated at one of five tables.
This space is under the dunes, but al fresco on one side. Paired with the food, consecutive wines are poured into blownglass crystalware. The main course — named “10 plates” on the menu — is served on a heated Kalahari stone in plates forged by Van der Westhuizen and coloured pottery bowls. Dessert is a meringue that spills out mysterious delicacies as I crack it.
We repair to a sensuous lounge area next to a log fire, for coffee, single-malt whisky, and home-made chocolates. As we make our way up the spiral staircase and over to Boscia House, we are offered a sweet milk cookie, straight from the oven of a museum-piece stove. On the dune we peep through a telescope, to be intoxicated by constellations.
A safari of a lifetime, this is the taste of bliss, and a feast for all the senses.
Restaurant Klein Jan is open to day visitors for a lunch service on select dates every month. See the website.
• From the June edition of Wanted, 2021.