The vibe: Contemporary private safari villas overlooking the wide plains of the Kalahari
Location: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, Northern Cape, South Africa | View on Google Maps
Book now: Website
The AFAR take
Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest privately protected conservation area, and this year it welcomed Loapi Tented Camp, six private villas that offer a contemporary contrast to the more traditional aesthetic of the reserve’s main lodge, the Motse. Each villa is envisioned as a stand-alone “camp” and comes standard with a private safari vehicle, guide, and tracker.
Loapi is all about ensuring a highly personalized experience, making it ideal for families and multi-generational groups looking to shape their own safari escape. Each villa also includes a private chef and butler, allowing you to set the pace and focus of meals each day. Lazy breakfasts? Locally inspired sundowner snacks? All you have to do is ask. Vacations are precious, and at Loapi you get to call the shots.
Decor is textured and contemporary, imbued with a sense of African authenticity, and the villas are perfectly positioned to make the most of boundless Kalahari vistas. At Tswalu, the landscape is always the star, and at Loapi—“the space below the clouds” in the local Setswana language—you’ll have a front-row seat.
Who’s it for?
Safari fans in search of a compelling wilderness experience that makes a positive impact and the opportunity to reconnect in perfect privacy.
Loapi is in the eastern reaches of Tswalu Kalahari, which conserves 281,000 acres—that’s larger than all five boroughs of New York City, combined—of the semi-arid Kalahari region in the north of South Africa. Given its remote location—a 700-mile drive from Cape Town—most guests fly in on scheduled charter services from Cape Town (two hours) or Johannesburg (90 minutes).
Loapi is all about ensuring a highly personalized experience, making it ideal for families and multi-generational groups.
Loapi offers six villas, all set well apart to ensure a welcome sense of seclusion. There are four one-bedroom villas (3,200 square feet) and a pair of two-bedroom villas (4,600 square feet).
Pitched on the slopes of the Korannaberg Mountains, each Loapi “home,” as they’re referred to, is a striking platform of steel and canvas, with accents of wood, leather, and woven grasses bringing in a softer, more textured, safari aesthetic. Each offers an open-plan lounge and dining area with an adjoining kitchen, and the wood-burning fireplace is a gift on cold Kalahari nights.
The sitting room leads onto a private sun deck with a plunge pool, the zinc accents a subtle nod to the area’s iconic farm reservoirs. A firepit with views of the reserve offers a memorable option for starry-eyed nightcaps.
Bedrooms are spacious, swathed in linen mosquito nets (don’t worry, Tswalu is malaria-free) with a private bedroom terrace and outdoor shower to complement the dressing room and bathroom.
A lovely touch is the Conservation Room at each villa, where information boards and maps highlight recent sightings and the ongoing conservation work at Tswalu.
The food and drink
Each villa includes a private chef and homathi (butler). When it comes to dining, it’s as simple as starting a conversation with the chef, with anything from a multi-course tasting menu to relaxed evening barbecue—South Africans call it a braai—on offer. Kids will love the interactive pizza-making session on the deck.
With a few exceptions, rates at Loapi are all-inclusive, and each villa includes an adventurous wine list of iconic and new wave South African estates.
Staff and service
Tswalu service is unfailingly warm and hospitable, and the safari guides are among the best in the business. Some might find the hovering presence of a private chef and butler unsettling, especially in the smaller one-bedroom villas, but don’t be shy to ask for a DND (Do Not Disturb) when you need a little privacy.
Entrance steps, open boardwalks, and uneven surfaces make Loapi challenging for travelers with limited mobility, who will find suites at the Motse more accessible.
Going above and beyond
A stay at Loapi includes dinner at Tswalu’s remarkable Restaurant Klein Jan. Hosted in a 100-year-old farmhouse (and its more modern extensions, but let’s not spoil the surprise!), this unique dining experience is the work of South African–born chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, who earned a Michelin star for his restaurant in Nice. His passions for traditional South African cuisine and hyper-local produce, much of it foraged on the reserve, combine beautifully in this world-class culinary adventure.