Introducing Loapi, a true immersion into the Kalahari wilderness

June 24, 2023
Introducing Loapi

“Imagine if we lost our last remaining wild spaces. Imagine the profound loneliness of spirit we would all suffer.” – Deborah Calmeyer, CEO and founder, ROAR AFRICA

Accessing the wild is a subjective experience. For many, it might mean a stroll through a city park. For others, the wild means rainforests blanketed in mist or bushveld that stretches as far as the eye can see. Ultimately, limitless nature is a faraway thing for most people living in crowded cities, viewed through a screen or imagined in a dream. 

The endless, boundless wilderness I speak of is abundant in Africa – the land where we all began, the cradle of our collective humanity. Access to these vast tracts of African wilderness, unchanged for millennia, is an experience that can transform you forever. Your stress levels are lowered, your breathing slows and your nervous system responds to the soothing rhythms endemic to the wild. All these reactions reinforce ROAR AFRICA’s ethos: our bodies need nature. That feeling that washes over you when your visual field changes from screen to savannah is a sigh of pure relief.

Sharing the wilderness we treasure so deeply and the new discoveries it holds is a source of pride and joy. Nestled into the contours of the largest private reserve in South Africa, Loapi is an inimitably wild place with an inherent soulfulness and conservation-first ethos that mirrors our own. This six-tented camp is opening in July, forming the third of Tswalu’s trio of lodges, including The Motse and Tarkuni. 

Loapi, Kalahari Slideshow

The space beneath the clouds

A true beacon of conservation and innovation, Tswalu, a 274,286-acre rewilded landscape, has transfixed us for years. Its desert night sky is a kaleidoscope of stars and its rich ochre earth a vast contrast by day to the electric blue above.

Soon-to-open Loapi translates to “the space beneath the clouds”. This tented camp, designed to meld into the arid landscape, lives up to its Setswana name, connecting heaven and earth. Perched beneath the chiaroscuro of the Kalahari’s Korannaberg mountains, Loapi leans into the carefree, contemplative seclusion so unique to safari. Here, you can be still. Each ultra-luxe tented suite operates as a mini-camp replete with a butler, chef and private guide and tracker to lead you through the day.

Long days of game drives, walks or even just moments of rest gazing at uninterrupted vistas seem to go on for eternity. A vast amber wilderness, the Kalahari is home to cheetahs, meerkats, black rhinos and lions with thick manes that fade from caramel to black. Pangolin, brown hyena and aardvark are some of the more rare species one can also find. Knowing the threats that these creatures face, to see them thriving in their natural environment is an emotional, hugely rewarding experience. And to encounter these wild animals guided by the scientific knowledge of field researchers and Africa’s best guides is incredibly special. For those traveling with children, Tswalu’s immersive meerkat experience, where you follow these inquisitive, playful little animals as they rise out of their burrows and start to forage, will delight and hopefully inspire the next generation of budding conservationists. 

Tswalu: Loapi slideshow

Freedom found in the Kalahari

Meerkats and magic desert dunes aside, Tswalu is home to one of the most exciting fine-dining experiences in Africa, if not the world. Klein JAN, which opened in 2021, is the brainchild of chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen (you may also recognize him from his gorgeously intimate Michelin-star restaurant, “JAN”, in Nice’s Old Port district). Truth be told, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect from this immersive experience which spreads across different property structures. 

In short, it blew us away. Celebrating local Kalahari bounty – like “n’abbas” (Kalahari truffle), a type of veld potato with huge cultural significance – you will never find or taste these ingredients anywhere else in the world. Generally, this dining experience takes place on the last night of a guest’s safari and is a journey of its own. You move from the scenic stoep (porch) of a 100-year-old farmhouse across into the belly of an old water reservoir, descending the secret staircase as you listen to the lilting chords of Bach, arriving at a root cellar that looks more like an art installation. Next, an exploratory amble through a cheese cave. Then, finally, you enter an exquisite contemporary dining room overlooking an endless landscape of yucca trees silhouetted against the night sky. From start to finish, Klein JAN feels like some kind of fantasy adventure, imbued with a thoughtful vision and a sensitivity to the land and its native people, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.

Preview of Klein JAN taken by a guest on an iPhone

That thoughtful vision is the thread that binds Tswalu – from The Motse and Tarkuni camps to Loapi, and from Klein JAN to the conservation initiatives protecting this vast and precious wilderness and all the life it supports. To share this land, our home and our heritage is a privilege. For it is here, amidst the sandy dunes of the Kalahari, that you find your freedom.


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