Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, which stretches for114,000 hectares across the southern Kalahari, has opened its new Loapi tented camp. Designed to exacting environmental standards by Cape Town architectural firm GAPP Architects, it offers a true wilderness experience in the largest privately protected area in South Africa. The camp is unique in that guests don’t share any communal spaces. Instead, there are six private safari homes, each an exclusive-use retreat or independently run micro-camp.
With expansive views across arid savannah grasslands, Loapi Tented Camp’s six private safari homes are tucked into the contours of the ancient Korannaberg mountains and can accommodate two or four guests for the ultimate private wilderness experience. In the local language, Setswana, Loapi means ‘the space below the clouds’, and the light-footprint design speaks to being suspended between earth and sky.
“The overarching design philosophy was that the new camp needed to be as low impact as possible, to reflect Tswalu’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and the owners’ vision of regeneration of the environment,” said Sally Tsiliyiannis, of GAPP Architects. The modular design, combining canvas, steel and glass, was largely manufactured off-site to minimize the environmental impact and protect the iconic shepherd’s trees. “The main design intent was that, should it ever be required, it would be possible to take the built structure apart and cart it away, leaving the environment exactly as it was found.”
Designed as contemporary glass and steel pavilions, Laopi Tented’s living and dining areas form the heart of each home, together with an open-plan kitchen, fully stocked pantry, and bar. Deep, shaded decks feature day beds for relaxation, a water-wise plunge pool, and a fire pit for sundowners and early morning coffee. The bedrooms are cocoon-like sanctuaries under canvas, connecting guests to the sights and sounds of nature while providing exceptional comfort and insulation from the Kalahari’s extreme temperatures. The sophisticated tented design incorporates generous overhangs, providing ample shade and reducing the need for excessive energy consumption.
The camp features further minimal-impact, eco-friendly design solutions, including the latest in solar power and water recycling technology, energy-efficient air conditioning, and solar-powered pool pumps.
“Embracing a true wilderness experience, Loapi speaks to a much-needed change of pace for unscripted time in nature, with space to breathe out, be present, and reconnect with what truly matters. Inspired by the nomadic spirit of camping, the tented homes offer complete freedom to explore the reserve’s vastness and diversity at your own pace, knowing that everything is being taken care of behind the scenes by your private guide, chef and homathi, a private butler,” said Marketing and Public Relations Director Russell Binks, who shared his excitement about Tswalu’s latest addition, one of only three camps sharing exclusive access to this private reserve. With its commitment to sustainability, Tswalu is dedicated to protecting biodiversity and vital wildlife habitat, as well as the dramatic natural beauty of the surrounding area.
Embracing an authentic, immersive Kalahari experience, guests have complete freedom to do whatever they want. The six homes (four one-bedroom homes, and two two-bedroom homes), span over 300 square metres and over 400 square metres, respectively, and are for those desiring complete privacy on safari. The micro-camps are at least 50 metres apart to ensure privacy and solitude and each home comes with a private team that includes a homathi (butler) and chef, a private vehicle, and the undivided attention of an experienced guide and tracker. Guests can choose to spend all day tracking Kalahari keystone species, like the desert black rhino or brown hyena, visit nearby pans where resident black-maned lion prides converge, or take a picnic breakfast to the top of Bushman Hill where Hartmann’s mountain zebra and greater kudu are often spotted.
Most of all, Loapi provides the luxury of space and time to do nothing more than relax on the deck and gaze at the view, relishing the deep silence.