On an exploratory adventure to the Northern Cape, a few months ago, I hunted for lions with a bushman guide and tracked rare white rhinos, on foot, in the Kalahari. The landscape is a dramatic mosaic of rugged mountains, deeply incised valleys and rolling terrain of Bushman grass and blisteringly hot red sand dunes.
I quickly learned the area is quite different from East Africa or the East and South of the country. It boasts Kalahari scenery, abundant diamonds and is home to the world’s ‘first people’, the San Bushmen. The North Cape is a rising destination for nature and adventure lovers as well as travelers curious about indigenous people, archeology, geology, history and diamonds.
Who would expect a desert to boast two of the county’s biggest rivers? Who old imagine finding the world’s biggest flower display all along South Africa’s roughest wildest coastline? Who could believe that 10% of South African vineyards are located in the Uppington area? Who would have guessed that the Northern Cape is home to 6 National Parks and the sixth highest waterfall in the world?
On my quick trip, thanks to South Africa Tourism, I visited Kimberly to learn about the diamond industry at the Big Hole and the McGregor Museum. With more time driving, we also went to the Uppington area for wine tasting in the Orange River Wine Cellars, the second largest cooperative wine cellar in the world. My favorite adventure of all was at Tswalu Game Reserve.
The Kalahari is a vast breeding ground of African legends. Men are in an ongoing battle to restore this magnificent wilderness and the struggle is creating a new wave of heroes. For example, over the last decade, the mission of Nicky Oppenheimer and his family – owners of the Tswalu Private Game Reserve and lodges – has been to restore the Kalahari to itself. Today, Tswalu is the country’s largest private game reserve with an extremely diverse animal population, with about 80 species of animals and 240 species of birds. It wasn’t always so. Fifty years ago the landscape was ravaged by cattle-farming and neglect.
Today Tswalu comprises 255,000 acres of extraordinary wildlife, trees, birds and looks quite different. It is a model of conservation and eco-tourism which shows that habitat damage can be repaired and restored.
Tswalu is all about protecting wildlife, conservation and offering a discerning clientele, such as Bono and Ali, a privileged experience. Given the limited number of beds at the two luxury lodges (30 total), and the number of private safari vehicles, guests rarely see other humans when on game drives. The six safari vehicles have exclusive access to the entire reserve (which spans over 3,800 square miles). Each group, from couples to families, has their own dedicated vehicle, tracker and guide. There is no reason to queue for a sightings and no need to have limited time at sightings.
When to Go
In the Kalahari temperatures vary greatly; from cold winters when frost is common to summer heat of 120′ F in the shade. The best months to visit are November to April.
How to Plan
- Northern Cape Information www.northerncape.org.za or www.experiencenortherncape.com
- Twsalu Kalahari Reserve www.tswalu.com
- SAA Vacations offers “go any day” packages for travelers to create a journey when it is convenient for them. flysaavacations.com
- SouthAfricaTours firstname.lastname@example.org Ask for Jaco the professional photographer and owner.
- South Africa Airlines www.flysaa.com
Tswalu-A Luxury Lodge in the Green Kalahari