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bushmaniac

1) Name of property: Tswalu Kalahari - Motse

 

2) Website address: http://www.tswalu.com/

 

3) Date of stay: June 2015 (same price rate all year round)

 

4) Length of stay: 10 nights (special offer of stay 5 pay 4)

 

5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what?

Based on Facebook postings of aardvark sightings in 2014. We went during the winter months in a bid to see some of the rarer nocturnal animals, which tend to be out earlier in the afternoon on cold days.

 

6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently?

Booked through Africa Direct, an agent based in South Africa. All enquiries dealt with promptly and efficiently, by email.

 

7) How many times have you been on Safari? 16 over last 10 years

 

8) To which countries?

South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe

 

9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to?

Londolozi, Sabi Sabi, various &Beyond properties

 

10) Was the property fenced?

Yes – the property is over 100,000 hectares but split into two sections. The smaller section of 20,000 contains the lions and rhino together with general game. The larger section contains wild dog, cheetah, leopard together with general game including sable and roan antelope. The accommodation is based in the larger section. Whilst you will see the fence when you cross over to the smaller section, you will quickly leave this behind as the reserve is so large. You can be sitting with a mountain range in front of you and another behind you, both of which are within the reserve, and not a fence in sight.

 

11) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private?

Number 6, which was the nearest to the main communal lodge areas. Not overlooked, and no noise from the main areas. It would have had a great view of the waterhole, if not for the huge shrub a couple of metres from the deck.

 

12) How comfortable was the bed - were suitable amounts of blankets/duvets/pillows provided?

Very comfy, and plenty of blankets and pillows, together with a heated underblanket on the bed.

 

13) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why.

Yes – the food is restaurant quality, but this can be a little too rich for me. The kitchen were quite happy to make any meal we requested. There are no set meal times, and you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

 

14) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?)

Not sure about the vegetarian options but I doubt this would be a problem. On several days, we requested particular meals which they were happy to provide.

 

15) Can you choose where you eat, ie privately or with other guests, guides? Single tables or communal dining?

Dining is single tables, although you can choose whether to eat inside, out on one of the main decks or on the deck of your room. The guides never sit with the guests for meals. One of the camp managers will offer to sit with a single traveller if they wish.

 

16) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives?

Very good – we were able to give the kitchen a list of the foods we would like for lunch and they obliged. The only criticism would be that there was far too much food.

 

17) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible.

Fairly new Landrovers.

 

18) How many guests per row?

Every booking (for a min 3 nights) has its own private vehicle. The vehicles (Landrovers) are all fairly new, and there is a variety of different sizes from the usual 9 seats over 3 rows, to the one we had with 4 seats over 2 rows with covered boxes between the seats for the cameras etc. They even supplied clamps and beanbags without us asking. The vehicles have the best ever blankets, real quality (if I’d had space in my holdall I would have asked to buy mine!) – big enough to wrap around fully and cover from head to toe, thick fleece on one side and sheepskin-type on the other side. Also the usual hot water bottles. Ponchos are Driza-bone, so good quality and wind-proof and warm.

 

19) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken?

Game drive times are set by the guests – there are no limits.

 

20) Are game drive times flexible: ie, if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, ie not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you?

You can go out whenever you want, for as long as you want. Night drives after dinner are also possible. The kitchen were happy to provide packed breakfast/lunch for us.

 

21) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings?

Just on the short drive from the airstrip to the lodge we saw two aardvark and an aardwolf. I had no idea of the frequency of aardvark sightings, nor of the quality. Tswalu is to aardvark what Londolozi is to leopards. To be sitting on the ground and have a relaxed aardvark walking within a couple of metres of you, is absolutely mind-blowing.

We saw meerkats, aardvarks (23 sightings, all during daylight hours), pangolin (2 sightings), black-maned lions, aardwolf, sable, roan, eland, tssessebe, oryx, springbok, duiker, reedbuck, impala, kudu, nyala, yellow mongoose, slender mongoose, wild dog pups, cheetah & cubs, African wildcat, caracal, bat-eared foxes, black and white rhino, mountain zebra.

There have been reported sightings of the yellow morph of the crimson breasted shrike, but we didn’t find it.

 

22) How was the standard of guiding?

OK, but could have been better. The guide was personal and pleasant, but didn’t volunteer much information or make suggestions as to where to go. However, the friend I travelled with is also a qualified guide, so we were able to ask the right questions, tell our guide where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see. So we made all the decisions, rather than the guide. The guide and tracker were always willing to spend all day out in the bush.

 

23) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue?

We did discuss the general standard of guiding with the MD over dinner, and he is looking at how to improve the quality of the guides in general and bring them all up to the standard of a true “private guide”.

 

25) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs?

Yes – the whole ethos of the lodge is geared towards a personal experience, and the staff are happy to cater for most requests.

 

27) Any other pertinent details you wish to add:

Access to Tswalu is through private plane from either Cape Town or Johannesburg. The experience at Fireblade Aviation was awesome – we were treated like royalty. Nothing was too much trouble for them. When we returned from Tswalu, they gave us full use of the facilities so I could get changed, have lunch, and use the lounge and only transfer to ORT when I needed to check in for my flight (rather than having to spend 7 hours in ORT) – all of it complimentary.

 

It was COLD a lot of the time, but there were plenty of fires lit in the main areas which were well-tended and never allowed to die down. The guest rooms have heating and a fireplace (which they will light at any time you request) and electric blankets.

 

Single supplement will no longer apply in 2016.

 

 

Lodge guidance for tipping (per person per day):

Guide – R300

Tracker – R200

Junior Camp Staff – R200

 

28) Please add your photographs of the property.

Didn’t take any photos of the lodge itself as we only went back to the lodge for dinner in the evening. However the pictures on the website are an accurate reflection.

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Day 3   This morning we went out earlier and visited one of the main meerkat colonies. Easily spent over an hour sitting near the burrow whilst the meerkats warmed themselves and kept lookout.  

Day 4   It was time to venture over to the smaller section and give the lions a go. The other guides had lost them the previous afternoon, and there were many discussions about where to look for the

Day 2   It was cold but the vehicles have the best ever blankets, real quality (if I’d had space in my holdall I would have asked to buy mine!) – big enough to wrap around fully and cover from head

Sangeeta

"Just on the short drive from the airstrip to the lodge we saw two aardvark and an aardwolf. I had no idea of the frequency of aardvark sightings, nor of the quality. Tswalu is to aardvark what Londolozi is to leopards. To be sitting on the ground and have a relaxed aardvark walking within a couple of metres of you, is absolutely mind-blowing.

We saw meerkats, aardvarks (23 sightings, all during daylight hours), pangolin (2 sightings), black-maned lions, aardwolf, sable, roan, eland, tssessebe, oryx, springbok, duiker, reedbuck, impala, kudu, nyala, yellow mongoose, slender mongoose, wild dog pups, cheetah & cubs, African wildcat, caracal, bat-eared foxes, black and white rhino, mountain zebra.

There have been reported sightings of the yellow morph of the crimson breasted shrike, but we didnt find it."

 

10 days in paradise...

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madaboutcheetah

23 aardvark sightings??? What makes Tswalu the "londolozi" of Aardvark? any specific reason in the environment?

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Alexander33

Oh, wow. This really got my pulse racing. We are booked at Tswalu beginning 31 August. Aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, caracal, bat-eared foxes....whole reason we decided to go there. Of course, the black-maned Lions and meerkats are famous there as well. Thanks for sharing your experience in brief.

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Sangeeta

Their meerkat experience is lovely as well. They are not as habituated as the Jack's Camp ones and won't climb on you (which is probably better), but they are comfortable enough around humans to go about their business unconcerned while you are still fairly close. Some very large and very interesting colonies. @@Alexander33 - you're going to have a fantastic time!

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SafariChick

Did I dream it, or did someone recently post that Tswalu is going to be stopping having a single supplement? oh yes, I did not dream it - just found it, it was @@bushmaniac in the thread about camps with no single supplements. This place is sounding more and more attractive!

Edited by SafariChick
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Sangeeta

I think it's time for a Tswalu GTG, gang :D

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SafariChick

I might be trying to convince @@Sangeeta that she and I need to go on another adventure together here myself :rolleyes:

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SafariChick

@@bushmaniac about how old were the wild dog pups you saw? Just wondering if one would be likely to see them in May or would it not be until June?

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optig

I've already told my travel agent that in 2017 I am going to visit Tswalu Kalahari during the winter months. I'm planning to stay there for a whole week, bearing in mind that airfare is included and if you stay for five days you pay for four.

 

Their policy towards using a private vehicle complete with guide and tracker is very appealing. I am going to pay long in advance to reserve my room.

 

Furthermore, they are willing to waive the single supplement.

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bushmaniac

@@SafariChick the wild dog pups were only about 5 weeks old, and we arrived on 22nd June, so I think May would be too early. I reckon end of June and throughout July would be the best time to see pups.

 

@@optig There are two "specials" that Tswalu regularly run - either "stay 4 nights and fly for free" or "stay 5 pay 4". The "specials" are mutually exclusive and so for a single traveller, the best deal is the 5 for 4, which saves R13,000 (2016 rates) against the airfare of R9400.

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SafariChick

@@bushmaniac thanks for the info. Looking forward to your report!

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Sangeeta

The alpha female was heavily pregnant when I was there. I have some terrible photos from the trip, but if @@bushmaniac does not mind, I'll add them to his thread :)

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Sangeeta

Mine was a lightning trip @@bettel - just 2 nights on a recce trip & I'm still trying to learn how to endorse a place like Tswalu on a forum like this for its absolutely incredible wildlife without sounding like a biased agent doing a quid pro quo thing. Thought the best way would be to piggy back here on this thread by @@bushmaniac and expand further on the wonders of Tswalu :) I mean, if I could see all that I saw in only 2.5 days, I am not at all surprised by his amazing sightings over 10 nights...

 

I'll upload my piccies and do a short summary, but it was one crazy sighting after another & very hard to believe, even though I was seeing it with my own eyes!

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bushmaniac

Tswalu Bird List


  1. Pale Chanting Goshawk
  2. Ant Eating Chat
  3. Pygmy Falcon
  4. Ostrich
  5. Kori Bustard
  6. Crimson breasted shrike
  7. Hammerrkop
  8. Sociable Weaver
  9. Marico Sunbird
  10. Yellow Fronted Canary
  11. House Sparrow
  12. Ashy Tit
  13. Red-eyed Bulbul
  14. Cape Glossy Starling
  15. Short tailed rock thrush
  16. Namaqua Sandgrouse
  17. Double Banded Sandgrouse
  18. Crowned Lapwing
  19. Blacksmith Lapwing
  20. African Shelduck
  21. Scaly Feathered Finch
  22. Pearl Spotted Owl
  23. White Browed Sparrow Weaver
  24. Fork Tailed Drongo
  25. Kalahari Scrub Robin
  26. Black Cheeked Waxbill
  27. Violet Eared Waxbill
  28. Lappet Faced Vulture
  29. White Backed Vulture
  30. Gabar Goshawk (juv.)
  31. Black Winged Stilt
  32. Fiscal Flycatcher
  33. Marico Flycatcher
  34. Helmeted Guineafowl
  35. Northern Black Korhaan
  36. Red Crested Korhaan
  37. Spike Headed Lark
  38. Fawn Coloured Lark
  39. Lesser Grey Shrike
  40. Yellow Billed Hornbill
  41. Golden Tailed Woodpecker
  42. Black Chested Snake Eagle
  43. Pirits Batis
  44. Black Chested Prinia
  45. Bokmakieri
  46. White Backed Mousebird
  47. Brown Crowned Tchagra
  48. Common Scimitarbill (hoopoe)
  49. Martial Eagle

Tswalu Mammal List


  1. Aardvark
  2. Red Hartebeest
  3. Gemsbok
  4. Aardwolf
  5. Springbok
  6. Warthog
  7. Impala
  8. Sable
  9. Kudu
  10. Mountain Reedbuck
  11. Grey Duiker
  12. Steenbok
  13. Wild Dog
  14. Blue Wildebeest
  15. Bat Eared Fox
  16. Ground Squirrel
  17. Meerkat
  18. Tsessebe
  19. Black Backed Jackal
  20. Zebra
  21. Nyala
  22. Cheetah
  23. Giraffe
  24. Eland
  25. Lion
  26. Mountain Zebra
  27. Black Rhino
  28. Baboon
  29. Yellow Mongoose
  30. Caracal
  31. Buffalo
  32. Pangolin
  33. Scrub Hare
  34. Slender Mongoose
  35. African Wildcat
  36. White Rhino
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Alexander33

Thank you so much for the lists, especially of the birds. I will start brushing up now!

Edited by Alexander33
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offshorebirder

I may be misinterpreting things, but if you check their rates for 2015 and 2016:

 

2015:

Per person rate (based on 2 people sharing) ZAR 10600 Single occupancy ZAR 13400

 

2016:

Per person rate (2 people sharing): ZAR 13000
Single occupancy ZAR 13000

 

 

So rather than "waiving" the single supplement fee, they seem to be essentially raising the double occupancy fee (by 24%) to be the same as single occupancy...

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Tdgraves

I may be misinterpreting things, but if you check their rates for 2015 and 2016:

 

2015:

Per person rate (based on 2 people sharing) ZAR 10600 Single occupancy ZAR 13400

 

2016:

Per person rate (2 people sharing): ZAR 13000

Single occupancy ZAR 13000

 

 

So rather than "waiving" the single supplement fee, they seem to be essentially raising the double occupancy fee (by 24%) to be the same as single occupancy...

 

It does seem rather a jump. I guess it is based on the sliding Rand and increasing popularity.....

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Sangeeta

 

I may be misinterpreting things, but if you check their rates for 2015 and 2016:

 

2015:

Per person rate (based on 2 people sharing) ZAR 10600 Single occupancy ZAR 13400

 

2016:

Per person rate (2 people sharing): ZAR 13000

Single occupancy ZAR 13000

 

 

So rather than "waiving" the single supplement fee, they seem to be essentially raising the double occupancy fee (by 24%) to be the same as single occupancy...

 

It does seem rather a jump. I guess it is based on the sliding Rand and increasing popularity.....

 

 

I've been telling all my friends, go this year if you possibly can! Because then when you factor in the free flights, it really is a very good deal for what you're getting.

 

@GameWarden - Is there any way to upload iphone photos directly from the phone to ST?

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bushmaniac

@@optig - I just remembered that there was talk that Tswalu Motse will be closing for refurbishment early 2017. You may want to get your agent to ask about this and whether they will be reopening in time for winter game-viewing.

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optig

I'm sure that they will be because that's the peak season.

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bushmaniac

I thought since my first TR is solely concerning Tswalu, I would post it here. I’m sure that, if GW prefers it elsewhere, he will no doubt move it. :unsure:

 

I’ll start by explaining that whilst I am a single traveller, whenever finances permit I travel with a private safari guide and hire a private vehicle wherever possible. I have been travelling with the same guide for several years, and my travels are now more like holidaying with a good friend. But having the private guide enables me to compensate for any shortcomings in the lodge-assigned guides/trackers, and also to spend longer at one place than I would otherwise.

 

When I booked to stay at Tswalu I was thinking that this would be similar to my search for the black leopard – that whilst we had a chance to see aardvark & pangolin by being in the right place nothing was guaranteed … and it would take a lot of hard work. I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong. :D

 

Day 1:

 

The experience started at Fireblade Aviation where we were treated like royalty. Their driver picked us up from City Lodge reception and whisked us away to the Fireblade lounge. Nothing was too much trouble for them. There are conference rooms, showers and a gym, day rooms, lounge and outdoor patio.

 

All of the artwork on display is available for purchase, but as there were no prices shown I knew that my bank manager would suffer palpitations if I even asked.

 

On landing we were greeted by numerous Tswalu staff, who each introduced themselves by name but we had no idea what job they did. Eventually our guide introduced himself and led us to our vehicle. We had a new-ish Landrover (just 3,000km on the clock). Our guide was Kallie, and our tracker David. For those that need to know such things, there are toilet facilities at Tswalu airstrip.

Imagine how gob-smacked I was just on the short drive from the airstrip to the lodge – we saw two aardvark and an aardwolf. OK, they were at a distance, and the camera was still packed away, but OMG!

 

Note to future visitors ( @@Tdgraves @@Alexander33 ) – get your camera out and ready the minute you get off the plane!

 

After signing the usual indemnity form, we were advised of the daily schedule – there isn’t one. The flexibility of the lodge is phenomenal. You, as the guest, decide what time you go out, how long you’re out for, what time you return. You can eat meals at whatever time you want, and the kitchen is happy to supply packed breakfast or lunch, and you’ll be asked the night before what you would like included.

 

The rooms are spacious, although they have a bit too much in them to allow a flow through the room. There is a lack of power sockets in the room, and I had to unplug lights in order to charge batteries etc.

 

There is an outside deck, covered in thatch, and enclosed on three sides so that it is well-protected from the winds. There is a large sofa and coffee table, comfy chair and side-table, and also a table with two chairs for if you choose to dine in the privacy of your own deck. Good outside lighting, together with candles/matches. The deck would have had a great view of the waterhole if it hadn’t had a large shrub right in front of the deck.

 

Well stocked mini-bar and snack tray - all included. All drinks are included, and not just local brands – in fact we were encouraged to drink the more expensive brands (I didn’t need much arm twisting).

The individual rooms do not have information packs or brochures like other lodges, so you are not informed of activities that are available such as horse-back safari, walking safari, sleep-outs, rock engravings, tour of staff village and healthcare centre, pre-school and adult literacy centre, night-drives, talks with the reserve’s ecologists and researchers - and you are not told of these when you arrive (our guide didn’t mention them either).

 

When we got on the vehicle for our afternoon drive, the guide had installed clamps and beanbags for our cameras.

 

gallery_18242_1336_35668.jpg

 

Our drive was more of a bumble on this first afternoon, mainly getting a feel for the area. One more aardvark seen, but still at quite a distance.

 

gallery_18242_1336_556553.jpg

 

Don’t give up on me yet – it gets better (honest!).

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