Khwai Private Reserve in northern Botswana comprises 49,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness, making it the ideal concession for exceptional game viewing. No wonder it is hailed as one of the best-kept secrets of the Okavango Delta, and staying at the luxurious Tuludi goes hand in hand with immersive exclusivity.
Following a stay at Sable Alley in 2018 and the subsequent construction of a new property in 2019, I knew I had to see what Tuludi is all about. With architecture by Craig Hayman Architect Studio, and interior design by Tracy Kelly, the sense of setting foot in a treehouse is very real. “The camp is perched in the majestic trees namely Apple-leaf, Leadwood, and Combretum overlooking open Savannah grasses and water, where the bird and animal life is abundant”, says Tracy.
She continues: “These Fauna and Flora that surround Tuludi were the inspiration and created the backdrop for the perfect setting. Allowing the interiors to link from the outdoors. The camp itself is open and encourages the African bush, which allows one to immerse in the beautiful surroundings. I set about creating interior spaces that could be interactive or quiet and secluded, depending on the nature of each individual, enjoying the space uniquely.”
An eye-catching piece that deserves a special mention is the main bar, designed by award-winning artist Sarah Pryke, and one of the biggest talking points in the camp. Curved and delicately tiled with hundreds of colored pieces, it tells a whimsical story of the reserve from the flora to wildlife. The royal blue of the malachite kingfisher, the vibrant green of the grasses, and fiery flashes of red and yellow are prominent in the mosaic and are weaved throughout the rest of the lodge in the cushions, the curtains, and the fabrics.
Bedrooms are spacious and tranquil and each is over 1,000 sq. ft in size. The bamboo linens, mosquito nets, and Kiaat wooden fans add a feeling of being cocooned. Handmade chandeliers featuring dip-dyed rings of jacaranda wood hang from the roof, with original framed artworks by artist Sarah Kelly adorning the walls. Bright scatter cushions by Ardmore, one of South Africa’s most famous design studios, create a contemporary African feel that is quirky, fun, and a little bit cheeky.
Meals are enjoyed in a variety of locations overlooking the floodplains, and a team of chefs ensures that every single morsel of food is delicious. The dining options are extensive, and special attention is given by Chef Aaron to what guests’ food preferences are.
Revered for its animal sightings, game drives in Khwai Private Reserve will have the most seasoned safarigoer reaching for their camera. We are in the capable hands of guide Tony, who wears the hats of both tracker & ranger, and whose wealth of knowledge is astounding. Fellow guests Lindsy, Jules, and Anja are equally excited as to what Tony will find on our late afternoon drive, and we are all armed with our Natural Selection booklet entitled Your Guide to Mammals, Birds & Trees of Botswana as we set off into the watery channels of the Okavango Delta.
Shielded against the setting sun is a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, with its distinguishable bright pink eyelids, a unique feature that only this owl species displays. A mom and baby hippo are halfway submerged in a dam and further afield, a kudu bull with the most ornate horns is enjoying the lush greenery. We pass by a herd of impalas, but by far the most awe-inspiring sight is that of a juvenile Bateleur perched on a tree branch. The unmistakable stripes of zebras come into view – they seem to be enjoying the remnants of a salt lick, which forms an essential part of their mineral intake.
After a good night’s sleep, our morning will be spent boating on the Delta, which allows a different perspective of the creatures that inhabit the waterways of the Okavango. Exploring the southwestern side of the Delta with Shabba at the steer of the pontoon, we see water lilies, a painted reed frog, Little Bee-Eaters, a Malachite Kingfisher, and a breeding pair of African Fish Eagles.
Back on dry land, we continue our game drive and happen upon a herd of elephants and the rare sighting of a pack of African Wild Dogs with a heavily pregnant Alpha female. As we turn the corner, Tony slows the Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4 down and then switches off the engine.
Right in the middle of the path is a male lion, fast asleep, unaware of our presence. Sitting silently until he eventually wakes up, it is clear that his battle-scarred face has been through some tough times. He starts the grooming process – gingerly licking his paws and then cleaning his face. His canines are yellow and cat-like, he stretches before he starts his stroll, and the gentle breeze gives his mane a perfectly coiffed appearance. Not wanting to get his feet wet, he settles in the shade to resume his well-deserved nap.
*** Views expressed are the author’s own.
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