South Africa reserve tries a different take on safari camps

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Each of Loapi's private safari homes features an open-air dining area overlooking the Kalahari.
Each of Loapi's private safari homes features an open-air dining area overlooking the Kalahari. Photo Credit: Andrew Morgan

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, which stretches over 282,000 acres across the southern Kalahari desert in South Africa, has opened Loapi, a new tented camp. Located in the largest privately protected area in South Africa, the camp is highly unusual 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.

The six homes, span over 3,200 square feet and over 4600 square feet, respectively, and are for those desiring complete privacy on safari. The micro-camps are at least 300 feet 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 its own guide and tracker.

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With expansive views across arid savannah grasslands, each of the six homes that make up Loapi (four one-bedroom, and two two-bedroom), are set against the backdrop of the Korannaberg mountains. Each home can accommodate two to four guests for the ultimate care-free 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."

All the comforts of home

The homes are designed as modern glass and steel pavilions with a color scheme of natural tones. The open-plan living and dining areas, along with a fully equipped kitchen, pantry, and bar, serve as the center of each home. Each residence also includes shaded decks with daybeds, a water-efficient plunge pool and a fire pit. The bedrooms, designed as tent-like retreats, enable guests to connect with the natural environment while ensuring comfort and insulation against the Kalahari's extreme temperatures.

These homes also incorporate sustainable design features such as large overhangs for shade, reducing the need for excessive energy use. Additionally, the design includes ecofriendly elements such as solar power, water recycling technology, energy-efficient air conditioning and solar-powered pool pumps.

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