This month Natural Selection opened their most most luxurious camp yet, Tuludi, in the game rich Khwai Private Reserve in the northern reaches of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Tuludi’s seven tree-house-esque tents sit on the edge of a vast flood plain, with expansive views of the wilderness ahead, including the camp’s very own hippo pod.
Tuludi’s design is a whimsical reflection of the Okavango — its creatures, colors and bird life. Each of the seven tents covers an impressive 645 square feet with king size or twin beds, lounge area and dressing room. The textiles are by Ardmore, one of South-Africa’s most famous design studios. Well known for their playful and bold designs, their bush inspired textiles featuring leopards, monkeys and crocodiles are the perfect choice for Tuludi. Handmade chandeliers featuring dip dyed rings of high thorn and jacaranda wood hang from the roof. Each room has its own bespoke piece of art featuring the flora and fauna of Tuludi by artist Sarah Kelly.
The exterior space is just as important as inside at Tuludi and each suite has a spacious deck, complete with a hanging chair for lazy afternoons. The private plunge pool in each suite is the perfect place to wallow on a warm afternoon. The bathrooms offer the best of both worlds, with inside double vanities and an outdoor shower and bath – with views of the bush ahead.
The main area is dominated by a handmade, mosaic tiled bar. Again, a whimsical depiction of life in the Okavango, it was made by the award winning artist Sarah Pryke of Fragments of Africa, and features the iconic birds and mammals of the area. A lilac breasted roller swoops above a hippo who is keeping out of the way of a thirsty leopard. From the bar a selection of South Africa’s finest wines are served as well as a range of craft beers and artisan gins served with premium tonic waters.
The camp’s best kept secret though is most certainly the tree top library. Set high up in the canopy, the library is the perfect place to curl up with a book and let the sounds of nature surround you. If this all sounds a bit too serious for a holiday, then guests can enjoy the quirky slide which links the library back down to the ground and is fun for both children and adults.
Meals at Tuludi are home cooked, hearty and served a la carte, with flexible and varied menus to suit all tastes. From freshly baked pastries to a cooked breakfast spread, brunch is a relaxed experience after a morning game drive. But meals in the bush always taste best, and Tuludi often serves their brunch in the shade of leafy tree out in the bush. Dinner is an a la cart affair, served under the stars and all meals feature fresh, home-made goods from jams and juices to smoothies and sorbets.
The true joy of Tuludi is its location. Located to the central west of the sprawling 200,000 hectare Khwai Private Reserve, it is set in the heart of the concession’s best game viewing area. The camp overlooks a natural wetland that is the first watering hole for wildlife coming down from the dry woodlands to the north of the Okavango looking to quench their thirst. This means there is a steady flow of plains game, buffalo, giraffe, elephant and their predators making the daily journey to drink right in front of camp, year round. Furthermore, the eco-system at Tuludi comprises of both savannah and floodplain, meaning herds of zebra, prowling cheetah and marauding wild dog are as at home here as those who prefer wetter territory; waterbuck and lechwe. The area around Tuludi is home to a resident leopard family, who are being monitored as part of the Khwai Private Reserve’s partnership with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust. With all this happening right in front of camp the temptation is certainly to stay behind and enjoy an armchair safari from the camp’s veranda, but morning and afternoon game drives are rewarding in the capable hands of Tuludi’s expert guiding team. The waterways are best experienced from a mokoro. Cruise along gently on the water and learn about the small things that are so easily missed from the 4x4 Landcruiser; reed frogs and dragonflies, lilies and malachite kingfishers. For the adventurous traveler, walking safaris offer an opportunity to get closer to the sights and smells of the wilderness.
With every new camp Natural Selection opens they look for new ways to be part of the conservation solution and Tuludi is no exception. The Khwai Reserve itself is a community-driven concession in partnership with the local communities and the Khwai Development Trust. 1.5% of all revenue Natural Selection generates goes directly to conservation projects in the areas where they operate. In Khwai, they have partnered with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust to collect data on the leopard population on the fringes of the reserve about which very little is currently known. Natural Selection also works hand in hand with the team at Round River Conservation Studies and the Okavango Research Institute to develop new investigation and development techniques that will be used by land managers and researchers across Botswana. Natural Selection has also partnered with Coaching for Conservation (C4C), an outreach program for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, which fosters self-respect, respect for each other and respect for wildlife and the environment. The program inspires learning in fun, active games from soccer to tag to ring toss. This partnership between Natural Selection and C4C, not only supports their work in rural areas, but also creates visitor “classrooms” in the lodges where young visitors from overseas can partake in this integrated children’s conservation program. Young visitors can then bring Africa’s conservation messages and the C4C online platform back to their overseas classrooms and begin a long-term relationship with Botswana, its wildlife and its local children.
Dave van Smeerdijk, co-founder and Director of Sales and Marketing at Natural Selection says, "The new camp is built to the highest standards yet has an incredibly light footprint on the environment. Not only does it look modern and stylish but it is also makes use of the latest green innovations to ensure it is one of the most sustainable camps in the Okavango Delta. The game viewing in the first week has been extraordinary; the first guests saw cheetah, lion and leopard on their first drive.’’
Rates at Tuludi start at US$ 1,020 per person per night based on two sharing. The rate is inclusive of full board accommodation, house drinks and all safari activities.
BOTSWANA: Meno a Kwena, Jack’s Camp, San Camp, Camp Kalahari, Mapula Lodge, Sable Alley, Hyena Pan, Jackal & Hide, SkyBeds, Tuludi
SOUTH AFRICA: Lekkerwater Beach Lodge
NAMIBIA: Hoanib Valley Camp, Shipwreck Lodge, Etosha Mountain Lodge, Safarihoek, Safari House, Kwessi Dune Lodge (opening March 2020).