BEST of the BEST 2015: Tarkuni
A secluded safari experience in the heart of the Kalahari.
Exclusivity is paramount to the experience at any private villa, but when it comes to Tarkuni—the Oppenheimer family’s retreat on their Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve in South Africa—the concept takes on new meaning. Available to the public for the first time last September, the five-suite estate sits amid 250,000 acres of savannah grasslands and red sand dunes, offering a maximum of just 10 guests a seemingly unending playground shared with the black-maned lions, antelopes, meerkats, cheetahs, and other wildlife of the Kalahari.
The Oppenheimer family first constructed Tarkuni in 1998 as their own private safari retreat. Following a major expansion and a renovation by the interior designer Boyd Ferguson (of the acclaimed firm Cécile and Boyd’s, known for the chic safari style it established at Singita lodges throughout Africa), the estate is now one of the South African bush’s most luxurious accommodations. In addition to the five suites, Tarkuni includes a spa, a swimming pool, a library, and sprawling terraces with views across the Kalahari.
Guests arrive at Tarkuni in a suitably stylish manner via the Oppenheimers’ Pilatus PC-12 jet, which lands at a private airstrip located within Tswalu Kalahari that is accessible only to guests of Tarkuni and a nine-suite camp set elsewhere in the reserve. Once settled, visitors enjoy a rare flexibility over their itineraries, thanks to private guides and trackers who can accommodate game experiences of any duration at any time. Traditional game drives, night safaris, bush walks, and horseback excursions are all on offer, allowing guests to explore the uninhabited reaches of their vast surroundings in a variety of ways.
Back at the villa, activities are equally enticing, from afternoon spa treatments such as the desert mineral crystal body exfoliation to gourmet dinners—prepared by Tarkuni’s private chef—in the lantern-lit boma, or outdoor entertainment area. Most nights after dark, a sea of stars blankets the enormous sky, beckoning guests to enjoy the view just a bit longer from the king-size star beds located on the private terraces. ($7,190 per night)