A wildlife safari in the heart of the Kalahari becomes something of a luxurious adventure thanks to this exquisite lodge developed by andBeyond.
A good part of the appeal of the Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, Africa lies in its ability to pull off luxury accommodation in the heart of the Kalahari without appearing obnoxious or unnatural in the least. Indeed it is to the credit of the architects and interior decorators that the lodge effortlessly blends in with the natural surroundings looking more like an exotic creature out of the wild than something inherently man-made.
The Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge is one of luxury experiential travel company – andBeyond’s – 33 extraordinary lodges and camps located in India and Africa. This enchanting lodge, featured alongside, is located on a 22,500 hectare wildlife concession adjacent to the Moremi Game Reserve and is an open playground for elephants and other wildlife that often stray into this fenceless property.
The three teams responsible for turning Sandibe into its winning avatar include Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd Associates who were responsible for the architecture as well as Fox Browne Creative who lent the lodge its organic décor.
Speaking about the concept behind the architecture, the architects say, “From the start we knew that the andBeyond Sandibe project required a response that drew its inspiration directly from nature. It needed to be organic.” This explains a lot of the unusual forms at the property including the arched pillars of the common guest area that could possibly be a stylised interpretation of an animal’s rib cage.
The lodge offers guests 12 private suites, each of which look like a cross between a weaver bird’s nest and the scaly armour of the pangolin – an intriguing creature known to inhabit the region. The outer area of the room is enveloped by wooden laths that resemble the woven texture of a basket. Panels of Serge Ferrari mesh here keep guests comfortable in the hot summers and cold winters while ensuring the structure remains tough and durable.
Rising above the papyrus and peeping through the canopy of fig trees, these cocoon-like suites offer guests two irresistible delights – privacy and view. Add to that creature comforts like a private plunge pool outside the room for summer days and copper heating indoors during winter, and you have the holiday destination of your dreams.
Within the suite, the décor is rich but elegantly so. Copper, wood and other natural textures are woven into the decor so that guests remain connected to nature even while indoors. A tree-trunk serves as a side table and a plush crocodile-embossed leather sofa adds to the natural accents. This understated luxury competes with breathtaking views of the Delta that can be enjoyed from the king-sized bed itself, carefully positioned to face the large glass doors.
The lodge owes much of its soothing atmosphere to an earthy colour palette and use of natural materials like pine, saligna, massaranduba and American cedar. While pine and saligna were sourced from South Africa where they are both common types of plantation timber, American cedar used for the shingles that cover the outside of the main lodge structure was imported from Canada.
“The decision to import rather than use local wood was made as the American cedar is particularly resistant to the effects of weather and insects. Since the wood did not require to be treated with chemicals it eliminated the risk of any harmful substances leaching from the construction into the delicate natural environment,” explain the architects.
It is heartening to note that while the Lodge is focused on offering its guests a luxurious stay, it is also committed to sustainable tourism. Its solar panels tap into solar energy – one of the region’s most abundant natural resources – to power its property and heat water, thereby saving 67,000 litres of diesel that might have otherwise been consumed by a generator.
During construction time, the architects were careful not to disturb the surrounding vegetation while digging trenches for all cables and pipes. “Tree roots were left intact to ensure the health of the large trees on site and pipes were installed in and around the roots so that the trees would not have to be felled,” assure the architects.
Native plants, animals as well as crafts of the region are celebrated by including articles such as basketware, sculpted wooden tables and copper-clad mekoro into the decor. In the end, Nature turned out to be Sandibe’s biggest ally in creating a place that is serene, earthy and ultimately – luxurious.
Text By Christabelle Athaide