Mpumalanga Safari Lodge

PHOTOS Micky Hoyle PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Tracy Greenwood

The recently refashioned Singita Sweni Lodge in a private concession in Kruger National Park offers a new African context for contemporary design.

Burrowed into the Sweni River bank, Singita Sweni Lodge is a place of quiet reflection, a luxurious cocoon from which to watch the activities in the placid river winding beneath it. The 13 000-hectare Singita concession in the Kruger National Park brims with wildlife, from the Big Five to scorpions and snakes. Crocodiles glide lazily through the water a stone’s throw from the safety of the heated lap pool at the lodge, elephants make their way down to the banks to drink, and there is always the expectation that a hippo will break the surface of the water and grace guests with its goggle-eyed presence.

For its recent revamp and expansion, lodge founder and CEO Luke Bailes turned to the talents of interior architects Cécile & Boyd to create a look that would continue the theme of integration between the First World offering and the wilderness in which the lodge is located.

The result is a design aesthetic that celebrates the African wild, taking its cue from the sights, smells, tastes and colour palette of the surrounding bush. Sheen is juxtaposed with matte, rough textures with smooth surfaces. And bright jewel hues, acid green and mustard yellow – imitating the markings of butterflies, scarab beetles and sunbirds – contrast with the colours of the foliage, sand, water and rock.

“The sites we work on are extraordinarily rich in inspiration,” says Geordi De Sousa Costa, partner and designer at Cécile & Boyd. “Each place is different, and our response to these differences is what shapes the designs. The trees, rocks, curves in the river bed, colours, patterns, stories of the area and even how the light falls all have a profound influence on the end product.”

A series of six luxury pod-like tree houses make up the accommodations in this peaceful place. A contemporary interpretation of bush architecture, each suite is designed as a glass box wrapped in a nest-like structure that references an eagle’s nest on a cliff.

“We pushed the lodge’s proximity to the river to the max in all aspects of the design, blurring the edges between built form and landscape, between pool and river, between glass and sky,” says Sally Tsiliyiannis of GAPP Architects. “Drawing on the richness of the lush river site, the architecture at Sweni has been given more: more length of building fronting the river, more pockets of deck space butting up against the dense vegetation, more attention to detailing, a more vibrant colour palette, and more textured finishes.”

The six suites are connected to the main lodge by wooden walkways constructed from Rhino Wood. Each of the pods treads lightly on the landscape, offering absolute privacy, attention to detail and luxury amenities that are bound to keep even the fussiest guests happy. Still, one has to take care to keep the glass patio doors shut to prevent invasion by curiously destructive vervet monkeys and the odd baboon. Despite the splendour, this is still a wild place filled with wild creatures.

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