Timbavati Lodge

WORDS Robyn Alexander PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes PHOTOS Dook

Layering family history with classic, nostalgia-inflected safari style and touches of bohemian and artistic flair, Geiger’s Camp at Motswari Private Game Reserve is a unique, ultra-private and authentic bush experience.

The restrained glamour of old-school safari style is very much in evidence at Geiger’s Camp, a boutique lodge that forms part of Motswari Game Reserve in the Timbavati/Umbabat, on the edge of Kruger Park. At this intimate lodge, the design of both buildings and interiors is a story of one family’s love for the area, and for spending their downtime in the bush.

“It’s a philosophy, not decor,” says owner Marion Geiger-Orengo, the daughter of one of Motswari’s original founders, Paul Geiger – and when I ask her to suggest a few key words she associates with Geiger’s Camp, she answers thoughtfully, “Shade. Peace. Heritage. Layered.” Uniting the talents of Marion, her French husband Fabrice Orengo de Lamazière and interior designer David Strauss, the camp has a unique look and feel that has evolved over the years. More than mere decoration, this is a style that is forged in equal parts from Marion’s heritage, Fabrice’s vision and David’s guidance.

According to David, working on Geiger’s Camp with Marion and Fabrice was all about creating a resolutely “un-decorated” feel that also reflected the couple’s “cosmopolitan family history”. The aim was, he says, to make guests “feel like one of the family”, and to create a place “not designed to impress, but designed for the user”.

Geiger’s Camp is small and ultra-private: situated on a secluded koppie, it has just four spacious double rooms, which are grouped around a central communal area with an expansive pool terrace-cum-veranda that sports panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It was Fabrice who conceptualised the eye-shaped swimming pool and spacious veranda; he is consistently, say both David and Marion, the one who brings “the flair” to a project. The outdoor lounging and dining areas are complemented by indoor spaces that include a cosy study and lounge, and all the buildings have been carefully constructed from locally collected stone, with tall thatched roofs, old-fashioned steel-framed windows and beautifully polished, patinated ochre concrete floors.The structures instantly evoke the spirit of pragmatic simplicity so characteristic of remotely situated dwellings. Layered onto this classic bush backdrop is a mix of antique and vintage furniture pieces, thoughtfully selected textiles, collected treasures that reflect the camp’s wilderness location and arresting paintings by Marion herself – she is an established contemporary artist, with a studio in situ.

Timbavati Lodge: Geiger's Camp at Motswari Private Game Reserve
In the lounge, comfortable armchairs are upholstered in a mix of fabrics sourced by Marion and David. The wooden crocodiles were collected by a family friend of the Geigers, Eric Malaise, who purchased them from crafters and flea markets over the course of many years. After the collection was given to Marion for safekeeping, she and David decided to use it to create this unique display.

The overall effect is very much one of “living with the collections of bohemian travellers”, as David puts it. In my suite, an antique wardrobe, a charming vintage bench with an embroidered seat, and a beautiful old chaise longue with brocade upholstery were perfectly complemented by a contemporary wood-beaded chandelier and a large, pure-white mosquito net.

An overall feeling of spaciousness and comfort abounds in the rooms, with careful attention to detail evident everywhere and in everything, from the lighting design to the stone-topped bathroom vanity and the nostalgia-inspiring claw-footed steel bath, which is not guilt-inducingly large, yet is delightfully deep – making it the perfect place to wallow in Africology bubbles before bed on a cool winter’s night.

The first parts of what is now Geiger’s Camp were built as a reserve manager’s house, and later became the personal bush escape of Marion’s older brother, Roland, and his wife Roxy. After Roland was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2001, it morphed into Shlaralumi Cottage, with three additional rooms added to the original house.

Finally, in 2011, the decision was made to fully refurbish the camp as a private lodge, and Marion, Fabrice and David worked collaboratively together to gradually give it the historically inflected elegance and intimacy that characterise Geiger’s Camp today. At Fabrice’s suggestion, at this time the camp was also given a new name, to honour the heritage of the Geiger family. And so it came to be that Geiger’s Camp reflects the Geigers’ history as a conservation family, and invites its guests to share in their unique take on the safari.

For more information, visit newmarkethotels.com and davidstrauss.co.za.

Looking for more lodges or architectural inspiration? Take a look at the Witklipfontein Eco Lodge.