Resort in Botswana offers chance of luxury getaway

The African armadillo influenced curve was one of the winners at last years Architizer A+ Awards.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

Written by Isaac Khaguli Esipisu

Designed by South African firm Nicholas Plewman architects and UK studio Michaelis Boyd, the African armadillo influenced curve was one of the winners at last years Architizer A+ Awards.

“We chose the pangolin – Africa’s armadillo – as a specific motif because of its shy, elusive and completely harmless nature and its ability to curl into its own protective carapace of scales,” the architects told in an interview.

Raised on stilts, with a timber decking that weaves its way through the trees and marsh land, the environmentally sensitive lodging uses refined, bio-degradable and locally sourced materials. Laminated pine beams give the curvilinear form, while the distinctive cladding uses Canadian cedar shingles to result it its textural and visual quality.

“The environmental success of the project is perhaps best judged from the fact that the area’s prolific wildlife including big animals like elephants, hippos, lions and leopards have continued to live on," the architects said.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge simultaneously blends in with the landscape and stands out from local architectural typology with its curvaceous timber-clad form.

The striking and sculptural 24-bed lodge overlooks the banks of the Sandibe River, a waterway rich with the sounds and sights of animals ranging from frogs to hippos.

The architects clad the curvaceous facade with natural and locally sourced shingles and woven saplings in a bid to minimise the building’s environmental footprint.

Greg Davies-Coleman, the lodge manager in an interview to several media houses says that the curved shapes find their way into the interior of the lodge as well, where the 12 suites take on the appearance of suspended weaverbird nests and large timber arches evoke a cathedral-like character.

“The building opens up towards the river to allow for natural ventilation and lighting, as well as wildlife views. Each building is positioned to boast unrestricted views of the shimmering Delta, famed for its abundant wildlife.  The interior has minimalist décor to keep the focus on the landscape,” said the lodge manager

Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world, a country the size of France but with just over 2 million people.

Though its population may be scant, the southern African country has no shortage of wildlife.

Home to 40 percent of Africa's entire elephant population, the country sees a larger number of tourists coming each year than its entire population.

According to Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism conservation started in Botswana's Okavango Delta, which is often referred to as the "Jewel of the Kalahari" by locals, one of the largest inland deltas in the world.

The Delta springs to life several months each year, when the rains from Angola reach its neck, transforming it into a rich wetland attracting wildlife including zebras, hippos, impalas, lions and leopards.

Sandibe Okavango is proud of its eco-credentials. The lodge manager says that all water is treated and recycled onsite and 70 percent of the lodge's power comes from solar panels.

For a small population, the fast-growing economy of Botswana is blessed with wildlife and hopes to capitalise on its mission at being one of the most eco-friendly countries too.

According to the architects, the brief was to replace the previous lodge building with a dramatic design that provides a lighter, more sustainable footprint whilst capturing the tranquillity of the Okavango Delta region.

Carefully situated in the landscape, LED lit paths lead from the main building to the 12 bedroom suites taking design inspiration from weavers nests and the native Pangolins.

Each suite includes a wood burner in an open plan bedroom, lounge and outdoor seating area designed to relax and enjoy the views.

Sandibe presents a clear progression from the typically dark interiors of traditional safari lodges.  The palette is neutral and natural with white timber walls and highlights of copper resulting in a design that is sculptural and clean.

Externally, the structures are clad in cedar shingles and constructed with treated glulam South African pine beams and eucalyptus gum poles sourced from sustainable forests.

Not only are the timber buildings elevated to give a feeling of sitting within the branches of the wild palms, but they are designed and built around existing trees that sit on the footprint of the site.


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