Grand Designs Safari Style

April 24th 2019  |   Travel, Unique Experiences  |  by   Charlotte Opperman
Grand Designs Safari Style

It must be great fun designing a safari camp – we’ve come across a couple of nests, several tree houses and even some igloo inspired tents.  Read on for a round-up of some of our favourite designs.

East Africa’s Grand Designs

  1. Tanzania – And Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
  2. – Ornate architecture, spectacular views and some of the world’s best wildlife viewing combine in something quite extraordinary here on the rim of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.  For once, ‘jaw dropping’ is appropriate.

  3. Kenya – Angama Mara
  4. – Tented suites spread along the edge of an escarpment appear to float above Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and its wildlife over 200 metres below.   A dramatic central guest area is wrapped in glass while the extensive deck and fire pit hang over the edge of the Rift Valley at Angama Mara.

  5. Rwanda – Bisate Lodge
  6. – Inspired by a former king’s palace this six room sanctuary, a base for gorilla tracking, sits in the natural amphitheatre of an extinct volcanic cone. The spherical thatched forest villas echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwanda countryside, each with spectacular views over the Virunga Massif.  Colourful textiles and pieces from local artisans give the luxurious interiors of Bisate Lodge a vibrant Rwandan flair.

  7. Kenya – Giraffe Manor
  8. – One of Nairobi’s most iconic buildings, this 1930s house with its stately façade and elegant interiors is also one of Africa’s most extraordinary hotels.  The Giraffe Manor grounds are home to a herd of resident Rothschild’s giraffe which wander through the gardens up to the house in search of a treat before retreating to their forest sanctuary.

    Giraffe manor – Time for tea © Scott Ramsay

  9. Tanzania – The Highlands
  10. – Dome shaped tents with vast Perspex windows sit on the side of a dormant volcano – Ol Moti, 3,000 metres above sea level, overlooking the crater-pocked Ngorongoro Crater Highlands and with distant views of Tanzania’s vast Serengeti plains. The Highlands – futuristic from the outside, interiors are beautifully furnished with Masai inspired textiles, black and white photos of villagers, and wood burning stoves to keep the early morning chill at bay.

  11. Tanzania – Greystoke Mahale
  12. – Head to the far west of Tanzania where Lake Tanganyika meets the forested Mahale mountains and you’ll find the marvellously remote Greystoke Mahale.  While the six beautiful bandas of this chimpanzee tracking lodge are hidden in the forest, the main lodge – a magnificent shaggy, thatched structure designed to resemble a traditional Kitongwe chieftain’s longhouse – takes pride of place on the beach.

  13. Kenya – Nay Palad Bird Nest
  14. – Daniel Pouzert’s imaginative design – a two storey suite topped with a magnificent ‘bird’s nest’ viewing and open air sleeping platform – has created living space like no other.  Nay Palad Bird Nest is built on the Segera reserve in Kenya, alongside a river teeming with wildlife, a sleep out here is definitely one to add to the bucket list.

  15. Tanzania – Mkombe’s House
  16. – A simple palm-thatch, wood and plaster construction gives rise to a wonderfully practical home-from-home safari house in Tanzania. Mkombe’s House with canvas walls peel back to admit the breeze and reveal fabulous Serengeti views. Adjoining bedrooms, a fenced pool, house staff, and private guide and vehicle allow activities to be scheduled around the family routine.


Southern Africa’s Grand Designs

  1. Zimbabwe – Amalinda Lodge
  2. Built into the granite domes and castle kopjes in western Zimbabwe, Amalinda Lodge captures the culture and unique beauty for which the Matobo Hills are celebrated.  Tucked away into an ancient Bushman’s shelter it’s an inspired African refuge.

  3. Zambia – Chongwe River House
  4. – The Flintstone-esque exterior conceals a private safari house full of flowing curves and open living spaces that celebrate the surrounding Zambian wilderness.  Waterfall showers, open air bathtubs, furniture carved from fallen trees and ceilings studded with pebbles evoke glamour in the wonderfully homely interior at Chongwe River House. A fantastic base for safari in the Lower Zambezi.

  5. Namibia – Shipwreck Lodge
  6. – Set amid the sweeping dunes of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, Shipwreck Lodge boasts eight rooms, two family rooms and an exterior all designed to mimic a shipwreck.  The architect’s idea to capture the contrast between shelter and exposure has been cleverly brought to life with the wooden cabins, conceived of as an abstracted wreckage of fragments gathered by survivors.  The resulting lodge,  spread along the dune edge like a listing flotilla against the skyline, is the ultimate desert getaway.

  7. Botswana – Zarafa Dhow Suite
  8. Blending majestically into its surroundings, this magnificent villa sits in the Selinda Reserve, one of northern Botswana’s most prolific wildlife areas.   At 210 square metres, Zarafa Dhow Suite is one of the largest single tented structures in Southern Africa and is bedecked with copper claw-foot baths, luxurious furnishings and a private deck overlooking the wildlife-filled plains beyond.

  9. Botswana – Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
  10. The cool and contemporary design, reminiscent of a pangolin’s body armour, gives this stunning lodge its unique feel.  The soaring, curved wooden roof lends a grand scale letting in the clear African light and Botswana’s endless Okavango Delta horizons.   At Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge a series of ground level decks open onto a lantern-lit boma which is formed by huge logs that mimic the tail bones of the pangolin.

  11. Namibia – Serra Cafema
  12. – Remote Serra Cafema is an absolute gem, celebrating Himba culture in its extraordinary desert location.  With buildings arranged around existing trees, connecting via a series of outdoor spaces, it’s a clever design on the part of Windhoek-based architect Karen Munting, allowing for pockets of privacy within a larger cohesive whole.  Natural materials reflect the surrounding Namibian landscape and the eight rooms have views onto the river and looming mountains of Angola beyond.

  13. Zambia – Jackalberry Treehouse
  14. – Raised eight feet off the ground and built around three African ebony trees, Jackalberry Treehouse at Flatdogs Camp provides just the right balance of adventure and comfort – perfect as a base for wildlife viewing in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.  The three decks house two open fronted bedrooms and a comfy seating area – all of which are perfect to watch wildlife wandering past, happily oblivious to your presence.

  15. Namibia – Hoanib Skeleton Coast
  16. – Sail-like tents – think Sydney Opera House and you’ll get the picture – clustered between the peaks of the Namib Desert mark this camp as desert ‘high style’.  There’s plenty to explore from this oasis on the unforgiving Skeleton Coast at Hoanib Skeleton Coast.

  17. South Africa – Kingston Tree House
  18. – Sheltered by a wood and glass structure and raised above the Sabi Sand game reserve alongside Kruger National Park, Kingston Tree House is a romantic hideaway second-to-none.   Twinkling lanterns, a drawbridge, viewing platform, feather beds, hot shower – everything you could want for a night under the stars.

  19. South Africa – Leobo Observatory
  20. – The ultra-stylish Observatory Bush Villa at Leobo is an extraordinary architectural triumph. Curving polished mud walls, old Zanzibar doors, copper lights and even a hippo skeleton-turned-chandelier lend a very African flavour to this stunning South African bush home.  It’s got all the toys, even an observatory equipped with two NASA grade telescopes.

  21. Zambia – Luangwa Safari House
  22. – Elegant Luangwa Safari House, one of the original safari houses, overlooks a seasonal lagoon in Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley.  Neil Rocher’s design sees guests enter via cathedral-style doors which open onto a double storey sitting and dining area and plunge pool beyond, offering views to the wildlife rich waterhole.  Four bedrooms, all individually decorated, come with terraces and drawbridge verandas.

  23. Namibia – Mowani Mountain Camp
  24. – This lovely Namibian eco-lodge is brilliant example of bush architecture blending a lodge into its surroundings.  Mowani Mountain Camp’s cleverly crafted main area wraps around the kopje while the reed roofs of the guest cottages mimic the colour of the natural surroundings.

  25. Namibia – The Nest @ Sossus
  26. The vast labyrinthine nests of sociable weaver birds provided the inspiration for this private safari house in the Namib Tsaris Conservancy, close to the Sossusvlei dunes.  From a distance, The Nest @ Sossus with its reed thatched roof and handmade bricks it’s merely a shadow in the landscape and has already scooped best new private house in the 2019 Wallpaper* Design awards for designer Porky Hefer.

    – Towering above the V&A Waterfront, The Silo is one of Cape Town’s most iconic hotels and a fabulous example of a remodelled historic building.   London-based Thomas Heatherwick was tasked with transforming the elevator house and adjacent storage annexe of six rows of seven silos, while retaining its cultural significance. The resulting 28 room hotel is a spectacular success.


Coastal Grand Designs

  1. Kenyan Coast – Alfajiri Villas
  2. – Perched on a coral cliff above the pristine sands of Diani Beach, Alfajiri Cliff Villa is one of East Africa’s most stylish bolt holes.  Panoramic ocean views from the turret suite, flowing fabrics and East African artefacts ooze wow factor.

  3. Seychelles – North Island
  4. – Building with thatch, stone and wood, architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens – whose imaginative ideas are behind several top notch safari camps – have echoed the natural setting of this gorgeous Seychelles’ island paradise.  At North Island accommodation in the 11 exquisite villas flows through a series of open-sided rooms decorated with ocean-hued textiles, driftwood pieces and colourful glass pieces.  The perfect blend of aesthetic and function has drawn accolades from across the world.

  5. Maldives – Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
  6. – Dining five metres under the Indian Ocean in the Maldives archipelago has got to be top of the list as far as quirky restaurant settings go.  The only all glass undersea restaurant in the world, Conrad Ithaa at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island offers contemporary European cuisine with an 180-degree panoramic view of the vibrant coral and aquatic life surrounding it.

  7. South Africa – Grootbos Villas
  8. –Africa’s southern tip is a spectacular wilderness of empty beaches and endemic fynbos vegetation.  It’s also where you’ll find the Grootbos Villas, two of the continent’s most luxurious accommodations.  Architecture echoing the layered nature of the setting helps blend the villas in to the pristine environment.  Crisp interiors, fine art, private pools, indoor and outdoor dining make these stunning options from which to explore.

  9. South Africa – Morukuru Beach Lodge
  10. – Architect Nick Plewman’s brief was to design a structure ‘that disappears into its surroundings’.  The result, a contemporary, angular and light-filled building made from concrete, stone cladding and recycled railway sleepers – topped with fynbos on the roof – fits the bill perfectly.  Morukuru Beach Lodge harmonising rather than competing with its South African coastal setting, it’s a joy to behold.

  11. Maldives – Soneva Jani
  12. – Sea-bleached timber against the turquoise sea and guest rooms linked by a gently curving jetty bestow a graceful air to this Maldives resort at Soneva Jani.   Retractable rooves opening to reveal the night sky and top floor slides straight into the Indian Ocean lagoon are just two of the features to delight visitors here.

Any questions?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.