Exceptional African camps and lodges

An African safari has long been considered the grand prize of travel, an experience that combines intimate encounters with exotic wildlife complemented by creature comforts amidst wild and remote places. No one knows this better than Melissa Biggs Bradley, the founder of Indagare, the Manhattan-based member-only boutique travel company for travelers seeking tailor-made travel. Delving into his decades of traveling in Africa, Bradley wrote Safari Style: Exceptional African Camps and Lodges, a sumptuous coffee table book with photos by Guido Taroni, a Milan-based interior and fashion photographer and a regular contributor to AD, City & Country, and Hut. These are handpicked by Bradley, the best of the best luxury and eco-safari lodges. The properties span seven countries and several styles of interior design, addressing different ways of experiencing a safari. It’s a smart and insightful look at some of the continent’s most exquisite properties, a joy for the wheelchair traveler and for those who can’t wait to come back and explore the world. I recently caught up with Bradley to learn more about the making of Safari style.

Everett Potter: Melissa, this book is clearly a labor of love. How long did it take you to visit and experience all of these lodges, then narrow the list down to the best?

Melissa Biggs Bradley: In many ways the search for the book started when I first set foot in Africa and continued with every visit as the book deals with the most spectacular lodges, but also of the evolution of safari tourism over the last thirty years. as a preservative. As visionary guide Colin Bell described, safari tourism has evolved from an extractive industry like mining to an industry that nurtures and protects communities and the natural environment. So, while I have been visiting for 40 years and the book reflects dozens of visits, it is less definitive than illustrative. Of course, it features the lodges of conservation visionaries like Luke Bailes de Singita, filmmakers Derek and Beverly Joubert, Harley Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz, and operators like Wilderness Safaris and andBeyond. I love every lodge and had to include standout properties such as Singita Sasakwa in Tanzania, Mombo in Botswana, Royal Malewane in South Africa and Bisate in Rwanda. Each lodge in the book is exceptional, but there are also many that deserve it that are not in the book, so I hope Safari Style expands and inspires discovery and does not limit anyone’s view of safari lodges in Africa. .

EP: When did safari lodges start to transform from canvas tents in a clearing into high-end lodges?

MBB: In the early 1990s, towards the end of apartheid, the tourism industry was shaped by a few key visionaries who realized they could inspire travelers around the world to experience the raw natural beauty of the landscapes and landscapes. the fauna of Africa if they created magnificent places in the Bush. Places like Phinda Homestead in South Africa have really raised the bar on what wildlife viewing accommodation could be. With features such as glass boxes and plunge pools, the property showed how architecture and design can take inspiration from the bush landscape. Phinda started a kind of competition that spread across eastern and southern Africa. These super lodges have attracted more diverse travelers to the area – people who might not have traveled on safari otherwise – and, as a result, inspired the passion of a new group of travelers and contributed to the wealth of local economies.

PE: in Safari style, you profile lodges in seven countries: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. The ones you have chosen are all striking. But is there a description defining the style of each country?

MBB: I organized the book by region because each has its own identity and each country’s experience is influenced by its own history, culture and environment. The destinations each have a huge impact on lodge design and the safari experience, but all lodges also celebrate wildlife and wild places. The book emphasizes design, as well as the intangible spirit of the teams who give soul to these lodges and illuminate these stories. For example, Namibian camps emphasize their desert or coastal landscapes, while camps in Rwanda incorporate volcanic stones, and lodges in Kenya include woods from the coast and pay homage to local Maasai culture with the art on display and colors used around the property. You really have to go to the lodges themselves to experience this holistic beauty.

EP: Which lodges would be ideal for traditionalists, those who want to have a Outside of Africa fancy?

MBB: Traditionalists will be happiest in East Africa, where the safari tradition began, first with the big game hunting safari and later the photo safaris. Lodges like Segera in Kenya and Singita Sasakwa in Tanzania actually contain beautiful antiques and memorabilia like Hemingway’s letters or the vintage plane used in the movie Out of Africa. And of course, the iconic landscapes celebrated by Isak Dinesen, Hemingway and others are the great open plains of the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti. When most people envision a safari landscape, they conjure up this area.

EP: What is the most extreme lodge, in terms of design, that really pushes the boundaries?

MBB: Some of the more innovative designs are found in newer areas for safari like Rwanda and Namibia. Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge in Rwanda is a lodge located on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park and featuring volcanic stone and bamboo, as well as fiber thatch strips that look like strips of leaves, but are made from plastic recycled. Bisate’s cottages resemble giant weavers’ nests nestled on the hillside. Camp Hoanib in Namibia offers tents with innovative weatherproof and UV-resistant canvases and suspended concrete floors to capture breezes and increase energy efficiency. Both are incredibly beautiful examples of eco-luxury.

EP: If there is a lodge where you could wake up tomorrow morning, which one would it be, and why?

MBB: Such a tough question, but – if I had to choose – probably the Singita Mara River because that would mean waking up to birdsong under the canvas in the middle of the Serengeti. I have vivid memories of those mornings with my grandmother on safari when I was 12 years old. It was the trip that sparked my love for Africa. Whenever I am in the bush there are elements of joy and wonder that I have experienced being in nature for the first time. Memories that bring me back to my first safari moments that bring me the same gratitude for the spectacular beauty of Africa’s natural environment.

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