SOUTH AFRICA—Luxury Frontiers, the San Francisco/Johannesburg-based international firm specializing in the design and development of high-end, light-on-earth building concepts, has recently completed Mdluli Safari Lodge. The luxury 50-tent safari camp, located within the southern borders of Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa, grew from a 50-50 partnership between Mdluli Safari Lodge and the local Mdluli Community and took years of dedication as such developments depend upon establishing harmony between tourism, the environment, and community.
As with every project it undertakes, Luxury Frontiers focused on limiting the ecological impact of Mdluli Safari Lodge through careful consideration and collaboration with the environmental specialists of Kruger National Park. The topography of the site leans toward an offshoot of the Nsikazi River, with design involving complex positioning to ensure that each of 50 tent accommodations looks out onto amazing vistas across the park, yet offers the complete privacy cherished by contemporary travelers.
The location was assessed to ensure minimal invasion and a light ecological footprint from building methods and construction materials. Preservation of numerous Marula trees was essential to the layout, as designers took care to plan carefully around them.
Welcome to Mdluli Lodge
Luxury Frontiers positioned the main area of Mdluli Safari Lodge, including reception, dining, and swimming areas, around a majestic Marula tree, with the structures set against a picturesque backdrop of a Silver Cluster leaf valley. The layout pays homage to the traditional lekgotla—a village meeting place in several Southern African tribal languages—with a life-size bronze of the late Chief MZ Mdluli by renowned sculptress Zelda Straud standing prominently in the shade of the tree with outstretched arms to welcome guests to this special place.
The lounge and bar area overlooks an adjacent riverbed, treating guests to frequent wildlife sightings including herds of elephant and buffalo. The restaurant consists of two dining areas—one large, the other intimate—separated by a screen detail created from recycled offcuts of gum tree poles from the site. The main area also houses an infinity pool and lounging deck area ideal for guests to beat the summer heat after enjoying activities including game drives and bush walks.
The 50 true safari-style tents of Mdluli Safari Lodge are tucked away amid trees on low-impact substructures raised above the natural ground, providing elevated views of the bushveld as well as entirely private spaces for close encounters with nature.
Luxury Frontiers spared no luxury in accommodation, with spacious tents outfitted with modern amenities including stylish couches tossed with throw pillows, a work desk with cushioned chair, and assorted tables and shelf units. Each tent is modified with a stud wall structure, splitting interiors into two areas with a luxurious bedroom and bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers. The interior palette of grey, green, and natural timber is inspired by tones and textures of the surrounding landscape and showcased in subtle detailing, from chunky woven carpet to a cork desk lamp representing the bark of Marula trees.
Working with the Community
Mdluli Safari Lodge is a blueprint for successful community development projects in South Africa. The lodge is a sustainable tourism initiative providing direct financial and indirect social and economic benefits from operations to the local Mdluli Community.
For instance, a Community Discovery Center designed pro-bono by Luxury Frontiers would allow guests to journey through the three core pillars behind the creation of the lodge including the partnership with the Community, wildlife conservation and preservation, and ecological design. It will house an interactive museum, information center, and environmental study center, and also offer opportunity for the Community to showcase arts and crafts.
“Communication with the Community was key to our work on Mdluli Safari Lodge as well as our involvement in the ethos to ensure every detail of design and construction met a high environmental standard,” said Graeme Labe, Principal & Managing Director of Luxury Frontiers.
Added Inkhosi MI Mdluli, Senior Traditional Leader, Mdluli Royal Family and Traditional Council: “I am really excited about this project which started 20 years ago by our late father Inkhosi MZ Mdluli, whose vision was to see the Royal Family and the entire Mdluli Community benefitting through education and community development. I took over where he left off, and I am committed to providing the leadership and guidance to ensure that his vision becomes a reality.”
Mdluli Safari Lodge is in the southwestern region of Kruger National Park, a five-hour drive from Gauteng, South Africa, and accessible via private road from Numbi Gate, the closest gate from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
For more information about Luxury Frontiers, e-mail www.luxury-frontiers.com.