Saseka, Thornybush’s latest baby, takes the notion of camping and ramps it up a few notches. It’s glamping, but not as you know it. This is no Primus-stove-and-tent-pegs experience, yet it carries the romance of sleeping under canvas and being separated from nature by only a thin barrier.
The camp has nine tented suites — an intimate number intended to make you feel exclusive and private — all nestled in wild surroundings.
Thornybush chairman Andy Payne banked on a long-standing relationship and appointed Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens Adventure Architecture (of North Island and Miavana fame) to design the lodge. The husband-and-wife team’s in-depth understanding of context and sustainability, as well as loads of field experience made them a no-brainer. “Outside their obvious talent, I chose them because they understand the tented-camp concept better than most,” Payne says.
“We’ve been designing lodges for a long time and were lucky to be at the forefront when it was a relatively new niche,” Rech says. But as lodge design has grown into one of South Africa’s booming industries, it has also evolved.
It’s about understanding what it means to be in nature — with relevant, appropriate details that heighten the experience of being where you are. “Every time we do a lodge, we want to take the art of being in the bush to the next level,” Rech adds.
Designing the new Thornybush camp was about getting the little details — from the tent shape and fabric, to letting the sounds of the bush permeate at night — just so. The team worried about creating a perfect-sized wardrobe, an idyllic bath-time view, and mosquito netting you can see through. “It’s important to get the basics right, and then you can add the romance,” Rech says.
This romance is about grounding you in the location: botanical prints on the ceilings of the tents situate — and educate — you with their Latin names (Rech says “intellectual tourism” is the future), while the roof of the lodge headquarters is a clever play on a tree canopy, sheltering guests with dappled light through varying densities of latte. “We wanted to invite nature into the building,” Rech says.
Payne’s brief to the team was to create something personal — a space filled with items that would touch guests during their stay — as well as push design boundaries in the context of the South African safari. Rech and Carstens applied this to the design as well as the experience. “We didn’t want to do ‘show-offy’ design. You want to get the guest relaxed, and for them to feel at home,” Rech says.
Case in point: the communal lounging and dining space. “It’s the opposite of being herded onto planes and buses and to tables. It’s meant to be relaxing and informal,” he says.
Really, Saseka is the perfect example of the new luxury — no bling or shine, just comfort. “We put a lot of thought into the placement and the details,” Rech says. And it shows. There’s an ease to it. Easy on the eye, easy to be in, easy to enjoy.
• From the May edition of Wanted 2019.