by Jincy IypeJul 08, 2023
Designed with an “anytime, anywhere” approach to safari, the Xigera Safari Lodge, situated in Botswana’s Okavango delta, promises to be an experience like none other on the planet; a huge feat by all means. How Xigera achieves this is through a sense of fusion, a collaborative spirit, that its underlying principles of design and operation are replete with. As such, several noteworthy forces come together to realise this vision of untouched beauty in the Savannah. Commissioned by Red Carnation Hotels, the lodge is meant as a project of legacy for the founding Tollman family, who collaborated with the Southern Guild gallery in Cape Town to bring the best of African art and design under one roof, designed especially for Xigera. The lodge’s overall design scheme has been prepared by architect Anton de Kock, along with Toni Collman and Philip Fourie, underlined by the same collaborative spirit.
Apart from being an unprecedented showcase of art and design in an increasingly intimate, tailored experience for patrons, the development, pronounced “Kee-jera”, features 12 uniquely designed suites including a two-bedroom family suite anchored on two islands. Each suite is designed to “delicately float above the water”, implying a stilted, concrete-free footprint, along with ensuring uninterrupted passage for wildlife underneath. Each of the suites finds its conceptual inspiration in Pel’s Fishing Owl in flight, considered to be one of Africa’s most sought-after and elusive birds, who de Kock spotted during his first visit to the site. The lodge is in turn surrounded and shaded by a canopy of trees, lending additional intrigue and ensconcement to the suites. Owing to the remote, preserved nature of the property, guests have to arrive by light aircraft from either Maun or Kasane, and approach the lodge by road or boat, via an elevated bridge.
Along with the structure, Xigera is defined by the design collection that adorns it, intending to be representative of the best of African design talent, “reflecting a new found confidence and appreciation for African design and art around the world”. The idea here is to not only make the guests feel connected and in sync with their surroundings, but also with the spirit of Africa. That spirit of a rich, traditional craftsmanship stemming from the continent and now pervious to global renown, is represented by the meticulously curated Xigera collection that commissions roughly 80 African artists and craftsmen, including David Krynauw, Porky Hefer, Madoda Fani, Andile Dyalvane, Cheick Diallo, Zizipho Poswa, Gregor Jenkin, Laurie Wiid van Heerden, Jesse Ede, Dokter and Misses, Chuma Maweni, Rich Mnisi, Atang Tshikare, among many others, listed by Trevyn and Julian McGowan, owners of the Southern Guild gallery, along with Toni Tollman.
The tasteful collection of art and design objects is expected to add an additional dimension to the stay of the guests, extending beyond the usual comforts and stylishness associated with modern day hospitality design. The suites further adopt a cohesive layering within their interior design scheme, rich in materiality and texture, laid out in timber, bronze, and hand-carved wood, along with exquisite craft motifs. "Collectively, the artists celebrate the role of craft, honouring the rich indigenous traditions of making by hand whilst seeking out bold new interpretations,” states an official release on the Xigera collection. A range of bespoke furniture, designed and draped differently for each suite and intended as a collectible, is rich with a site specific relevance and narrative.
The evocative experience is activated by interactive objects peppered throughout the property: from human-sized woven nests on decks for guests to nestle in, designed by South African artist Porky Hefer, to a three-storey steel baobab tree-like sleepout among the stars located at a distance of one km from the camp, to a collection of wishbone-shaped seats, pedestals, benches and side tables adorning each suite’s living area, designed by sculptor and arborist, Adam Birch. The pièce de résistance, however, is stated to be a totemic firepit sculpture by blacksmith artist Conrad Hicks, “holding the fire” akin to a boma (enclosure), lending a contemporary take on the traditional boma setting. Within the lounge, the fireplace is made out of hand-beaten copper and assumes the form of a lily: a recurring motif in Xigera.
Rounding up Xigera’s holistic experience are explorations of the delta’s exquisite waterways by either traditional canoe, glass-bottomed mokoro, or a motorboat, offered by the lodge, complete with gorgeous ‘feet-in-the-water’ sundowners with private walking safaris, catch-and-release fishing, photo-safaris, and helicopter excursions over the expansive delta. The facilities, in-house, are rounded out by Xigera’s own state of the art wellness facilities, including a gym, a speciality spa, and a swimming pool gazing directly over the river, as if an ordered extension of the narrow streams of the delta.