Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge provides luxury getaway in Africa

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge provides luxury getaway in remote African beauty spot

A+Awards: the African armadillo influenced the curved, scale-covered form of this boutique safari lodge in Botswana – one of the winners at this year's Architizer A+Awards.

Designed by South African firm Nicholas Plewman Architects and UK studio Michaelis Boyd, the Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge sits in the heart of the Okavango Delta – a UNESCO World Heritage Site teaming with wildlife.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana by Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd

Because of the land's protected status, construction in the area presents a number of challenges and any new buildings must meet strict requirements.

Each has to be fully built of bio-degradable materials, make no physical impact on the flora and fauna, and 70 per cent of energy has to come from sustainable sources.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana by Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd

The resulting 24-bed hotel is constructed almost entirely from wood and weaves through the trees around the site.

The curving form of the main building – created by giant laminated pine beams – is covered in Canadian cedar shingles, which look like the scales of a native small mammal.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana by Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd

"We chose the pangolin – Africa's armadillo – as a specific motif because of its shy, elusive and completely harmless nature and its ability to curl into its own protective carapace of scales," said the architects.

Other parts of the complex have screens and partitions woven from eucalyptus laths over stiff wire, while decks and floors are made from a variety of hard woods.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana by Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd

Despite energy restrictions, the client wanted guests to experience the same hot water supply, luxury bathing and food preparation as at the best hotels in the world.

"The client expected a boutique hotel that would deliver the very highest standards of luxury to its well-heeled and well-travelled guests," the architects said. "The sorts of compromises that inform most eco lodges were not acceptable."

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana by Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd

To meet these demands, power is sourced from a 100 kilovolt-amps photovoltaic array, which means generators need only run for three to four hours a day.

Hot water is delivered instantly to the cabins from a solar array of tubes backed up by heat pumps, continuously circulated through a 2.5-kilometre ring main.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana by Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd

"The environmental success of the project is perhaps best judged from the fact that the area's prolific wildlife including big animals like elephants, hippos, lions and leopards have continued to live on," said the architects.

"They use the site with such disregard for the emerging and completed buildings that you might imagine they simply don't see it at all."

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana by Nicholas Plewman Architects and Michaelis Boyd

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge was one of the winners in the Hotels & Resorts category at the A+Awards 2016.

Organised by Architizer, the awards promote and celebrate the year's best projects and products. Their stated mission is to nurture the appreciation of meaningful architecture in the world and champion its potential for a positive impact on everyday life.

Find out more about the A+Awards »

Photography is by Dook.


Project credits:

Management company: &Beyond
Architects: Nicholas Plewman Architects in collaboration with Michaelis Boyd Architects
Architectural project team members: Nick Plewman, Duran Bezuidenhout, Alex Michaelis, Karolina Szarmach
Interior designers: Fox Browne Creative
Engineers: De Villiers Sheard Consulting Engineers
Contractor: Lodge Builders Botswana
Alternative energy solutions: New Southern Energy
Landscaping: Gordon W Kershaw