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Dumatau: A luxury destination designed to reflect a serious purpose

26 May 2021 – The completely rebuilt DumaTau and brand new Little DumaTau, set on the very edge of Osprey Lagoon in northern Botswana’s Linyanti Wilderness Reserve, present an elegant design that effortlessly blends a sense of place with a clear conservation purpose, providing impactful and life-changing journeys to this extraordinary wilderness area.

The vision for DumaTau was brought to life through a collaboration between Luxury Frontiers and Artichoke Interiors, in association with artist Gina Waldman, and Wilderness Safaris’ in-house design and development team. The brief to the architects and designers focused on the need to revitalise the camp and align it with the standards of Wilderness Safaris’ Premier offering, while retaining the soul of the original DumaTau.

“We are extremely proud to be opening these camps during this time, emphasising our ongoing commitment to conservation tourism in the region. COVID-19, and the resulting lockdowns and travel restrictions, made this an interesting build – without very dedicated contractors this could not have been as successful. Everybody pulled together and we are humbled to have been able to work in these trying times with such a stellar team”, notes Anomien Smith, lead architect from Luxury Frontiers.

“The previous DumaTau was much loved by guests, and therefore our intention was not to completely change the original tented camp, but rather to enhance what was already there”, Anomien explains.

The extraordinary lagoon-side setting – which regularly attracts herds of elephant and other wildlife – is key to the architecture and design of DumaTau with its seven guest suites and one family suite, and Little DumaTau, comprising just four spacious guest suites. The dining room and guest rooms have been reorientated to offer more expansive views out over the water, with the floating deck and fire pit lowered so as not to impede the vista. The main pool at the central Osprey Retreat wellness area has been carefully aligned so that it appears to merge with the dark waters beyond – an impression that is affirmed by the charcoal colour of the pool.

Sustainability and celebrating the sense of purpose are also key to the DumaTau story – adherence to Wilderness Safaris’ long-standing ban on concrete in its camps meant that when it proved necessary, one of the original guest rooms could be disassembled and relocated with minimum disruption. Flexibility in the design of the expanded rooms meant that they could be built around existing trees.

The simple yet characterful timber cladding effect used throughout the camps has been achieved through repurposing wooden decking from the old DumaTau. The explorer tented style was retained, while the reclaimed timber adds another architectural layer to enhance the guest tents and other areas.  In keeping with the ethos of avoiding waste, even the pallets used to transport items to the new camp have been pressed into service as cladding. On closer inspection, the details on the hand-dyed cushions reveal themselves to have been cut from old game-drive vehicle tyres – another way to close the circle of the camp’s relationship with its surroundings.

Lead interior designer, Câline Williams-Wynn, worked closely with Gina Waldman to enhance the authenticity of DumaTau’s narrative, with each guest room featuring curated art and impact-driven décor, as well as two unique, life-size ‘curiosity boxes’ containing compelling details about elephant and wild dog – both key species used to explain DumaTau’s conservation purpose. Additional curiosity boxes are also found in the interpretive library, further bringing these important stories to life. The Linyanti is a vital migration corridor for elephants, and serves as a dispersal  hub for wild dog, and it is therefore crucial that the Linyanti is protected, with conservation tourism playing a vital role.

The tiles on the main bar are illustrated with a hand-painted map of the Linyanti area, while the copper waterlily installation in the spa ties the ideas of relaxation and revitalisation to the lagoon-side setting. The colour palette chosen by Câline runs throughout the camp décor, thereby providing a leitmotiv that connects each area back to the Linyanti region. Her chief inspiration was the presence of waterlilies on the lagoon – while the obvious step might have been to echo the hues of the blooms, Câline was drawn to the undersides of the leaves, hence the berry, blush, terracotta and greens, which inform the DumaTau colour scheme – colours that immediately evoke the wilderness beyond, and send a welcoming message to guests.

“All good design should tell a story”, comments Câline, and DumaTau is a place with more stories than most. In our choice of colours, materials and techniques, we’ve endeavoured to stay faithful to its rich history, while introducing the importance of the Linyanti to a new generation of safari-goers”.

Enhanced cooling has been provided by plunge pools, extensive overhangs, and covered decks. In keeping with a design philosophy that embraces innovation as well as tradition, the guest rooms also feature customised spot-cooling for the bedroom areas – a first for Wilderness Safaris. The redesigned guest rooms also feature expanded lounges and bathrooms, with the outdoor shower just a step away. The camps are 100% solar-powered and all hot water is heated by solar geysers. Water-efficient showerheads, tap aerators and cisterns also feature.

Guests who stroll to the centrally located Osprey Retreat will discover not only a pergola with daybeds, a Safari Boutique, and deli spaces with delicious fresh and healthy snacks, but a welcoming ‘cool deck’ with in-pool loungers.

“We’re confident that the architecture and design of the camps will delight former guests of DumaTau as well as visitors who are discovering the remarkable Linyanti region for the first time. With the camps’ extremely remote location, small number of suites and luxury of space, alongside stringent COVID-19 health and safety protocols, we are confident that DumaTau will quickly become a top Botswana safari choice for discerning guests”, concludes Kim Nixon, Wilderness Safaris Botswana Managing Director.

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Moagi Madisa

"Although journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information and also the product of these activities; for me its science - our sorroundings"

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