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Finding balance on the banks of the Botswana wilderness

Wilderness Safaris’ Botswana campsite, DumaTau, is the ideal escape for adventure and relaxation

By House & Garden South Africa | January 14, 2022 | Category

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe
Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

Botswana is a country of myriad landscapes. From the stark blanched pans of the Makgadikgadi to the winding emerald waterways of the Delta, there is a whole universe within this wild country.

It could be argued though that Linyanti offers the best of all these disparate safariscapes in one magical destination of abundance and diversity. A blend of untouched grassland, riverine forest and meandering lagoons, it’s relatively underused in tourism terms, making it the ultimate escape. And DumaTau, perched on the edge of the Linyanti river, where elephants cross in leisurely fashion each day to root up water lilies, offers the best of Linyanti.

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

Recently redone, it’s also a blueprint for contemporary luxury lodge design that takes its environment into context – both stylistically and in terms of sustainability – and finds a balance between innovation and tradition, sophistication and comfort. Above all, it’s a tribute to the waterway it looks over. While the lodge wasn’t redesigned in its entirety, substantial changes were made to enhance exactly this connection to the landscape and revitalize the camp to align it with Wilderness’ premier lodge standards, while maintaining the soul of the original DumaTau. The extraordinary lagoon-side setting is central to the experience of a stay here – and the element around which all dining and leisure time revolves – and as a result, its latest incarnation has expanded ways for guests to soak in the setting.

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

Sustainability and a sensitivity to the setting informed many of the architectural choices too – from passive cooling to a variety of savvy design details that work with the climate. Each suite now has a plunge pool and covered decks shaded by extensive overhangs, and in keeping with the company’s sustainability standards, the camps are 100% solar-powered and feature water-efficient showerheads, tap aerators and cisterns. Nods to sustainable craft and Wilderness’ driving purpose of sustainability are threaded throughout however – each room features a life-size ‘curiosity box’ with details about elephant and wild dog – both key species integral to DumaTau’s conservation purpose (the Linyanti is a migration corridor for elephants, and serves as a dispersal hub for wild dog, and its protection is therefore crucial).

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

Essentially everything revolves around an awareness of the environment, and the river in particular. In the bush, water is the source of all life, and here it’s also the central focus and fount of inspiration visually – but in a less obvious way than you may think. The lodge was previously monochromatic but colour now gently ebbs in via soft furnishings and warm décor accents (think brass wall lights, copper basins and terracotta ceramics) in a palette that, rather than referencing the water itself, was inspired by the tones of the abundant water lilies that float on it, (and no doubt the spectacular sunsets that form the backdrop for drinks on the floating deck and evening boat cruises). A refreshing take on an riverine theme, it’s resulted in a warm, cocooning scheme that feels earthy despite its aquatic origins.

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

The suites have this same welcoming and grounding effect. Stylistically, the tent-inspired silhouettes and campaign-style influences were retained, but updated and expanded upon – with timber decking from the old DumaTau introducing an architectural layer, traditional campaign furniture modernised, and texture added via mohair rugs, linen wall hangings, handmade wall tiles, and leather and rattan accents. Space wise, they’ve also been given more scope. Now a hallway links the new lounge additions (equipped with tea and coffee and minibar stations) to the bedrooms, while separate dressing and bathing areas and outdoor showers all create an expansive feel, and orient you towards the river views.

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

Constantly connecting you to the setting, the main lodge areas too, are open, but feel protected courtesy of the abundant riverside foliage and trees. Notable new additions to the main social hub are a wine room, perfect for intimate gatherings, an expanded outdoor deck for starlight dining, and newly lowered fire pit (where breakfast is cooked over coals) and floating deck, allowing guests vantage points from every area and encouraging a dialogue with nature.

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

The newly added Osprey Retreat – the wellness area to the left of the main lodge area – further enhances this connection, and has introduced a whole new wellness focus. A spacious deck designed around a 12-metre swimming pool overlooks the lagoon and is populated with contemporary daybeds in bold colours, tables to dine at (served by the deli conveniently on hand), a gym with a view and the Safari Boutique (where you’ll find local craft treasures, some made by the team). The camp’s tranquil new spa is tucked in a nearby thicket for privacy and serene relaxation.

Photo by Teagan Cunniffe

Finding balance is the best way to describe DumaTau. The best of both bush and water landscapes, social and sanctuary-like spaces, a design that draws on tradition but considers contemporary travel, and a level of luxury that still treads lightly.

For more about the Duma Tau camp and others, visit Wilderness Safaris at wilderness-safaris.com.