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Redefining the Luxury Safari Lodge

Shompole lounge

Sarah Gold

But the most dramatic, and fabulous, manifestation of the tribal collaboration here is the indigenous-chic architecture. The structures (housing 24 open-air suites, all designed by Russell) are made from the same materials as the huts in nearby villages: white quartz, fig branches, river rock, straw. Rough-textured, with curving surfaces punctuated by pools of water, they seem to have grown organically, like mushrooms, out of the red-rock cliffs and brushy slopes of the escarpment. Yet when they’re seen from above, the lodge’s cluster of soaring thatch spires seems as modern a silhouette as the Sydney Opera House or Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim. It’s almost certainly been a draw for the small parade of celebrities who’ve stayed here in recent years (Bono and Bill Gates among them).

The bats in my roof make a racket as I’m getting ready for bed. They’re growing restless now that the sun has gone down—rustling their wings, flapping and twittering. For a while I listen to them as I lie inside my gauzy mosquito net, until gradually the sounds grow softer, and I sleep.


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