Rebuilding Ila Safari Lodge

Natasha Parker | December 14, 2023

Ila Safari Lodge is in the process of being rebuilt with a trailblazing new infinity-nest design. The lodge recently hosted our first-ever Green Safaris Indaba in January, and will officially open on March 1st. We will also be launching a brand new Ila Safari Villa, complete with seven bedrooms.

A Boma is Forever

We lost our first and most beloved boma, at Ila Safari Lodge in the Kafue, to fire. It’s not quite the definition of forever. But at Green Safaris, we always wish to build with forever in mind. A forever of protected wild spaces and creatures, sustainable power sources, and respectful tourism that benefits both travellers and wilderness.

We know sustainability starts with your cornerstone (the one you put in the ground under your buildings, as well as the symbolic one), so here we are, building for forever again.

The Brainwave

They say that phoenixes are born from the ashes. In this case, the Green Safaris phoenix was a brainwave, born in the head of our Director and Founder, Vincent Kouwenhoven.

Vincent rushed to Ila for crisis management as soon as he heard about the fire, and he was still there a week later as he watched the very first boma he had ever built – his first foray into sustainable design – being cleared off the ground. He was struck by the idea of forever, how fleeting it can be, and how important it is to pick yourself up and keep going, especially when you have a whole team relying on you and years of vital conservation and community work to do. This thought, combined with Vincent’s recent experience co-designing the Chisa Busanga Nests, led to an idea…

Chisa Busanga – An Inspiration

What About an Infinity Nest?

The Chisa Busanga Camp Nest rooms are striking, and they are also sustainable. A simple metal frame woven with local sticks and twigs and held together with all sorts of clever mechanics and technology. So why not go even bigger?

From the outset, the design of the new Ila Safari Lodge was guided by ideals rooted deeply in nature. The goal is to blend seamlessly with the surroundings, ensuring that even if the lodge were to vanish in a century or more, it will leave no mark on the pristine wilderness it inhabits. Sustainability is not just an aspiration, but the foundation upon which the new Ila will rise.

Here is Vincent’s first idea, born direct, as it was, from the fire.

The idea of infinity inspired the design process itself. The infinity symbol is a beautiful, symmetrical shape which will fit right into the wilds of the Kafue. It is also the perfect way to encapsulate our dream: that Ila’s impact will remain forever and a day, a testament to our unwavering commitment to the environment.

Here is Vincent’s good friend and Green Safaris architect, Bert Meerdstadt, helping Vincent work out how to make the idea into a reality.

The New Boma

As Green Safaris embarked on this journey, we aimed to create an even more immersive and intimate experience for our guests. Learning from the past, the new lodge would offer a multitude of intimate spaces while providing practical facilities for our dedicated staff, including an improved kitchen, office, and storage facilities. It was an opportunity to make Ila even more special, more enchanting.

Practical considerations played a vital role in shaping the lodge’s design. Every aspect, from the lodge’s orientation towards the sun to guest movements and proximity to the kitchen, was meticulously planned and discussed. Our interior designer worked to ensure that every piece of furniture within the main area will seamlessly blend with the lodge’s overall functionality.

And here is the layout, in all its computer-designed beauty, ready for the frames to be created!

This was also an opportunity to pioneer new, sustainable building methods! Environmental principles were paramount throughout the design and construction phases. We continued our tradition of using locally sourced building materials and low-impact construction techniques. In a groundbreaking move, we invested in a machine capable of creating building blocks from deserted termite mounds’ sand. This is yet another sustainable alternative to traditional construction methods. Whilst these blocks do need a little concrete to set, it is minuscule compared to normal building methods.

The Construction Journey

The construction process itself was a whirlwind of activity. We cleared the site, designed the lodge, secured the budget, and involved a diverse team to validate the design’s functionality. It was a race against time, as we simultaneously mobilised teams to source operating equipment, furniture, and all the essentials lost in the fire. The dedication of our team was unwavering, and we couldn’t be prouder of their passion and resilience.

How many men does it take to look at a line in the ground?

The Magical Kafue

As we look forward to the reopening of Ila Safari Lodge, we are reminded of the bond that connects us to this special place. The staff, many of whom have temporarily found new homes in our other lodges, eagerly anticipate the return to “their home.” The love and dedication they have for Ila are a testament to the magic that this place holds.

Ultimately, the fire that took our beloved Boma at Ila Safari Lodge has only fuelled our determination to build for forever. We are excited to welcome our guests again, offering an even more enchanting experience in the heart of the Kafue. A Boma is forever, as is our commitment to preserving the wilderness and sharing its wonders with the world.

The new Ila Boma frame as abstract sunset art.

And one more surprise…

Ila will be launching a brand new Private House next year, too—more on this to come.
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