When we started with the Chisa Busanga Camp design, Green Safaris’ Founder, Vincent and his close friend Bert Meerstadt, an architect from the Netherlands, were wandering together around the island where the camp would be situated, in the middle of the Busanga Plains. And at one moment during their walk together, they both looked up and stared at a beautiful bird’s nest. In a split second and without words, they both realised what the design of this new camp would be – nests!
Weavers' nests make ingenious homes and we wanted to replicate this in some way, but of course on a larger scale for people. The goal was to offer unique and fascinating accommodation as well as create beautiful spaces where guests could reflect on nature’s wonder and ingenuity. What we were soon to be reminded, however, is that nature has had millions of years to perfect her designs. Our experience at nest building at this point was zero.
Luckily, our team was passionate and willing to put in the work. We loved the idea of living amongst the treetops overlooking the Busanga Plains. Due to the heavy rainfall in the wet season, when the camp would naturally need to close, we knew that the rooms would have to be on stilts. Building them as nests was really only taking them a few steps further. Or so we thought…
Bert first drafted a stretched version of a nest that would be built in wood like a clinkered boat. It turned out to be difficult and relatively heavy to build in the middle of nowhere. After a few iterations, he came up with the current design with ribs, canvas and twigs. So a true nest with a very large opening for guests could enjoy the views from an internal viewing deck.
Luckily, Jacques van Heerden, the first General Manager of Ila Safari Lodge, had recently bumped into a South African aluminium ‘wizard’, Riaan Langeveldt. Together with his team, Riaan built a prototype Bert’s nest design and improved the use of the space of the six-metre diameter sphere.
After meticulous planning and a long journey, the nests arrived on the Busanga Plains. They were mounted by a joint team headed by Jacques and Riaan. It had to be carefully done, as we were literally working above our heads!
With the nests finally finished and fully operational, we could not have been happier with the results and are incredibly excited to welcome guests to experience Chisa for themselves. Covid-19 put a heavy hitch in our stride, delaying the opening by a year, which turned out to be a year for our team to perfect the little details to make each guest experience wonderfully unforgettable.