Last week, I dropped in on what is known as “The Place of Plenty” – thanks to its rich, fertile soils that create an Eden within the already magical Okavango Delta. But today, this place was filled with plenty – energy, that is! The sounds of hammers and drills competed with the calls of the wild which normally resonate loudly with any Mombo experience.
And all around, there’s a wonder taking shape.
Naturally this pristine environment which has become loved and celebrated by Wilderness Safaris and their family of followers and supporters needs to remain intact and preserved at all cost, even when rebuilding a world class high end safari product. With all eyes on Wilderness Safaris and Mombo Camp, as well as our commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation it has been imperative to adhere to strict environmental guidelines in the build process as never seen before in this part of the world.
Any rebuild process starts first with demolishing the old camp, which most think involves a chainsaw and sledge-hammer! Well, not quite when you decide to put maximum emphasis on maintaining your immediate environment; so where does one start?
Firstly, we’ve started with the ground work: Mombo Island’s mature trees and root structure over the years has grown intricately in and amongst the camp’s gum pole substructure, making any ground work highly sensitive. So we tapped into (pardon the pun) a tree expert Riaan van Zyl’s intrinsic knowledge of trees and ex-trees: the gum poles. Riaan was able to direct us about which gum poles to remove and which had been intertwined by tree roots – the latter we’ve chosen to rather saw off at ground level to prevent unnecessary root damage.
Gum poles from Mombo are being reused to build the new boma (pictured above)
Next was to ensure that everyone, from our architectural designer and building contractor to the builders were well aware of our goal, which once again was not to disturb a single tree. Taking this into account we had to ensure that the foundations had multiple “bury and attach” strategies (meaning building around the roots) in case a root system was in the line of a building path. Furthermore our contractor would need to dig around root systems for sufficient foundation to support and secure our new facilities with baboon-proof roofs.
With that all underway, we could get onto removing old and damaged branches in the canopy to rejuvenate the impressive tree inventory.
With the build underway and a few hundred contractors on site it was imperative to make sure that it was not only the large, venerable old wise trees that were protected but also the youngsters that might go unnoticed and be sat on. So we singled out young and highly sought-after tree stock, such as young baobabs on site and ensured their safety using danger tape, such as one would normally be familiar with on a city block; this is used extensively to protect these natural high-valued assets.
How else could we reduce the impact of our build process, but reuse and renew history of as much of the old and much loved Mombo Camp? Balustrades, doors and their frames, main area floors are just a few and we leave it to our future visitors to explore and find these architectural masterpieces to be discovered…!