November 2017 – After 20 years of delivering world-class, authentic safari experiences in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, the elevated walkways and main camp buildings that make up the heart of Chitabe Camp are to be rebuilt in the first five months of 2018.
The new and exciting design has been created by Mark Thomas and his award-winning team who crafted the Boomslang walkway in Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Chitabe’s new walkways will feature sinuous curves and soft lines inspired by the graceful meandering of the Okavango waterways. Nestling in the natural beauty of Chitabe Island, they will feature low footprint longer spans, a more delicate-looking structure and an elephant underpass.
According to Helene Hamman, CEO of Chitabe Camp for the last 20 years, “When we originally built Chitabe Camp, it was the first completely elevated camp in the Delta. Since then we have welcomed and created a lifetime of memories for many guests. Although the camp is still exceeding our guests’ expectations, we wanted to raise the bar yet again and to rebuild the main area in the most responsible and sustainable way possible. Working with Mark and his talented team to creatively plan the new look and feel for Chitabe has been an exciting process and we can’t wait to reveal more surprises to our trade partners and guests along the way”.
“The under-thatch design of the new elevated buildings encompasses a “less is more” philosophy, combining the tasteful and responsible use of modern and traditional materials to produce an environmentally-respectful safari experience that is visually and sensually pleasing”, said lead architect Mark Thomas. “The revolutionary design will herald in many firsts for the Okavango, ensuring Chitabe remains a responsible custodian in one of the Delta’s highest game concentration areas”.
The main area will feature both indoor and under-star dining experiences whilst a unique, elevated “fire of a million stars” white Kalahari sand deck will be the central heart of Chitabe. A new lap pool, relaxation lounge and a gym will provide guests with healthy exercise opportunities while moments for introspection will be found in the new library.
The design team started with a precision 3-D laser survey of the island to establish a precise ecological baseline of natural features such as trees and termite mounds. This enabled the main areas to be designed and positioned precisely in 3-D with minimal impact. Using biomimicry-like principles in the structures, the design team has created a sense of open spaces and reduced the number of the foundations to half those of the old Chitabe Camp. Henry Fagan, an award-winning engineer in his own right, played an instrumental role in the team, innovating new non-permanent structures featuring removable concrete-free foundations. The team’s precise design and construction methods will ensure minimal environmental impact in every aspect of the rebuild process.
Mark reflected on the project, “Our journey with Chitabe started when we first stepped onto the island and were in awe of the natural beauty of its many trees. It has been critical to retain those as the canvas dominating the camp landscape, so we unobtrusively weaved the buildings in and around the trees and termite mounds, harmonious to the natural order of Chitabe.”
“While much will be new, we will use some of the beautiful wood from the original structures which will always serve as a reminder of where we all started”, Helene Hamman added. “We are confident that the new Chitabe will be a huge success, and look forward to hosting guests from June 2018 onwards when they can experience the magic of an even more beautiful Chitabe for themselves”.