Situated in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Xigera Safari Lodge is a bold new statement set to pioneer a new era of safari lodges, illuminating Africa’s hottest young artists in a new design direction for Red Carnation Hotels.
Xigera will be a legacy project of the Tollman family – the renowned South African hoteliers. The Tollmans began their career in the hotel and hospitality business in Africa and are creating their first pure safari experience with the launch of Xigera.
Opening on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Xigera (“Kee-jera”) will feature 12 individually-designed suites, including one two-bedroom family suite situated on two islands, bridged together with an extraordinary bronze lily centrepiece designed by Anton de Kock and created by Otto du Plessis.
Each suite will float delicately above the water, allowing wildlife to pass uninterruptedly beneath, innovatively created without the use of any concrete.
Inspired by a sighting on his first visit to the site, architect Anton de Kock conceptualised each suite as a Pel’s Fishing Owl in flight – one of Africa’s most sought-after and elusive birds.
The whole lodge is surrounded by a canopy of magnificent trees and all structures are hidden into the bush. Guests will arrive by light aircraft either from Maun or Kasane and approach the lodge by road or boat via an elevated bridge.
The soul-stirring spa will feature two treatment rooms offering a diverse range of holistic and restorative healing. There will be an extensive spa programme with guest practitioners focusing on mindfulness, wellness and holistic healing, which tap into the natural healing powers of the peace and tranquility of the bush. Other wellness areas include a state-of-the-art gym and a swimming pool gazing directly over the river.
The lodge’s design has been conceptualised by Toni Tollman, Philip Fourie and Anton de Kock, who have collaborated with Southern Guild in a game changing design partnership. Based in Cape Town, Southern Guild commissions, produces and exhibits contemporary collectible designs by the most compelling talents in South Africa.
Owners Trevyn and Julian McGowan have worked meticulously with Toni Tollman to commission more than 30 African artists and craftsmen to design Xigeria – including David Krynauw, Porky Hefer, Madoda Fani, Andile Dyalvane, Cheick Diallo, Zizipho Poswa, Gregor Jenkin, Laurie Wiid van Heerden, Jesse Ede, Dokter and Misses, Chuma Maweni, Rich Mnisi and Atang Tshikare.
Xigera’s intention is to showcase the very best of modern African design and talent, reflecting a new-found confidence and appreciation for African design around the world. The design team has challenged these extraordinary artists to go beyond their natural comfort zones.
Xigera’s collection of design will elevate the guest experience far beyond the usual comforts and stylishness of other bush camps and add a new dimension to their stay. In each suite, design will exist cohesively in a jewel-like layering of materials and texture including timber, bronze and hand-carved wood.
The bespoke assemblage of pieces is taking 18 months to produce with each item hand-made. Collectively, the artists will celebrate the role of craft, honouring the rich indigenous traditions of making by hand while seeking out bold new interpretations.
All of the furniture throughout each space will be unique and collectible, rich with narrative and site-specific relevance. Quietly surprising touches will be everywher – from human-sized woven nests by renowned South African artist Porky Hefer resting on decks for guests to nestle in to a life-changing sleep-out in a three-story steel baobab tree located 1km from the camp.
The pièce de résistance will be a totemic firepit sculpture by blacksmith artist Conrad Hicks holding the fire as a boma centrepiece and offering a contemporary take on the traditional boma setting. Within the lounge, the fireplace will be made out of hand-beaten copper in the form of a lily – a recurring motif which represents Xigera.
South African Porky Hefer embraces Africa and the skills and processes that are available indigenously. Making use of traditional techniques and crafts that focus on hand rather than machinery, his work ensures that age-old skills are preserved and kept relevant in a modern age.
In 2016, he represented South Africa at the inaugural London Design Biennale, which was followed by a solo exhibition at R & Company in New York in 2017. At Xigera’s entrance, Porky has created a hippopotamus-inspired hand-woven cane structure, to lie in and reflect while overlooking the river.
Kenyan artist Stanislaw Trzebinski has presented his work at Christies’ bi-annual design auction in 2017 and at Design Miami in 2018. He creates sculptural works that explore human relationships with the natural world, working primarily in bronze.
Drawing on his fascination for marine life, Stanislaw has created immense panels in Xigera’s hallway which have been inspired by a fossilled sea-bed piece, which looks like the Delta from the air, as well as sand-cast aluminium outdoor tables.
Adam Birch is a Cape Town-based sculptor and arborist, whose fascination and experience with timber as a medium is multi-faceted. From the unique forms and wood grain of each tree, he carves functional pieces of sculpture, transforming the discarded forks of trees into curved seats.
Adam will spend months on site hand-carving trees right where they have fallen, to yield benches and chairs that will twist and fold and gently hold the sitter.
Otto du Plessis is primarily a sculptor, specialising in bronze work. He is the founder of Bronze Age Foundry in Cape Town, which he built into the bronze foundry of choice for many leading local and international artists. Together with designer Charles Haupt, he has fostered a new regard for bronze as a modern material equally suited to furniture, lighting, functional design and sculpture.
Otto will be responsible for creating bronze lily flower basins in each of Xigera’s suites, brass counter tops and the extraordinary bronze lily centrepiece, also designed by Toni Tollman and her team.
Inspired by his African heritage, Madoda Fani makes hand-coiled, burnished and smoke-red pieces that are a contemporary evolution of the traditional ceramics indigenous to Southern Africa. He grew up in Gugulethu township in Cape Town and learnt how to burnish clay with a stone from Jabu Nala, the daughter of legendary Zulu beer-pot maker Nesta Nala, and mastered smoke-ring techniques under the guidance of Nic Sithole.
He has exhibited at Design Miami and The Salon Art + Design and as part of the Christie’s London annual design auction. For Xigera, he will be creating large scale, organic-shaped vessels whose smooth surfaces will be punctuated by intricate, repetitive patterns, giving them a scaled, insect-like appearance.
Other pieces are being created by young Botswanan apprentices, working side by side with sculptor Adam Birch.
A safari experience like no other
Unlike other highly-structured safaris, Xigera will offer guests total flexibility. Morning, afternoon and evening game drives are at guests’ leisure, while they can also explore the Delta’s waterways by traditional canoe, glass-bottom mokoro and motorboat – complete with ‘feet-in-the-water’ sundowners.
Other highlight experiences include private walking safaris, catch-and-release fishing, photographic safaris and helicopter excursions over the Delta.
It is the people that will define Xigera, as you’d expect from a Red Carnation creation, with 105 exceptional staff looking after 24 guests. Xigera is proud to be locally managed, appointing Botswanan Question Maundo as Xigera’s Lodge Manager while Mike and Marian Myers will lead the team as General Managers.
Both born in Africa, Marian began her corporate career in Johannesburg, while Mike led mokoro and mobile camping safaris in Botswana, before becoming a renowned bush pilot and wildlife photographer. Mike and Marian spent five years travelling throughout the subregion together, photographing and documenting their journey and ultimately becoming destination specialists.
Mike has been a safari guide for the Tollman family for over 20 years and when Red Carnation Hotels asked Mike and Marian to take responsibility for the re-imagining of Xigera, their dream of creating a truly pioneering lodge became a reality.
True to Red Carnation’s passion for generous hospitality, Xigera’s staff accommodation will be unparalleled in Africa and represent the largest in Botswana. Each team member will have his own accomodation, including a double bed and ensuite, staff canteen, kitchen and lounge.
Rates at Xigera Safari Lodge start from US$2,550 per adult per night sharing. This includes accommodation on a full board basis, park fees and all activities.