May 2021

Luxury travel that treads lightly on the earth 

in Lodges and Camps

Luxury travel that treads lightly on the earth 

There exists an outdated perception that luxury and sustainability can’t co-exist in harmony. This has slowly begun to change as the very idea of luxury, and what that means evolves. Singita’s lodges, in locations across Africa chosen for their remote and unspoilt beauty, allow for a new idea of luxury to emerge – designed with a considered approach to the landscapes and communities that they exist alongside, and in a careful and respectful process that ensures we contribute to the environments we share. 

In the past, luxury travel was often synonymous with materialism and consumption – ideas that by default contradict sustainable practices. A gradual shift in recent years has changed this notion. Now luxury means, space, meaningful experiences and connections, seclusion, wellness. Discerning travellers of today demand accountability within the bounds of luxury – and expect brands to reflect their concerns and aspirations for a better world. 

Each lodge redesign or new build is created with the utmost respect for the land – using resources responsibly and finding innovative ways to build and source

A delicate balance

As a conservation and ecotourism brand, Singita’s balance of luxury and responsibility is a core value, intrinsic to every decision we make. Our 100-year purpose is to preserve and protect large areas of African wilderness for future generations and this vision is intrinsically linked to sustainability. As such, walking the fine line between creating a superior sensory experience without compromising eco- and earth-friendly principles requires a much more mindful design process, one which our partners in architecture and interior design commit to wholeheartedly. 

Each lodge redesign or new build is created with the utmost respect for the land – treading lightly on resources and using innovative ways to be as sustainable as possible in terms of the use and sourcing of materials, the building process and local employment policies. This is part of a carefully maintained internal sustainability framework for lodge design, building and operation and filters through every aspect from planning and design to daily renewable energy use and water waste reduction.  

Singita's lodges are designed to live in harmony with their surroundings, with the tented camps especially light on the earth

Celebrating local resources

Geordi De Sousa Costa, project designer and partner at Cecile & Boyd, our longtime design firm, who takes the lead on work on the Singita portfolio, emphasises the importance of considering the impact – both positive and negative – of any design decisions. From architecture that is light on the earth, to responsible sourcing that minimises a carbon footprint while boosting local entrepreneurs, the design process considers the supply chain, source and longevity of all the elements incorporated into the final scheme. ‘Sustainability is not just a catch phrase for Singita; it is taken seriously with One Planet training, guidance and protocols taken and considered at every juncture,’ she says. 

Each lodge, courtesy of its site, environment and climate, comes with a unique set of sustainability challenges and considerations – with some more able to be light on the ground as a result of their site’s unique characteristics. Extreme weather too plays a role - where specific materials have to be selected to be highly durable. Temperature control via passive heating and cooling, courtesy of well-designed architecture can also make a difference in how light the lodges' footprints are.  

Artisanal items and materials are locally sourced wherever possible to ensure a minimal carbon footprint as well as to support local entrepreneurs

Sustainability intrinsic to design

With newer lodges, designing with sustainability is mind is more straightforward, as it can be implemented from the planning stages, but over time, these principles will be built into the fabric of even the longstanding Singita lodges. ‘With sustainability being so key to the success and attractiveness of these lodges it is non negotiable and becomes second nature to our design process,’ says De Sousa Costa.  

At the recently completed Singita Sabora Tented Camp in the Serengeti, the design team chose to custom make the tents and all their components on site rather than import a completed product. ‘This allowed us to be very conceptual and bespoke as well. The tents were sewn under the trees of the Serengeti and the decks are all made from local timber,’ she says. While at the nearby Singita Sasakwa Lodge, the recent refurbishment made use of 90% upcycled, repaired, reupholstered and re-routed décor. ‘We also chose talented local Tanzanian photographers to produce the artworks and had them framed on site.  We are always on the lookout for new and novel ways to be sustainable,’ she says.  

At Singita Sabora Tented Camp, the design team chose to craft the tents and their components on site rather than import a completed product

For Singita and our design partners, luxury is about an attitude and atmosphere as well as it is about comfort and convenience, and carefully balanced design using items selected from reliable sources or custom manufacturers is considered at every turn. ‘From the smallest of items to the actual tent itself - much thought and consideration goes into the origin, function, longevity and aesthetic synergy. It's a constant challenge to source and manufacture locally as there is not always the expertise and finesse immediately available, but where we can we use local industries and artists,’ she notes.  

Apart from having a lower carbon footprint, using local products and artefacts contributes to the authentic sense of place and a celebration of local cultures, which yet again ties in seamlessly with a more evolved and layered perception of true luxury.  

Explore our lodges, and the various ways they merge seamlessly with nature here >

By Julia Freemantle

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