Luxury Frontiers Rebuilds DumaTau and Creates Little DumaTau for Wilderness Safaris
Creating a new architectural language to maintain the soul of a beloved safari camp while reusing and repurposing existing elements to limit its carbon footprint
Luxury Frontiers, the San Francisco/Johannesburg-based international design firm, collectively with Wilderness Safaris, conceived a revitalized DumaTau, a well-known luxury tented safari camp on the Osprey Lagoon in northern Botswana’s Linyanti region. Now promoted to the Wilderness Safaris Premier Portfolio, DumaTau reopens this month along with the debut of Little DumaTau, an intimate addition to the safari company’s repertoire, sporting four tented guest suites. The private lagoon and the abundant wildlife it attracts served as inspiration for the revived DumaTau. In conjunction with Wilderness Safaris’ in-house design and development team, Luxury Frontiers set out to reimagine the architecture, while Câline Williams-Wynn, Lead Interior Designer for Artichoke of Cape Town and Johannesburg-based artist, Gina Waldman, reconceived the camp’s interior design and bespoke art. Luxury Frontiers was challenged to maintain the soul and innate beauty of the beloved camp while expanding, upgrading, and revitalizing its public areas and accommodation units – seven single and one family suites. An entrance hallway links the new intimate lounges to the existing bedrooms. This connection gives the layout flexibility and expands interior space while optimizing views and limit the need for tree removal. DumaTau’s guest bathrooms have been reconfigured and enlarged, now boasting spacious wardrobes, luxurious shower spaces, as well as new outdoor showers with picturesque views of the lagoon.
Luxury Frontiers collaborated with Artichoke and Tenthouse Structures to re-design the practicality of the canvas walls while retaining the soft swag of the previous design. Enhancing airflow and cross ventilation, large mesh openings were added on opposite ends of each guest unit with custom-made louvres on the approach for privacy. Bespoke spot cooling systems were also added with ducts strategically placed to blow cool air over bed areas.
Aligned with Wilderness Safaris’ emphasis on sustainability and ban on concrete, Luxury Frontiers focused on minimizing waste by strategically refitting and reusing existing materials where possible. The timber decks from the original camp could no longer be used for flooring, thus presenting the ideal opportunity to repurpose this material by adding timber-cladding to DumaTau’s tents while retaining their iconic silhouette. Using reclaimed wood juxtaposes the tented façade and retains the tent’s explorer typology. Luxury Frontiers embraced the timber’s imperfections through a ribbed pattern that highlights the beautifully matured panels and adds texture and depth to the façade. Repurposing the timber from the original DumaTau and the transportation palettes plays a crucial role in limiting the Camp’s carbon footprint and adds a deep-rooted sense of place and poetic nostalgia.
Oriented towards the northwest, DumaTau’s prominent views direct naturally towards the breathtaking lagoon. This position, however, exposes the camp directly to the heat gain from the afternoon sun. Drawing from the name “DumaTau,” meaning ‘roar of the lion,’ Luxury Frontiers looked towards a lion’s love for lazing in the shade for inspiration. By introducing expansive shaded decks fitted with plunge pools, heat gain is prevented, and sun rays are blocked from entering the internal area. Expanded decks allow guests to transition seamlessly between indoors and outdoors and relax in comfort throughout the day.
DumaTau’s existing main area has been largely retained, with the previous gift shop reimagined as an explorers’ room, celebrating Wilderness Safaris’ conservation agenda. Notable additions to the main area include the new wine room, perfect for intimate gatherings, and the new outdoor deck allowing guests to dine beneath the stars or enjoy a sun-kissed breakfast. Set lower than floor level, the deck links the renowned DumaTau floating deck below with a walkway to a new bush fire pit closer to the lounge and exploration room. The reimagined outdoor spaces offer an expanded dialog with nature.
The Osprey Retreat, a central wellness area, is designed around a new 12-meter swimming pool. The positioning and charcoal color gives the illusion of extending into the lagoon. A ‘cool deck’ linking to the main pool accommodates water loungers. A pergola offers shade for daybeds, and a small deli and retail area with colorful furniture lend a festive vibe, encouraging guests to relax or head for the adjacent gym.
The camp’s spa is tucked in a nearby thicket for privacy and serene relaxation. Located in a former family unit of which the tent structures were retained, the Luxury Frontiers team adapted the layout to house the newly introduced gym. The new buildings add contemporary play of square elements and cantilevered canopies cladded in repurposed timber. The Osprey Retreat also functions as the threshold between DumaTau and Little DumaTau.
Little DumaTau continues the same architectural language and layout of the main Camp but introduces more intimate and inviting additions, including a cozy fireplace in the dining room and a self-help bar in the lounge, ensuring guests feel welcome. Little DumaTau’s four tented suites follow the tented and timber construction methodologies of the original camp.
The original swimming pool of DumaTau was re-used for Little DumaTau, where it is tucked slightly away yet accessible via a meandering step down from the camp’s main deck. Built of fiberglass, the pool was carefully removed and carried by hand to its new position, where the design team directed the perfect positioning to take advantage of the natural thicket and views.
“DumaTau has long been a guest favorite of Wilderness Safaris, so our intention was not to completely change the camp but rather enhance what was already there and create a similar experience at Little DumaTau,” said Anomien Smith, Director of Architectural and Interior Design at Luxury Frontiers. “Working during the pandemic turned the revitalization project into an interesting build. Everybody pulled together, and we are humbled to have been able to work with such a stellar team in these trying times.” With the architectural renewal from Luxury Frontiers complete, it’s a new era for DumaTau and its little sister Little DumaTau – one that connects guests to nature through an ongoing dialog and symbiosis.