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HoteliersGuild LookBook: Luxury Frontiers Tented Camps

Publication: HoteliersGuild | LookBook No4 | Winter 2019/20

Published: November 8, 2019

Published By: Frank M. Pfaller

SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS! In this issue, we pay tribute to some of our member hoteliers for their efforts to combat climate change. Luxury was once a domain detached from sustainability. Sumptuousness was driven to create ones own exclusive world. However, finally there seems to be a significant shift from consumers and travellers living in their own luxury world to now being focused on being agents of change for our one and only world.


Luxury Frontiers has built a name for itself as one of the world’s leaders in luxury eco-resort design and development. Having partnered with brands like Four Seasons, Belmond, and Wilderness Safaris on luxury tented camps, treetop suites, and other sustainable, light-on-earth lodgings, the trailblazing company is shaking up the hospitality industry one “hotel” at a time.

Perhaps no other property best captures the firm’s groundbreaking approach and sustainability-oriented core values more than the forthcoming Mdluli Safari Lodge, a first-of-its-kind camp whose community consciousness and environmental stewardship is creating a model for the “new luxury” in Africa and beyond.

Luxury Frontiers has built a legacy in Africa, where principal and managing director Graeme Labe has spent the greater part of 30 years designing and developing tented camps and eco-lodges for internationally renowned travel companies like Abercrombie & Kent / Sanctuary Retreats and Orient-Express (now Belmond) Safaris. In 2011, Luxury Frontiers’ CEO and founder, Luca Franco teamed up with Labe to introduce a full-service design firm that specialized in light-on-earth hospitality solutions and alternative building methodologies. And just like that, Franco’s vision to export Africa’s adventure lodgings to the world was born.

But Franco wanted to do more than just dream up unconventional lodgings outside Africa—he wanted to center designs around transformational guest journeys. Sensing a shift toward more experiential travel, the Italian-born entrepreneur conceived a comprehensive design firm that leveraged the skills and strength of its employees (more than half of whom have past experience in lodge operations) to offer technical design, experiential design, and operational know-how, in addition to spaces that delivered on style and sustainability. Because of its versatile, multi-faceted team, Luxury Frontiers is able to offer its clients a turnkey solution, including architecture, interior design, experiential programming, procurement, and project management.

This year, Luxury Frontiers is slated to debut its first project in the Americas: Nayara Tented Camp, in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region. The team also expects to announce a highly-anticipated project in the U.S..

Despite its increasingly international profile, Luxury Frontiers is proud of its strong African roots and the many projects it has opened there this year, from Botswana’s reborn Wilderness Safaris Kings Pool to Zambia’s Puku Ridge. Now, Luxury Frontiers is preparing for the debut of the insiring Mdluli Safari Lodge, whose sustainable ethos, design-forward aesthetic, and community commitment is setting the gold standard for hospitality.

Presenting Mdluli Safari Lodge
Luxury Frontiers has the privilege to serve as the architect and interior designer for Mdluli Safari Lodge, a luxury tented safari experience located in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, set to open in October 2019. Ideally situated within the park, the contemporary African safari lodge puts guests within striking distance of Africa’s Big 5 (elephants, rhinos, buffalos, leopards, and lions). The new lodge will be operated by Tourvest and will offer travelers 50 luxury en-suite tents, each sleeping four and outfitted with air conditioning, private patios, and indoor as well as outdoor showers. Other features include a lakeside restaurant and a bar, an observation deck with sweeping 360-degree views, two pools, a gym, spa, outdoor dining ‘bomas,’ and conference facilities.

For the individual accommodations, no expense was spared; each of the tents are nestled among trees and perched on stilts to provide guests unparalleled views of the wildlife-rich plains. Inside, natural materials (canvas, timber) and a color palette of creams, browns, and greens bring the outdoors in, while mosquito netting and rustic bar carts evoke the romance of a bygone era. Together, these elements create an environment that announces: “Welcome to Africa!”

Luxury Frontiers conceived the lodge as a place where guests from all over the world could come together for an authentic African safari experience. One of the camp’s defining features is a spectacular Marula tree, which canopies over the lodge’s central meeting area, establishing a sense of place and community. The layout of buildings around this majestic tree pays homage to the traditional ‘lekgotla,’ a meeting place for village assemblies and leaders.

Getting Back to Nature
As with every Luxury Frontiers property, Mdulili Safari Lodge was designed to protect and preserve the integrity of its natural environment. This was achieved through the use of environmentally responsible materials and construction methods, with an emphasis on local materials and labor. For example, approximately 1,850 square meters of bamboo composite decking was used, saving an equivalent of nearly 185,000 square meters of deforested hardwood. And the use of recycled PVC plastic in the flooring contributed to the recycling of 4.9 tons of PVC plastics. What’s more, the off-the-grid lodge is to be 100% solar powered, further reducing the property’s carbon footprint.

Leave Some Goodness Behind
Beyond the project’s environmental efforts, Mdluli Safari Lodge is also investing in its community by being developed in partnership with the Mdluli Royal Family and Community. Through this joint effort, the lodge has created a one-of-a-kind, never-before-implemented financial structure that integrates and benefits the community, Kruger National Park authorities, the developer, and the lodge operator. Over the course of a two-decade battle over land restitution, the Mdluli Community has reclaimed ownership of the 2,100 acres (or 850 hectacres) of land from which they were forcibly removed during South Africa’s apartheid. Thanks to the lodge’s investment in the community — which includes improvements to schools, roads, and clinics, as well as job-training and employment opportunities — the Mdluli Community will be able to share their rich culture and protect their valuable natural resources for many generations to come.

It is Luxury Frontiers’ hope that the Mdluli Safari Lodge will serve as a blueprint for best practices in resort development projects all over the world. In an era of transformational travel, it is a belief central to Luxury Frontiers’ mission that a hotel’s span of influence and awareness must extend past its guests’ experiences. Rather, it must reach far beyond property lines to safeguard the community and environment’s transformative potential well into the future.


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