The Gallery HBA has redesigned Belmond Eagle Island Lodge in Botswana, re-affirming its reputation as one of the country’s leading luxury safari lodges and the ultimate Okavango Delta water-based safari.
Perched on a private island surrounded by some of the deepest stretches of the delta, Belmond Eagle Island Lodge encompasses 12 luxury tented guest rooms, each with a large terrace and plunge pool.
The property also has a dining pavilion, a lounge pavilion across two levels, an arrivals boma, a retail area, a library and internet lounge, a campfire area, and the Fish Eagle Bar. All the structures are new, inspired by the astonishing ant nests that rise from the local landscape and the gentle motion of the nearby water channels.
"The redesigned Belmond Eagle Island Lodge is a retreat for the discerning adventurer, channelling the unspoiled Okavango Delta and the subtle, shifting colours of nature"
The redesigned Belmond Eagle Island Lodge is a retreat for the discerning adventurer, channelling the unspoiled Okavango Delta and the subtle, shifting colours of nature. Each area within the camp is a space to explore, with natural elements infused into materials and patinas, enriching the guest experience with new memories to take home.
Just like the numerous water channels that weave their way through the grasslands, the design scheme flows through the camp. The greens, soft yellows and grey tones of the surrounding grasslands inspired the colour palette. These colours form the backdrop for pops of vibrant colour, inspired by the vivid mustard hue of the indigenous eagle’s face as well as the brilliant reds and blues of other local birds.
The lighting at the Belmond Eagle Island Lodge also mimics the world outside. Lamps have been specially placed to cast mysterious shadows and create moody pools of illumination, giving the illusion of insects in flight.
The property aims to convey a sense of sophistication, though the furniture and fittings represent the rugged elegance of the surrounding landscape and many pieces are artisanal, specially commissioned and hand-made in Africa.
In addition to the spectacular views, the hotel has a plethora of organic public spaces, which curve around the ancient trees on the site. An arrivals boma welcomes guests after their short drive from the landing strip. Positioned as a promise of the experience to come, the boma perfectly frames the vista beyond.
"Surrounded by an outdoor barbecue and campfire and situated directly on the edge of the water by the jetty, the Fish Eagle Bar offers an alternative destination"
A residential-style open kitchen with a wood-burning pizza oven to one side and a counter with stools sits at the heart of the restaurant – designed to be the place where guests gather for breakfast before the morning’s safari, or at lunchtime to share their stories.
Throughout, collections of brightly coloured preserved insects and scientific instruments add further sense of adventure, whilst contemporary lights – inspired by the intricate birds’ nests that populate these wetlands – weave intriguing shadows across the space at night.
A stepped lounge centred around an ancient sycamore fig tree stems out from the restaurant, with a freshly decked area in between. The transition from indoors to out is seamless, offering views over the delta that are blissfully uninterrupted.
The bar is artisanal in style, formed from irregular planks of rough-hewn timber, and a huge fireplace offers the cosy reassurance of a great campfire at the end of the day. A timber balustrade sweeps around the restaurant and lounge spaces, providing integrated seating from where guests can absorb the views.
Surrounded by an outdoor barbecue and campfire and situated directly on the edge of the water by the jetty, the Fish Eagle Bar offers an alternative destination. Here, the colour palette is that of the distinctive indigenous fish eagle with its snowy white chest, brown body and bright yellow face.
There is a residential-style bar counter and birdcage swings dotted throughout the space provide enchanting vantage points at this farthest reach of the lodge.
“By using local artisans and materials, reinventing traditional safari camp paraphernalia and translating the natural world into the interiors, the design is crafted to fill the hearts and minds of both safari camp connoisseurs and newcomers alike"
The 12 tented guest rooms are each 62m2 with an additional 20m2 deck. The centrepiece of each lodge is the luxurious bed, which offers views out onto the delta. Its uniquely designed copper-finish headboard celebrates Botswana’s copper mining tradition.
Inspired by the wildlife of the nearby lagoons, these hand-made pieces are awash with natural metallic colours and perforated with tiny holes that allow light to filter through.
Bedside cabinets are integrated into the headboard and a leather upholstered bench stands at the end of the bed in reference to the traditional folding camp table. A separate daybed within a window nook doubles as a child’s bed.
Another delightful feature is the minibar designed as an explorer’s toolbox, full of drawers and concealed cupboards filled with luxury guest amenities.
Reclaimed and re-stained timber features widely, and the hand-stitched details of the waxy leather upholstery and the buckle details of the leather blinds suggest an air of adventure. The guest rooms include a walk-in dressing room and a luxurious bathroom complete with two vanity units, lots of space for toiletries, an indoor and outdoor shower and a freestanding black bath tub.
“Our wish has been to give guests an insight into the soul of the delta that they can marvel at while they are there and take away with them when they leave,” says Inge Moore, principal and creative director of The Gallery HBA.
“By using local artisans and materials, reinventing traditional safari camp paraphernalia and translating the natural world into the interiors, the design is crafted to fill the hearts and minds of both safari camp connoisseurs and newcomers alike.”
In addition to the many items that were handmade in South Africa by Simon Beebe of BB Designs, suppliers included: Moorgas and Sons, Sealy, Out of This World, and Deker. Richly-toned jarrah wood predominates, much of it re-used from the previous guest rooms.
Bathrooms are finished in grey cemcrete. Throughout, the Belmond Eagle Island Lodge is intriguingly and generously accessorised with handmade curiosities inspired by local flora and fauna, as well as by such native crafts as basket making.