The new Serra Cafema, a Wilderness Safaris Classic Camp situated in one of the most remote regions in southern Africa – in Namibia’s extreme north-west – is set to reopen in mid-June 2018 after an environmentally-sensitive and inspiring rebuild.
Serra Cafema is located on the banks of the Kunene River in the Hartmann’s Valley – a spectacular landscape where red sand dunes fold into layers of dramatic grey and purple rocks and one of only two perennial rivers in Namibia flows. The camp is also a joint venture between Wilderness Safaris and the Marienfluss Conservancy, including members of local Himba villages. The rebuild was therefore designed to enhance the stunning natural features of this beautiful desert-scape, while drawing guests into the otherworldly world of the statuesque and semi-nomadic Himba.
Karen Munting, who spearheaded the architectural design project for Windhoek-based Munting Rechholtz Architects, shared this approach to the rebuild: “The conceptual organisation of Serra Cafema’s main area emulates the structure of a Himba village, with social functions divided into related groups and accommodated in smaller buildings or “huts” that ensure an intimate scale. The buildings are arranged to connect to each other via different outdoor spaces, ensuring pockets of privacy within a larger cohesive whole. This arrangement allows for the existing Ana trees to be preserved and utilised as necessary shade.”
The main central area overlooks the river and has a lower-level oval seated area that is ideal for night-time stargazing. This draws guests together to socialise and reflect. It is also a reminder of how important these gatherings are to Himba society, where everyone comes together around the sacred fire to celebrate milestones and connect with the ancestors.
The eight guest rooms, including one family room, connected by walkways, are also being rebuilt to maximise space and privacy. With views onto the Kunene River and the looming mountains of Angola beyond, the rooms are luxuriously spacious, with a sunken seating area, an extra-large bed with a canopy and netting, indoor and outdoor showers, and a large private deck for enjoying the sights and sounds of the river and private dining. Natural materials that reflect the surrounding landscape have been used throughout the camp, with stone sourced from the adjacent valley used for feature walls and prominent defining structures, creating texture and a direct connection with the landscape and the guest experience.
According to Liezl Louw, lead interior designer on the project and owner of Windhoek-based Beyond Design, “Guests will be surprised by the life, colours and textures in this vast landscape. My goal with the interiors is to change guests’ perspectives by drawing them into different worlds, using colours and textures that are true to the space around us, and then using these elements in surprising ways.”
In keeping with Wilderness Safaris’ commitment to having as light an eco-footprint as possible, Serra Cafema will be 100% solar powered. With the mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” at the heart of the operation, as much work as possible is being done on site. Tables from the previous camp are being given a new, fresh finish and copper lights that were spread throughout are now being regrouped into a spectacular lighting display above the new bar. Woven leather, reminiscent of Himba clothing and previously used on the headboards, now provides a stunning visual anchor to the sofas in the lounge area. Wilderness Safaris will also be reusing walkway planks, decking timber and discarded gum poles to assist its conservancy partners with a new classroom at the Marienfluss School.
Jennifer Fourie, Branding and Standards Officer at Wilderness Safaris Namibia, together with Liezl, have been working to source and support emerging entrepreneurs in Namibia to develop new, locally inspired products for Serra Cafema. “It has been exciting to find new talent on our doorstep, like the furniture makers in Katutura (a vibrant township outside of Windhoek), and to be able to incorporate their work in a meaningful way into the design and products at Serra Cafema,”enthused Jennifer. The servers and tables for the dining area at the camp are being built by young craftsmen and women atTABLED, a social enterprise that gives orphans a future perspective by involving them in crafting design furniture.
In keeping with the Himba tradition of wearing and using leather, rich ochre-coloured leather products, including wine and menu folders as well as handbags and other items, will be stocked in the curio shop and are being produced by Myeisha. Founded by two friends and based in Windhoek, Myeisha produces premium designer handbags and leather goods and provides training and employment for previously unskilled local labour.
“These are just a few examples of our commitment to growing local talent and changing lives by providing support and encouragement to local suppliers, local artists and local culture”, Jennifer added. “We can’t wait to welcome guests to this remarkable new camp, not only offering them a life-changing journey, but one that changes their perspective of their place in the world, as well as the lives they positively impact by choosing to travel to this remote region.”
For further information about the lead designer and architect for the Serra Cafema rebuild, see below.
Click here to read more about Serra Cafema’s inspiring community partnership with the Marienfluss Conservancy.