Chitabe Reopens after Extensive Rebuild
Situated in a private concession on an island in the south-east of the Okavango Delta, Wilderness Safaris’ renowned Chitabe Camp has reopened after an extensive renovation and rebuild of its elevated walkways and main camp area.
“When we originally built Chitabe over 20 years ago, it was the first completely elevated camp in the Delta”, commented Helene Hamman, Chitabe CEO. “Since then we have welcomed and created a lifetime of memories for many guests and are absolutely delighted to reveal the camp’s new look and feel to raise the bar yet again and continue to exceed our guests’ expectations”.
Created by lead architects Mark Thomas and Chris Bisset, in collaboration with Henry Fagan Engineers, Chitabe’s new design features sinuous curves and soft lines inspired by the graceful meandering of the Okavango waterways. Nestling in the natural beauty of Chitabe Island, the walkways now feature low-footprint longer spans and a more delicate-looking structure that weaves through the treeline.
“The under-thatch design of the new elevated buildings encompasses a ‘less is more’ philosophy, combining the tasteful and responsible use of modern and traditional materials to produce an environmentally-respectful safari experience that is visually and sensually pleasing”, said Mark. “The revolutionary design heralds many firsts for the Okavango, ensuring Chitabe remains a responsible custodian in one of the Delta’s highest game concentration areas”.
The main area features both indoor and under-star dining experiences whilst a unique, elevated white Kalahari sand deck forms the heart of Chitabe. A new lap pool, relaxation lounge and a gym provides guests with healthy exercise opportunities while moments for introspection will be found in the new library. An evaporative cooling system has also been installed in the main areas to offer guests ample cool spaces to escape to during the warmer summer months.
Before the design team commenced the rebuild, they did a precision 3-D laser survey of the island to establish a precise ecological baseline of natural features such as trees and termite mounds. This enabled the main areas to be designed and positioned precisely in 3-D with minimal impact. Using biomimicry-like principles in the structures, the design team created a sense of open spaces and reduced the number of the foundations to half those of the old Chitabe Camp. Award-winning engineer, Henry Fagan, played an instrumental role in the team, innovating new non-permanent structures featuring removable concrete-free foundations. The team’s precise design and construction methods ensured minimal environmental impact during every aspect of the rebuilding process.
“Our journey with Chitabe started when we first stepped onto the island and were in awe of the natural beauty of its many trees”, Mark reflected. “It has been critical to retain those as the canvas that dominates the camp landscape, so we unobtrusively wove the buildings in and around the trees and termite mounds, harmonious to the natural order of Chitabe”. In addition to its existing trees, Chitabe has embarked on an ambitious project to replant additional trees that had been lost to fire or the natural cycle, retaining the services of an arborist to ensure that these natural assets are cared for and maintained.
Staying true to its philosophy of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’, all of the hardwood timber from the original structure was repurposed and used to create the fire of a million stars, decorative cladding and ceilings. “The beautiful and creative use of our old decking serves as a reminder of where we all started”, Helene added. “We are confident that the new Chitabe will be a huge success, and are looking forward to sharing its magic with our guests and trade partners”.