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What it takes to build a safari lodge…

Abelana River Lodge is in its final stages of construction and everyone involved is slowly gearing up to the official opening on 23 February.

It takes unfathomable patience and considerable resources, both financial and human, to build a safari lodge. Then, of course, there’s location and when it comes to Abelana River Lodge, its prime position on the northern banks of the Selati, overlooking this beautiful river, is absolutely breathtaking.

Knowledge and project experience are major advantages too, especially when ensuring compliance with both safety and environmental requirements while designing and building a lodge that looks amazing, provides incredible facilities and high levels of comfort and convenience in the middle of the African wilderness. Thank goodness the team here at Abelana Game Reserve are old hands when it comes to breathing life into outstanding safari lodges. We’ve drawn on this combined reserve of experience and understanding to take a vision captured in artists’ impressions and turn it into bricks and mortar.

It’s no mean feat and fraught with problems, not the least of which is the weather! Even in the home straight there are last-minute challenges to contend with. For example, construction stopped recently due to heavy rainfall that swelled the seasonal Selati River  and its normally dry tributaries to fast flowing proportions. Abelana River Lodge is located on the northern bank of the Selati, so we had a few hiccups as the river’s levels began to rise and the main tributary – the Mulati River – came down in flood… Check out the videos here and here for an idea of how amazing an African river in flood is!

It seems like years ago that we started work on the small, unremarkable lodge that already existed on the reserve and began the transformation process. In fact, work began last May, gutting the existing buildings and expanding on the original footprint to incorporate our vision for an affordable yet luxury 20-roomed lodge.

Our biggest objective was to remain as sustainable as we could throughout the construction process, removing as few trees and shrubs as possible and saving the towering, riparian trees around the main lodge and reception areas, even though doing so created additional work and added to the timeframe.

During the winter months of 2019 (June to September) we saw the biggest changes take place as the new reception area and kitchen facilities took shape. The additional suites slowly began to emerge on either side, stretching out along the river frontage, each offering unparalleled views over the river.

When the first suites were completed, we tested our furnishings in a mock-up, looking at how the original vision for the look and feel of Abelana River Lodge would actually work in the real world. We also opened the books for our new lodge and began to introduce it to our trade partners.

By the start of 2020 the finish line was finally in sight, with the final touches beginning to take shape in the main lodge area, featuring a spectacular stone mosaic wall that’s bound to turn heads. The outside deck area is almost complete, as is the infinity pool that will offer a unique view of the Selati and the opposite, south bank of the river.

Most impressive is our incredible new kitchen, which has been packed with brand new, state-of-the-art equipment. We can’t wait to taste the amazing dishes that will be prepared here!

Elsewhere on site, pathways are being laid, guest suites are being prepped for furniture and the site is a hive of activity as the pressure mounts to be finished on time! Every day there’s something new to marvel at, as what was originally placed on paper in endless plans and architectural drawings becomes real.

If you’d like to experience what it’s like to stay in a brand-new safari lodge, please let us know, and perhaps we’ll be welcoming you to Abelana River Lodge in the near future!



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