The Outpost, South Africa


The Outpost, South Africa
The Outpost, South Africa
The Outpost, South Africa
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The Outpost, Kruger National Park, view The Outpost, Kruger National Park

Thoroughly contemporary in nature, The Outpost writes its own definition of the 21st century safari lodge vernacular. Its architecture and interior design reinterpret the sophistication of a cosmopolitan boutique hotel and sympathetically transplant this into an untamed and remote setting.

Text Mandy Allen
Photography Craig Fraser

The Outpost is situated in the remote northern Kruger National Park, perhaps the most secluded of all the Kruger’s territories. Its wild and uncompromised landscape is characterised by billowing sour grass, thickets of ironwood trees virtually impenetrable in places, regal baobabs, colossal granite rocks, vast flood plains and two of the region’s most vital rivers, the Limpopo and the Luvuvhu, with their resident populations of hippo and crocodile. Rooms are perched high so as to better take in nature’s spectacle, which at times – when the fish eagle cries and the earth finally cools down with an almost palpable sigh – seems to be the manifestation not of reality, but of a glorious dream.

From the ground up, The Outpost deliberately eschews any preconceived notions of the traditional. This is immediately apparent on viewing the prefabricated main structure and 12 free-standing guest suites, all of which are both graphic and Spartan in profile.

The sense of modernity is further exaggerated by their elevated state on solid stilts of steel – a decision motivated by the steep lay of the land as well as a desire to optimise views and touch the earth lightly. The encounter between materials has also been rendered in a thoroughly up-to-date way. Timber, canvas and stonework may be materials shared by the majority of safari lodges, but in combination with steel, slabs of polished concrete and galvanised sheet metal, it is the powerfully modern overall composition and not its individual elements that elicits admiration.

It is testament to the talents of its architect – Italian-born, South African-based Enrico Daffonchio – that The Outpost integrates so harmoniously into its environment. Despite its intentionally contemporary leanings the structure does not isolate itself from the natural habitat. Instead, its charcoal-grey façade and foldaway walls make the transition from man-made structure to untamed bush a virtually uninterrupted one, allowing for a full-on interface between inside and out. ‘The lodge gives visitors a very intense experience of the views, sounds and perfumes of the bush,’ says Daffonchio. ‘The stimulation is so extreme that some visitors have found it too much. But the vast majority are thrilled by the absence of barriers to the natural elements.’

The principles of sustainable architecture guided Daffonchio’s hand during the entire design process: from the strict regulation of construction activities, careful water management, effective sun-orientation in order to minimise energy usage and a natural air-conditioning system, to the decisions to build around the trees and raise the lodge on stilts for a minimum footprint.

The concept of The Outpost was that of its original owners (the lodge has since been sold to a small consortium), innovative boutique hoteliers Christoff van Staden and Peter Aucamp.
Their striking interior design echoes the contemporary sentiments of the architecture. Colours were deliberately chosen not to mimic those of the typical safari palette, so punchy blues and chic greys (rather than time-honoured khakis, ochres and dark mahogany) anchor the scheme. These are punctuated by pleasant shocks of primary brights as well as light-to-medium browns more typical of European than African interiors. Very little pattern or texture has found its way onto flat surfaces, bar a scattering of handembroidered and beaded feature cushions and the modern Nguni cowhide cubes that serve as seating around a low-slung Beninese table.

These, and the specially commissioned kiaat Tusk tables with their gently bowed legs that appear in the public and private spaces, are the only visibly ethnic artefacts. Furnishings – the large majority of them bespoke – are as sleek in their forms as they are sparse in their placement, a result of the designers’ unwavering conviction that in the bush, less is more. ‘We were inspired by our desire to set a new standard,’ they explain. ‘It was a challenge to prove that modern design can be compatible with a setting like this. The interiors were not intended to reflect the location. They merely enhance the location and serve to make guests aware of the space and views around them. Furniture and spaces are comfortable but functional. It is the opposite of self-indulgent.’

The Outpost is part of a 30-year lease granted by the indigenous inhabitants of the land, the Makuleke people. Currently the community benefits from part of the lodge’s earnings as well as being trained in the ecotourism industry so as to effectively take the reins of this remarkable place when the concession ends.


Location Kruger National Park, South Africa

Enrico Daffonchio
Tel +27 11 447 8118

Interior designers
Christoff van Staden and Peter Aucamp
Tel +27 11 341 0282

The Outpost, Kruger National Park The Outpost, Kruger National Park