Situated in the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park, Monwana is a homecoming second to none. Things are done at your pace, emphasizing the unhurried ethos of being at home, where languid leisure meets unbridled luxury.
For over two decades, the owners of Monwana have taken every opportunity to visit their home in the wild, frequenting their foothold in this untamed piece of wilderness. Guests can expect a re-imagined and refreshed look, with Monwana being the best of the owners’ lives’ experiences collected over twenty years and brought to life in their favorite place on earth.
Tasked with the interiors was Sarah Ord from Sarah Ord Interiors, who together with the client established a clear understanding that the lodge was to be classic, elegant, sophisticated yet comfortable. “We didn’t want novelty or a cut-and-paste approach, nor did we want it to be just another colonial reproduction,” Sarah tells me. “The owners were extremely involved in each and every decision, right down to the last teaspoon. We spent months visiting each supplier, going over the manufacturing process, and deciding on details.”
Drawing inspiration from the leaves changing color and the African wild dog coats, the riverine sand, and the heavy sky before the rains, Sarah introduced different accents into all the spaces. “I adore color but had to throttle it back for Monwana so as to not be too over the top,” she laughs. “It needed to be authentic color, subtle and relevant. Introducing touches of zebra and leopard print are a nod to where Monwana sits, what guests can look forward to, and a small touch of humor.”
Instead of layering too much pattern, Sarah placed an emphasis on textures, and imagined guests closing their eyes and literally feeling their way through the spaces – touching the patina of antique wooden furniture pieces, heavy knotted wool, woven jacquard linen, crisp cotton sheeting and diaphanous sheer curtains. Every single piece in the lodge was chosen with great care and consideration, especially the accessories.
Working in an environment where there is wildlife present posed some challenges for the interior team, as well as the unforgiving temperatures in the bush, harsh light, dry conditions, and very heavy rainfall. To counter that, furnishing and fabrics had to stand up to those elements. Sarah recalls a hyena chewing on the leather chairs and mice making a home in the rolled-up Persian carpets when they were doing the installation, a clear idea of nature taking charge.
For Sarah, Monwana was and is a testament of her love of Africa. “And not just a passing appreciation, but a deep sense of joy it brings. The surprise on a first-time visitor’s face, as well as the knowing smile from someone who visits often. If you know, you know, and it was an honor to create this piece of heaven with an incredible team in such a special place.”
As the principal contractor for Monwana, Red Earth Projects constructed the lodge and managed the project under the expertise of Jeff Wicks (construction) and James Ord (logistics). Enjoying the challenge of remote work, Monwana was extremely important for them to showcase what they do by incorporating new and improved design while keeping the original bush feel. “The fact that we had very limited electricity,” James tells me, “We had to pay a lot of attention to how we offer 5-star service with state-of-the-art centralized plant rooms, incorporating all the comfort at a lower power demand while also utilizing solar and battery innovations.”
Not shying away from a challenge, the remoteness of the location was no deterrent, and the Red Earth team managed to construct a beautifully voluminous space, in spite of the rains, the wildlife and the obstacles with accessibility. “Seasonal rains posed some hurdles,” says James. “And wet muddy roads limiting access while having to pull trucks through the mud. Working in the wild with the Big 5 in the immediate vicinity was never easy, especially being stuck behind a herd of elephants with concrete trucks and supplies.”
The end product is exceptional in form and function. Double volume space, massive cathedral windows and doors that open wide to allow the intangible sense of immersion. As part of the Safari Lodges and Classic Retreats portfolio (SL&CR), Monwana is the epitome of an ideal in African safaris. “It’s a place where you’ll feel at once perfectly at home and completely indulged,” Andre Celliers, founder of SL&CR tells me. “Where your every whim is considered and accommodated.”
My daughter and I are spending two nights at this extraordinary lodge, and the experience here is a very memorable one. From the moment of arrival, to setting foot in our impressive savannah residence with our own private plunge pool, we are treated like family. Monwana really has something for everyone when it comes to accommodation – there are suites, woodland residences, savannah residences and the gorgeous villa. Each suite and residence has its own private pool, and the villa comes with two suites, a generous lounge and three private pools. The cuisine is out-of-this world, with varying dining options, all with views of the bush. Our lunch table overlooks the watering hole, where elephants regularly meander over to quench their thirst.
Game drives always come with great anticipation, and field guide Daniel with the eagle eyes of tracker Fanoti find the most marvelous sightings. Highlights include a leopard in a tree on our evening game drive, young hyenas fighting over some scraps the following morning, a lone tree squirrel perched on a branch, an elegant giraffe in the golden light, and undisputed best sighting is spotting a female leopard with two small cubs. Too soon, our stay at Monwana is over and we promise to return one day.
Making our way home from Hoedspruit Airport to Cape Town International Airport on Airlink, we are flying in the impressive Embraer 190 E-Jet, which is configured in 6 business class 1 x 2 seats and 92 economy class 2 x 2 seats. Selecting our seats before departure and checking in online is straightforward on the Airlink App – no more printed boarding passes; you only have to scan the QR code on your smartphone. We land well ahead of schedule, another great accolade from Airlink, making them the most on-time airline in South Africa.
** Views expressed are the author’s own
How To Get There
Airlink is a privately-owned, independent premier regional airline offering the widest route network and connectivity to more than 45 destinations in 13 countries in Southern Africa and St Helena Island. Experience More – https://www.flyairlink.com/profile/airlink-profile
With more than 60 regional jetliners in the fleet, Airlink has been ranked as South Africa’s most punctual airline, based on its 97% average on-time performance year to date. This is a clear indication of their determination and commitment to remain synonymous with customer centricity, punctuality, service excellence, and reliability.
Travelers can also enjoy the benefit of their intra-continental style business class service on select routes operating our magnificent Embraer E-195 / E-190 / E-170 regional jets.
How To Get There: Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Hoedspruit.
Book direct on www.flyairlink.com, the FlyAirlink app, or your favorite travel agent.