Flying from the mayhem of modern life to the endless horizons of Malilangwe Reserve in southeast Zimbabwe is a slow retreat into the senses. From the air, the landscape looks like a game of snakes and ladders with rich, red soil and burnished grasslands interspersed with seams of orange rock and crisscrossing dirt roads. As the plane begins its gradual descent to Buffalo Ridge Airport, ancient baobabs and massive acacias come into view and remain a constant on the drive to our destination, Singita Pamushana.
Pamushana was first opened fifteen years ago by the Singita Group in an extraordinary show of faith, at a time when the country’s social, financial and civic infrastructures had all but collapsed. Working with leading South African design studio Cecile & Boyd’s, Singita’s brief for a sensational lodge to match the spectacular landscape was more than met by Boyd Ferguson, Geordi da Sousa Costa and Paul van den Berg who devised a contemporary aesthetic of bold graphics, bright colors, and African decorative traditions. So it was somewhat serendipitous that Singita should have decided to close the lodge earlier this year, in order to give the property an entire overhaul and refurbish, and unwittingly coinciding with the country’s new political dispensation.
Pamushana is best described as a collection of quizzical stone buildings, much like an ancient and enchanted African palace, that nestles into the surrounding landscape. Perched high on a hill, the feeling of looking down onto a 360-degree view of the whole of Africa never leaves you, no matter where you are in the lodge.
The original structure – a solid foundation of organic-shaped buildings with thick walls, meticulous thatching, and stonework reminiscent of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe – has remained the same, while the footprint of the lodge and its perch over the lake has increased significantly. Now there is a skybar and deli and an additional dining area, both of which are cantilevered off the cliff to deliver you directly into the views. Straight ahead, there’s the man-made Malilangwe Lake, vital for water catchment in an area that receives little annual rain, while up above us, the sky is cloudless with a haze of heat that stretches on for miles.
We loved how each of the nine spacious villas have been given a more subdued yet svelte interior theme with subtle earthy tones punctuated by metallic colors and the sophistication of black accents. Each villa comes with its own swimming pool, lounge, study area, dressing room, large bathroom, outdoor shower and magnificent views overlooking the reserve. It was important for Cecile & Boyd to invent a fresh look rather than rehash standard safari chic or colonialism. We wanted to create a feeling of excitement and hope, especially at this time,’ says Boyd Ferguson. ‘And to create something that does justice to this amazing place and to the local people who live here.’ That Pamushana is home to an abundance of elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, the endangered black and white rhino, wild dogs as well as hornbills, fish eagles, giraffe, warthog, and the ever-ubiquitous impala – only serves to confirm why this has become known as a hallowed, ancient and very special place.
If you would like to visit this unique bush lodge in the Malilangwe Reserve of Zimbabwe, email us at email@example.com for more information.