Mala Mala Sable Camp
Sabi Sands

Photographed by Elsa Young

A celebration of Mala Mala’s rich heritage through a contemporary revisioning of the romantic colonial era – mixing animal print, bold graphics and tribal patterns, and local objets d’arts with a nod to traditional luxury

The refurbishment of Mala Mala Sable and Mala Mala Buffalo Camps were a dream project to work on for Michele and her team. An existing client, who the team had worked with on various projects over the past decade, bought the establishment, which was steeped in provenance but needed a 21st century makeover.

Sable Camp is the more upmarket, exclusive camp of the two, with fewer rooms, so a lot more focus was given to new furnishings, artworks and prints. Finishings such as lamps, headboards and fabrics were higher-end and all the wiring was updated to include USB ports and European conversion plugs.

The overall brief was that the 40 year-old camp had to retain its homely and casual family feel but needed new life breathed into it, with regards to aesthetics and modern amenities. Most importantly it had to retain its rustic charm, ease of elegance and prominent connection to the bush.

It was a project that presented immense challenges. Firstly when the internal stripping of the rondawels began, it was clear that each unit was different in size, finishes and structure with very basic plans. This meant that wires were everywhere, screeds were not laid properly, doors were uneven, and plumbing was haphazard. The team had to start afresh and each unit had to be measured and drawn up.

The second biggest challenge was that all work had to be done in as unobtrusive way as possible because guests were still present during the 2-year fit out. The team had to be very strategic with this, namely all drilling and chisel work had to be done during the early morning and evening game drives and when guests returned to camp was when painting and laying of tiles happened so as not to disturb the peace.

For both camps all the external facades of the rondawels were kept exactly the same, even the paint colour, meaning that from the outside they look exactly the same as they always have. Upon closer inspection though, all windows and doors were replaced as well as the thatch roofs.

The biggest alterations to both camps were the bathrooms, which were made sizeably bigger yet simultaneously more cosy than before – achieved by dropping the ceilings and converting them to reed. Flooring was another major focus of the upgrade, converting them all to slate in shades of autumn. The team wanted the floors to look like they had always been there and the irony was that when the old tiles were being chiselled away there were remnants of old slate tiles underneath.

In keeping with the romance of modern bush getaways, organic textures in the form of weaved baskets, wicker furniture, textural and hand painted fabrics together with old world charm finishes like antique brass taps and copper basins, Mala Mala camp is a good mix of traditional luxury and modern living accessible to the whole family.