Visitors to Northern KwaZulu-Natal bush lodge, iZungla, would be forgiven for thinking the name is Zulu in origin but it is Greek for ‘bush’. If we explore deeply enough, there is often synergy between words, cultures and ideas. iZungla lives up to its name.
Well-proportioned and sensitively designed, this holiday house is set in Kuleni Game Park, an indigenous sand forest on a tract of land set within easy reach of the Indian Ocean coastline, the heritage site of Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park, Hluhluwe and Phinda Private Game Reserve, known for its abundant wildlife, including not only the Big Five but many rarer and less easily spotted species, such as the elusive cheetah and the scarce black rhino.
On summer nights male cicadas rub their wings in a clamorous and continuous mating call. This is a natural habitat for timid bushbuck, zebra, nyala, giraffe and tree-dwelling bush babies that cling to high branches. Frogs and other nocturnal creatures hunt those lower down on the food chain. By day bird life keeps watchers glued to their binoculars with over 140 species that live and breed here.
The lodge itself is equally at one with this game-rich landscape. Inspired by her eco-sensitive design of luxury lodge Singita Lebombo on the Eastern border of the Kruger National Park, architect Joy Brasler used similar concepts and ideas for the lodge.
Ultimately, the house was built along the lines of a grounded tree house, with wooden walls and floors, and expansive sections of glass that slide open to connect seamlessly with the surrounding forest. The result is an almost ethereal space defined by materials that are at one with their surrounds. It is the ultimate concept in ‘touching the earth lightly.’
The central living area of the main lodge is extensive and allows for individual pursuits; a quiet reading corner; a zone for animated conversation; a warm and intimate space for a shared bottle of good red; in summer, ice-rattled gin and tonics over lunch outdoors. Four free-standing bedrooms with open-plan bathrooms are set at a distance from the main lodge and interconnected by boardwalks. You sleep within a natural cocoon, with only glass separating you from the forest beyond.
The verandas are dappled with light fractured by branches and leaves, and from a short distance, the dwellings are well camouflaged. Remarkably, this ancient forest thrives in the sandy soil almost in defiance of its environment.
Although seligna wood and stained pine form the basic structural materials of the lodge and suites, the use of wood is not overwhelming. Sections of the walls are painted ivory, a colour replicated in the farmhouse table and the overall impression is one of light and airiness. The soft furnishings, fabrics and throws introduce muted shades of coral, sky blue and sage green, taking their cue from the natural colour spectrum presented by giant aloes and sky between the tree tops. The effect is one of natural harmony.
Black and white photographs of Nguni cattle, an ancient baobab tree and colonial scenes from Kenya have been enlarged and printed to ground the setting in Africa. Circular sections of wood salvaged from old, felled trees have been fashioned into side tables and grey, pod-like seeds that grow on the river banks, create the organic chandeliers in the bedrooms. Anyone staying here feels an immediate and strong connection with the environment. Time seems to stall and blissfully with every day appearing to stretch to two, truly balm for the soul.
- Lodge size: 451m2
- Four freestanding bedrooms en-suite
- Main lodge consisting of open-plan living area with fireplace
- Private pool and outdoor deck area
- Fully equipped farm-house style kitchen
- Price includes contents and soft furnishings (excluding personal artworks)
- Kuleni Game Park is run on a sectional title basis. There are 18 sites, 12 of which are developed
- 30 mins from Phinda Private Nature Reserve and Hluhluwe
- 1 to 1.5 hours to Cape Vidal, Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park and Sodwana Bay
- Three hour drive from Durban