A luxury safari lodge is to be built on a 200 acre estate near North Walsham in Norfolk, offering its guests the opportunity to experience Africa without having to leave the UK.
The 16 bed tented lodge, being built at a cost of over £3 million, will be centred on a waterhole that will be stocked with hippo and crocodile and aims to re-create the feel of the African plains.
Instead of the traditional morning and evening game-drives, guests will ride in a motion simulator connected by satellite link to a real 4×4 safari vehicle in the Kruger National Park of South Africa. Guests will search for lions and elephants in real-time as if they were actually there.
An award-winning chef from Cape Town will create authentic African cuisine in a specially constructed ‘boma’ , ranging from scrambled Ostrich eggs to Warthog steaks, all washed down by South African wine or East African ‘Tusker’ beer.
The lodge will be part of the Blue Zambezi Portfolio, a company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange who operate over 30 luxury lodges across Southern Africa, as well as one in California USA.
“It’s a trend we’ve noticed over the past few years – the desire to safari but a reticence to fly. This can be for many reasons; a fear of flying or terrorism, a disability or phobia, a stance against Global warming or simply because the cost is prohibitive,” explained the company CEO Gus Van der Truc. “Our Californian camp is fully booked for the next 18 months, and we have already been contacted by several leading UK safari operators about this camp.”
The camp will have a pool and spa, as well as offering immersive guided activities around the estate such as animal tracking, bushcraft skills, star gazing and canoe safaris. “It will be a perfectly normal safari camp,” Mr. Van der Truc explained, “the only concession is that the pool will be indoors.”
The guide/tracker selected to lead the game drives in the Kruger is Godfrey Isilima, who’s worked for Blue Zambezi for over 15 years. He’s excited by the prospect of leading virtual tours, “It’s a great honour and I will be able to communicate with my clients by radio into an earpiece. My vehicle will have remotely operated cameras mounted on it so that everybody will be able to have photos to remember their safari by.”
The camp is scheduled to open on 1st April 2016, subject to planning consent from North Norfolk District Council, “The planning application is in and so far the signs are very positive. We foresee no issues with the structures themselves. Acquiring permits for some of the animals in the future may be more challenging but we’ve been working closely with several reserves in South Africa’s Eastern Cape who have been through a similar process and now successfully stock and manage the Big 5 on their reserves. There have been a couple of objections, from local landowners mostly, regarding free roaming predators, such as hyenas, being close to livestock, and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust have voiced concerns about the possibility of the hippos escaping downstream into Hickling Broad – we take these concerns very seriously and will of course address them.” Mr Van der Truc admitted.