The Lodge at Fe­line Fields

NORTH­WEST KALA­HARI, AFRICA In the midst of a des­o­late land­scape, The Lodge at Fe­line Fields rises like a fortress of viv­i­fy­ing life, meta­mor­phos­ing the harsh habi­tat into an oa­sis of vi­brancy.

Upscale Living Magazine - - Content - By Heléne Ra­mack­ers Pho­to­graphs cour­tesy of Al­wyn Petersen, Janaina Matarazzo and by Heléne Ra­mack­ers

North­west Kala­hari, Africa

It is 23:09 at night. I’m sud­denly jolted awake by an over­whelm­ing slurp­ing sound, fol­lowed by a very loud guz­zling noise. My daugh­ter, who is able to sleep through the most hor­rific thun­der­storms, doesn’t even stir. Was it a dream?

I pad qui­etly across the wooden floor, aim­ing for the part of our suite where I can see to­wards the pool. It is pitch dark and as I at­tempt to zip open the tent flap, I hear the same sound. I re­al­ize this is not a dream. I try to find a light switch, but fum­ble in the dark un­til I reach the zip­per.

I stick my head out far enough to judge what could be mak­ing this bizarre swish. At the end of our pool, I can see the out­line of three enor­mous grey shapes, quench­ing their thirst.

We had been told that the ele­phants would be drink­ing from our pool at some stage due to the scarcity of wa­ter in the area. They had been to ev­ery sin­gle pool at The Lodge, ex­cept ours. Ur­ban le­gend, I was start­ing to be­lieve. Un­til now. On our last night. Let me start at the be­gin­ning. When I first set foot in Africa, I made a prom­ise that one day, I will bring my daugh­ter along to ex­pe­ri­ence the magic it has to of­fer. Fi­nally, with metic­u­lous plan­ning, we are on our way to Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port to board our di­rect Air­link flight to Maun In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Botswana.

The air­port bus de­liv­ers us right next to the Air­link Avro RJ85, gleam­ing in the sun­light. With a marked in­crease in the ca­pac­ity of trav­el­ers to Botswana, Air­link has ex­panded its reach into Maun from 4 June 2018 by means of a larger air­craft, the 83-seater Avro RJ85, thus re­plac­ing the smaller Em­braers to sup­ply the de­mand for more vis­i­tors to Maun. Seated next to the win­dow, we soon wave Cape Town adieu, but not be­fore be­ing flown over the iconic Ta­ble Moun­tain and Robben Is­land.

Two hours and 30 min­utes later, the cap­tion an­nounces our de­scent into Maun and the sprawl­ing land­scape stretches as far as the eye can see. My daugh­ter takes in ev­ery­thing as she steps off the plane – the swel­ter­ing heat, the friendly cus­toms

and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial and the un­ex­pected sign-board from He­li­copter Hori­zons with our name on it! We are go­ing by he­li­copter, and I’m not sure who’s more thrilled!

He­li­copter Hori­zons pilot Sam Brady meets us at the green Robin­son R44 Raven II. With our lug­gage loaded and a safety brief­ing com­pleted, I turn to my daugh­ter to ask her where she would like to sit. “Front seat please,” she replies. With only four pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing the cap­tain, ev­ery seat has an in­cred­i­ble view. Much to my daugh­ter’s de­light, Sam an­nounces that she is his ‘co-pilot’ for the flight, ex­plain­ing the in­ner work­ings of the he­li­copter.

Fifty min­utes later, we land at the Fe­line

Fields airstrip, wel­comed by our guide Oyapo Got­sha­jwang with a cool towel and re­fresh­ing home­made gin­ger­beer. We are shown to our mag­nif­i­cent pool suite, which is what own­ers Raphaël del Sarte and Mar­jan Blom call home when they have the op­por­tu­nity to visit the Kala­hari.

When Paris-born Raphaël and Dutch-born Mar­jan put their col­lec­tive fi­nan­cial and events or­ga­ni­za­tion back­grounds on the back burner, a love for trav­el­ing was sparked and hav­ing vis­ited some of the most beau­ti­ful places on earth, they gar­nered in­spi­ra­tion for The Lodge at Fe­line Fields along the way.

“We ini­tially didn’t con­cep­tu­al­ize a lodge, but rather wanted to do some­thing mean­ing­ful with the money we had at that mo­ment, en­vi­sion­ing a con­ser­va­tion or com­mu­nity project in Africa”, Mar­jan re­calls.

Af­ter see­ing the film Out of Africa a few dozen times, the cou­ple dreamt of Africa, but their path didn’t lead them here straight away. “Our searches took us through Ar­gentina, South Africa, In­dia and Namibia and even­tu­ally, we ended up in Botswana. We im­me­di­ately fell in love with the dusty, quiet coun­try”, says Mar­jan.

Hav­ing vis­ited a few sa­fari lodges in Botswana’s Oka­vango Delta, Raphaël and Mar­jan wanted to cre­ate some­thing unique and dif­fer­ent, scout­ing places off the beaten track, es­sen­tially open­ing up the ‘for­got­ten’ places in Botswana, which also have a lot to of­fer.

Their search lead them to the Kala­hari, where the re­mote­ness and pris­tine area par­tic­u­larly res­onated with them. “There is no-one here, only the Bush­men and the as­ton­ish­ing na­ture, chang­ing with the sea­sons.”

It is ev­i­dent that the own­ers took ev­ery sin­gle as­pect of lux­ury into ac­count when con­struct­ing The Lodge at Fe­line Fields. Think an el­e­vated King size four-poster bed with the soft­est bed­ding, draped in mos­quito net­ting, a ceil­ing fan for those hot sum­mer days, a lounge area with a daybed sofa and cof­fee ta­ble, an enor­mous bath­room with a free-stand­ing bath and shower where you can en­joy the vis­tas over the Kala­hari from ev­ery van­tage point.

That’s not all. There is an up­stairs deck where you can lounge around and if you want to, sleep out here at night tak­ing in the noc­tur­nal sights and sounds of the Kala­hari. And then there is the very large swim­ming pool, per­fect for respite from the heat, or to slake an ele­phant’s thirst.

Af­ter a rest­ful af­ter­noon, we walk back to the main area to en­joy our din­ner. We are es­corted by Oyapo as there could be leop­ards or hye­nas lurk­ing in the dark­ness. With the ex­pert culi­nary skills of chef Paulina Tjetjoo, we dine on freshly baked rolls, per­fectly pre­pared beef fil­let with potato bake, broc­coli and car­rots and con­clude our meal with fresh fruit salad, all at­ten­tively served by Pedzani Kais­ara. The Bush­men ex­pe­ri­ence is in­sight­ful, and we are shown how they hunt, for­age for food and how they find wa­ter. We at­tend their trance dance in the evening which is an in­dige­nous rit­ual prac­ticed where the women and chil­dren sit around the fire while the heal­ers dance.

Time at leisure is im­per­a­tive at The Lodge at Fe­line Fields and should you wish to do noth­ing at all but re­lax, this is the place to do that. If you want to get ac­tive, you can en­joy horse rid­ing, play ten­nis, go to the gym or swim lengths in the lap pool at the main area.

The project started from scratch, Mar­jan re­mem­bers, com­bined with a bit of ig­no­rance and a touch of madness. With the de­sign acu­men of ar­chi­tect and in­te­rior de­signer, Al­wyn Petersen, Raphaël and Mar­jan were struck by his pro­fes­sion­al­ism and creativ­ity.

“Al­wyn blew us away with his pre­sen­ta­tion and he had just the right amount of crazi­ness to see this project through,” Mar­jan laughs. “We met him when our kids were still young, and they liked him straight away, which is al­ways a good sign.”

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