DESIGN POD explores hotels designed with nature

Episode 31 of DESIGN POD, the design podcast for all designers and architects, goes off the beaten track. Editor Hamish Kilburn shares a powerful interview with Dereck Joubert, Co-Founder of Great Plains, to understand the emotional relationship between nature and design…

Tembo Plains Camp is tucked away into a thick riverine forest on the edge of the Zambezi River, in the private 128,000-hectare Sapi Private Reserve, east of Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park. Tembo Plains Camp and the 2-bedroomed Tembo Plains Suite fit into our highest camp level offering, the Réserve Collection of camps. Fellow Réserve Collection camps include Zarafa Camp, Selinda Camp, Duba Plains in Botswana, Mara Nyika Camp, Mara Plains Camp and ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya. It is also a proud member of Relais & Châteaux – the only luxury Zimbabwean safari camp currently with this honour.

For the latest episode of DESIGN POD, sponsored by Geberit, we are in Africa – or ‘man’s home’, as Dereck Joubert, Founder of Great Plains would put it. Editor Hamish Kilburn is on a journey of discover to understand more about how the brand approaches luxury hospitality; putting people second to nature.

With safari camps in Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and looking to build properties in Uganda, Great Plans, led by husband-and-wife team Dereck and Beverly Joubert, is seriously and unapologetically changing the game in luxury safari travel.

“As a national geographic explorer and conservationist, studying lions our whole lives, we realised that we needed to not just save one [animal] at a time, but to look at the land that these creatures needed,” Dereck told Hamish Kilburn on the podcast episode. To secure this land, the Joubert’s created Great Plains, a tourism model that funds the selfless conservation work.

This journey started with one camp in Botswana, and soon multiplied. The considered approach at the start of each development always starts the same; with Dereck and Beverly camping out under the stars, exposed to the elements, in order to take conscious steps to ensure that each property, deliberately designed to feel ‘semi-permanent’ – works with and not just in nature’s spectacular setting. “The way we design was to limit impact on environment,” Dereck says. “I also wanted to convey a sense on impermanence. I wanted to give a sense that we, all of our guests are temporary here. We are here for a moment. We are visitors to landscapes like this.”

Redefining luxury through the filmmaker’s lens, Dereck and Beverly’s social approach to luxury travel is just the beginning. The duo and their team are committed not only to wildlife conservation in Africa, but, through many charities and initiatives launched and nurtured by Dereck and Beverly themselves, they also work tirelessly to offer and promote equal opportunities for those living and working in and around their camps. This took on a whole new meaning after one incident, sensitively explored on the podcast episode, that Beverly fighting for her life in hospital.

The full 45-minute podcast episode, which follows episode 30, is available to listen to on all major podcast platforms – just search ‘DESIGN POD’ wherever you get your podcasts. The next episode will drop on May 10 with Alessandro Munge, who will join Kilburn to ‘transforming spaces’.

Main image credit: Great Plains / DESIGN POD