Following a considered refurbishment, storied bush retreat Jock Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park has reopened with a fresh, contemporary look that pays quiet homage to its heritage
There’s history entwined in just about every detail at Jock Safari Lodge, from documented remnants of the past that have landed up framed on walls or serving as museum-type artefacts on the grounds, to more sentimental examples relating to sweet family memories.
Named after the beloved canine character in Sir Percy Fitzpatrick’s gold-rush era book Jock of the Bushveld, this private concession in the south-western corner of the Kruger National Park was founded by the Niven family, descendants of the author, in 1982. The gathered relics, from antiquated wagons to heirloom furniture, are spread all about the five-star lodge, imparting a nostalgic narrative layer to what would otherwise be a classic safari camp experience.
‘We had to work with existing elements, to retain what people love about Jock,’ explains interior designer Jean-Marie de Vos, who project-managed its recent refurbishment for Luxury Frontiers. The international design and development company specialises in cutting-edge, sustainable design for experiential resorts, lodges, and camps, with similar projects to Jock’s underway in Costa Rica, Mexico and the Maldives.
The team was tasked with representing and honouring Jock’s legacy while updating it to the present with ‘a clean and fresh perspective’. Much of the design work came down to simplifying fussy details, straightening lines and opening up spaces, she says.
A ‘memorabilia passage’ was created along the walkway leading to the dining area, where time-worn photographs and other pieces have been thoughtfully curated to statement-making effect. With the old taken care of, the new manifests in a blast of contemporary styling from the communal leisure spaces to the 12 thatched suites camouflaged among the Jackelberry trees.
Checking in guests are swept through to a chic arrival tent in utilitarian canvas layered with animal hides, textural sofas in charcoal tones, leather butterfly chairs and vintage travel trunks. The dining area has been completely overhauled, with foldaway glass doors that open to an expanded deck for alfresco dining. Where previously there was a preponderance of reddened, over-varnished wood, now it’s light and bright, marked by pops of emerald green that echo the sun-dappled canopy of trees. With its former incarnation similarly dated, the upstairs bar is now a casually glamorous spot for taking in some of the action on the riverbed over a gin and tonic.
Ensconced in your secluded suite, you might not want to venture out at all. With a private plunge pool and a generous sala, or day bed, positioned directly above the riverbed – a must for night-time sleep-outs or relaxing with a book by day – each suite also boasts an outdoor slipper bath and separate outdoor shower. But considering that Jock offers a vast 6 000 hectares of exclusive traversing rights, the call of the wild is a very real lure to throw on clothes and be perched on your game vehicle well before sunrise. Considering its location at the confluence of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers, it’s favourably positioned for some otherwise rare or chance game sightings.
For more recently refurbished local hotels, read Lanzerac Hotel & Spa’s Magnificent Makeover, The Newly Refurbished President Hotel in Bantry Bay and La Petite Ferme Updates its Vineyard Suites next.