Singita Ebony Lodge, in the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, has undergone a design refresh to meet the changing needs of modern guests while remaining true to the origin of the Singita story that began 30 years ago.

Ebony Lodge, the original flagship property of the Singita hospitality brand, opened to widespread acclaim in 1994, and went on to lead the A-List of best-dressed lodges. Set among huge trees on the banks of the Sand River in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, it earned its high rank in bush lodge luxury due to this special setting matched by impeccable service. It kept pace with the times with the occasional refresh over the years, and has just reopened after closing for one such revamp, which marks its 30th anniversary. 

Overseen by the experience and talent of Boyd Fergusson of design firm Cecile & Boyd, and architect Sally Tsiliyiannis of GAPP, the layout of the main lodge has been rearranged to create a greater sense of space and fluidity. The site itself is splendid; Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park, which make up a combined 45 000 hectares of some of the world’s most precious wilderness areas.

Guests are welcomed by huge open spaces and interiors that reflect the lodge’s surroundings. The traditional khaki tent canvas, stone walls and exposed thatch of Ebony’s architecture includes floor-to-ceiling glass walls with heavy canvas drapes. It gives a feeling of direct access to the outside that is normally only found in tented camps. This exposure to the wild is balanced by the steady reassurance of the interior where all the comforts abound. Inside, the chunky, rounded shapes inspired by North and West African buildings, combined with thatch, timber and canvas elements, and views of the Sand River, give the interior a laid-back and light-filled feel.

The update features a new Conservation Room – a thought-provoking space placed strategically in the centre of the lodge, with interactive displays covering the 30-year history of Singita, the regional biodiversity and the work of the Singita Lowveld Trust, Singita’s conservation partner in South Africa.

In planning the refresh, Cécile & Boyd’s design director, Geordi De Sousa Costa, introduced a mix of past and present, and as she says, “the contrast of bold versus lightweight, dense juxtaposed with open”. While explorer’s finds and campaign furniture speak to Ebony’s history, the new fabrics, natural textures, and a modern palette provide an updated sensibility. Utilitarian furniture sits alongside simple sofas and armchairs. Cotton slipcovers update antique chairs, and contemporary African art is a counterpoint to the chandeliers and vintage traveller chests to successfully inject fresh energy into the classic safari look while conserving the essence of the original and much-loved lodge.