“When Elephants Dream” is a book title I always wanted to use. What do they dream of, do they dream?
A year ago, we walked a fantastic area, along the great Zambezi River, east of Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, looking across floodplains filled with wildlife, and I stepped off to one side, as I like to do when thinking about the placement of a new camp. It is almost a spiritual journey for me because the site needs to “speak” to me, speak to everyone who comes giving us the gift of their time with us when staying at this future Great Plain Camp. Their stay should be filled with stories and history, adventures, and joy.
As I stood there, at a tree that would be ideal as a central point in the camp, I saw movement, and it reminded me of a scene from an earlier National Geographic film of ours…
On closer inspection, through binoculars, I saw something magical that both transformed my intended camp design, its layout in my mind’s eye, and even the name.
After a gentle sleep, the herd started to wake. We watched as the elephants gathered themselves and, chased by their thirsts, began to stroll with purpose right through the imaginary camp, passing the central area, wine cellar, and spa, totally ignoring us. They peacefully followed their matriarchal leader towards the clear water.
Some slid down the river bank on their hindquarters, and as they left, I realized that this is their place, not ours, and if we did build a camp here, it would have to be on a very light footprint, off the ground and high enough so they can move back and forth as before.
We have named this new camp Tembo Plains, with Tembo meaning elephant.
I have deep empathy for elephants, and always have, because it feels like that have so much to teach us about ourselves and the planet. And while we continuously disappoint them in how we care for them and their land, they don’t seem to lose faith in our education and our potential to one day understand that what we do to the planet (and them) we ultimately do to ourselves.
So the construction of our new camp in our private 280,000 acres Sapi Reserve has begun. Tembo Plains is due to open in June 2021 with a very light footprint design, but at our highest level of standards.
I wanted to pay homage to the very ancient cultures in Zimbabwe. Quite a lot of that focus is around the Zimbabwe Ruins, stone structures from the 11th Century. So I adopted the building style that reflects the style of old kings’ fort, stones stacked on top of each other in circular towers and columns. But we like to have camps make from canvas, so the colonial-styled tentage meets the 300-year-old culture in HARMONY, not in conflict in this camp.
And harmony should not be a surprise to us because, in the Zimbabwe Ruins, they have found beads traded from Arabia, gold from other parts of Africa, elaborately worked iron and copper, porcelain from China Persia. These ruins were once a central trading hub that people came from across the globe to visit.
We anticipate that travellers will now come to Tembo Plains from around the globe and leave with a wealth of experiences and friendships. In exchange, to commit to becoming Great Plains Ambassadors.
Beverly and I are working blues into the décor, feeding off the blue Persian trade bead ethics and influences and, of course, using the blue to complement the wide-open Zambezi River that flows in front of the camp. Tembo Plains is our seventh camp to enter our Great Plains Réserve Collection, alongside Zarafa, Selinda, Duba Plains, Mara Nyika, Mara Plains, and ol Donyo Lodge.
We will be showing you images throughout the build, sharing specials and opening plans along the way.
And if you are lucky, you may appear in Elephant Dreams: my greatest wish and gift to you.