Situated within the Maputoland-Pondoland Albany Hotspot, Maputo National Park is one of the top 36 most biodiverse yet endangered ecoregions in the world. With a unique combination of having both beach and bush, this beautiful area provides visitors with the opportunity to see anything from a herd of elephant to a nesting turtle in a single day. It is no wonder then, that the park is fast becoming an increasingly popular place to visit in Mozambique, and as tourism numbers grow, so too does the need for more accommodation options.
Conservation of the natural environment remains at the forefront of everything that Peace Parks Foundation and partners do. The design and construction of Membene Lodge, Maputo National Park’s newest beachfront accommodation, is no exception. Lésa van Rooyen, Peace Parks Communication Coordinator, sits down with PlanEco architect Neil Crafford and Maputo National Park Warden Miguel Gonçalves to discuss some of the challenges and achievements the team faced when building in this protected area. Neil also provides a glimpse into what visitors can expect when staying here.
Miguel explains that there are currently two privately owned concessions within Maputo National Park. Although these lodges are incredibly beautiful 5-star establishments, the hefty price tag that comes with staying at them excludes a large percentage of visitors from staying in the park. Wanting to be more inclusive with accommodation options, plans to develop a campsite and 2-star self-catering lodge was the answer. Luckily, despite the lower price tag, the views are worth a stack of gold!
Neil explains some of the considerations that he and his team had to include when creating architectural guidelines aimed specifically toward building in a conservation area. This included things such as the natural landscapes and features, existing infrastructure, cultural influences as well as the natural materials and skills available in the area. It is imperative that the communities around the park benefit from the lodge. It is equally important for guests to connect with the natural environment and people living in the surrounding areas. To this end, local artefacts made by the communities have been used in the design and construction of the lodge.
Incorporating sustainable practices and minimising the gap between the lodge and nature was an integral part of the process when the planning team was working on finding the perfect site location and development. To achieve this goal, several challenges needed to be overcome. One was getting the building material on site. Maputo National Park’s road network calls to the adventure traveller that enjoys taking a 4×4 through sandy terrain. This is, of course, not ideal terrain for large trucks, so all of the building materials had to be brought on-site with 4×4 vehicles. When crawling through bushes to try and mark where the different units were to be constructed, someone had to keep a constant eye out for elephants, hippos and snakes.
The construction of Membene lodge is a proud milestone that showcases just how far Maputo National Park has come. The conservation success is due to the continued efforts between Peace Parks Foundation and its long-term partner, the Mozambique National Administration for Conservation Areas. It is this dedication, hard work and passion for the sensitive area that makes this new lodge in Membene so special and promises families, couples and solo travellers alike an unforgettable, adventure-packed holiday. Peace Parks is grateful to everyone who has been involved in this project and is excited to welcome new visitors to the lodge, enabling them to experience the magic that is Maputo National Park.