The story of our Tree Houses
Ngepi Camp was born out of the desire to live symbiotically with the environment, the animals and the surrounding communities.
The whole Ngepi experience revolves around this aim. We see ourselves as welcome guests in this glorious sanctuary of nature and all aspects of our camp strive to maintain harmonious balance with the environment, wildlife and local community.
The people of the local villages have been an inspirational example on how to live in sync with the natural surroundings. We believe that it would only be detrimental to attempt to change these indigenous communities to our Western system.
With our vision clear and hearts filled with the great feeling and value that all this brought to our lives, we began by ‘talking’ to the individual trees. We asked their permission to build a symbiotic house within their gracious space – a dwelling in which the tree would play a very significant role. We wanted the trees to embrace people so that we could better learn to live in harmony with nature.
With grateful respect we endeavoured to feel the best way for every tree house to compliment it’s individual tree. We aimed to have the house fit the tree’s structure naturally, like two puzzle pieces, in a way that would cause no harm to the tree during or after construction. Each tree’s shape and location uniquely defined how the hut was to be built. The houses were placed on the eastern side of the tree so they would receive the blessing of the afternoon shade.
Each tree house was also specially designed so that guests could see the sun rise between their toes when lying in bed! We wanted each guest to feel they were part of nature and experience our amazing views. So it was that the relationship between man and our trees began. Nature is our host and the Ngepi buildings are the facilitators that enable our guests to enjoy all its splendour.
In true symbiotic spirit, all water and waste is re-directed back to the tree in order for it to get the benefit of fertilizer and water. Each person who appreciates the wonder of living here contributes to the aura of peacefulness that surrounds the tree houses. We hope that when they leave, their smiles rub off on the environment elsewhere.
In keeping with our philosophy we use only solar powered electricity to avoid having to import electricity from a coal burning power station. We also use energy from the river itself and pump some of our water needs using a water wheel. Water is solar-heated – backed up by a well-insulated storage facility for cold or cloudy conditions. The solar system is highly visible to promote the benefits of solar energy and encourage the use thereof by guests when they get back to their own homes.
The simple décor, the roll down reed walls and the evaporative air-condition system (which uses a garden spray system on the roof) are all conducive to relaxing harmoniously in nature. A recent visitor to Ngepi put it very well when she said, “It has every- thing you need for comfortable living …. An open shower, a loo en-suite … and your feet are in nature.”
We used local thatch and reeds, but imported all the poles and planking from South Africa, where the timber is commercially grown, thus sparing our indigenous trees. All workers who helped with the building of the tree houses are locals. They excelled at the job and approached the project with as much enthusiasm and love for it as we did.
We used the tin basin and pitcher to represent the older cultures of Africa and the newer faucets and lighting to represent the more modern western world. Their integration with this wonderful unspoiled nature forges the three realities together, to form our life …… symbiotically.