Singita Mara River Tented Camp offers front row seats for migration – and tactile East African design

Imbued with a deep sense of place

Designing safari destinations in remote locations necessitates walking a fine line between blending in respectfully with the surroundings and carving out a distinct and memorable design experience.

Singita Mara River Tented Camp, situated on a picturesque bend of the Mara River in the Lamai Triangle in Tanzania, is a prime spot for migrating wildlife. It achieves this delicate balance through an imaginative series of spaces that consider both the landscape and the broader context of its surroundings.

Although the camp recently underwent a full interior makeover, its six-suite footprint remains intact. ‘While we wanted to instill a renewed and emphasised sense of place into Mara, we also wanted to preserve its spirit – — intimate size and sense of simplicity,’ says Georgina Pennington, Group Head of Creative Direction at Singita.

Singita Mara has always had an easygoing atmosphere. The camp’s updated interiors retain this sense of relaxation while injecting it with a renewed dynamism. The resulting spaces reference the origins and traditions of mobile safari while also incorporating the energy of contemporary design. ‘We’ve sought to create a bold and uncluttered utilitarian interior with pops of colour and surprise,’ says Pennington.

The primary inspiration for this new incarnation of Mara is the setting – the panoramic plains punctuated by acacias, expansive sky and dramatic migration scenery. ‘The tonal variation, and sense of movement on the plains was integral to the concept and how that has evolved’, she adds. Warm browns moving up into muted greens form the base of the tents and echo the topography of the landscape.

When considering the setting, the designers looked not only at the immediate physical surroundings of the camp but also at the local context. East African culture, specifically the Masai tribe, was a source of visual and textural inspiration – their signature graphic motifs, intricate beading designs, and primary colours informed many of the decorative and interior elements throughout Mara’s tented suites and spaces. But while ‘primary’ in some sense, the tones are never artificial–rather drawn again from nature. Blood red, deep blue, ochre yellow. ‘We made sure not to use anything contrived in the palette,’ notes Pennington.

This authenticity was an important overarching aim and informed the sourcing of much of the design that layers the space and the skill reflected in the vibrant, one-of-a-kind pieces created for Mara – many made by local makers and craftspeople. They speak to the centuries of artistry and design tradition found within East Africa. But while traditionally inspired, these motifs are simultaneously forward-looking, never static – the time-honoured techniques and styles updated and interpreted in a contemporary way in the form of statement artworks, decorative pieces and striking textiles.

Tents are decorated with a range of locally produced artworks, textiles and products that celebrate East African traditions and contemporary makers
Photography: Emma Jackson

Mara’s dynamic interiors staddle past and present and offer a nod to the traditional tented safari. Its inherent impermanence is alluded to through modular furniture and details that signal flexibility and movability. Visually dynamic and physically versatile (units on wheels, multipurpose items), a playful spin brings these references up to date and infuses the camp with adventurous energy in keeping with the spirit of exploration mobile camps have always embodied.

Adventure is never at the expense of comfort, which is a crucial consideration when designing a space in this setting—where long days on game drives, the intensity of the heat, and the excitement of sightings necessitate somewhere peaceful to retreat. This balance is found most effectively through the use of tactile and layered textures, which create spaces that are calming and cocooning.

This sense of rest comes through, too, in the communal spaces, designed with easy enjoyment in mind. There’s nothing stiff or formal – casual alfresco dining spaces, relaxed seating hubs, and soft spots to sit and read.

Singita Mara River Tented Camp’s many layers and what enables it to achieve a comfortable balance – traditional tents with a modern twist, sophisticated but youthful spaces and contemporary pieces that celebrate traditional craft. Authentically African, and appropriate to time and place.

Inside one of the six tented suites, whose colours reflect the surrounding landscape with tertiary shades
Photography: Emma Jackson
A shaded terrace is a prime spot for enjoying panoramic vistas
Photography: Emma Jackson


Share Tweet