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Where Yurt and Serengeti collide ~ Nduara Liliondo Safari Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania

October 2, 2009

By Dian Hasan | October 2, 2009

Nduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 1 photo Tim Beddow for ADWe often don’t pause long enough to think about how similar we all are. Take the Mongolians and the Masaii of East Africa. At first glance you wouldn’t see the similarities, knowing full well that the landscapes between the two lands are so utterly different.

But upon closer inspection there area ties that bond. They are both nomadic tribes, and carry with them all their worldly possessions, including their homes. Making them the experts of practicality, house moves, and packing. Relocation comes as second nature to both people.

And when the Mongolion Yurt ventures into the Serengeti Plains, magic happens! Nduara Liliondo in Tanzania, a Safari Camp with Mongolian links, an entirely different brand of accommodation and way to enjoy Africa’s wildlife.

It’s an unforgettable sight, the twice-annual ebb and flow of animals—zebras, blue wildebeests and gazelles among them—across the vast, primeval-seeming Serengeti Plain, in northern Tanzania and neighboring Kenya. Visitors head to East Africa from all over to witness this, one of the largest such migrations in the world.

Nduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 8 photo Tim Beddow for AD

Nduara Loliondo, a safari camp within the Serengeti ecosystem, parallels these peregrinations, moving in six-month intervals between northern and southern Loliondo. The camp, run by an aptly named company, Nomad Tanzania, was created with the help of designers Chris Payne and Emma Campbell, British expatriates whose Nairobi-based firm is called Interior Idea. Asked by two of Nomad’s founding directors, Milly and Mark Houldsworth, to upgrade their existing camp, the Idea team suggested that they “turn everything on its head,” Payne says.

Nduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 2 photo Tim Beddow for ADNduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 7 photo Tim Beddow for AD

In the case of Nduara Loliondo, all roads led to the yurt, the circular tents that have sheltered Mongolians and other nomadic cultures for centuries. (Nduara means “circle” in Swahili, Tanzania’s national language.) For the Houldsworths, the idea was a natural: Milly Houldsworth’s brother is “a hippie yurt maker,” as Campbell teasingly points out, and the couple had long discussed “how fun it would be to do a yurty thing,” she says.

Nduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 6 photo Tim Beddow for ADNduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 4 photo Tim Beddow for AD

The fact that this is the country of the Masai also made these tents a logical choice. This geometric shape is a theme in the culture of the seminomadic tribe, whose members traditionally dwell in round structures known as bomas.

The camp’s mobility dictated its interior design; everything has to collapse, break down, be as reducible as possible.

Most modern-day yurts aren’t easily movable—that is, unless they’re designed by Mike Jessop, known in the intriguing, close-knit world of yurt makers as “pop-up Mike.” Jessop has patented the Zip-Yurt, a cleverly constructed tent that, like a ship in a bottle, springs up with the tug of a rope, metamorphosing from something flat into a fully formed dwelling.

Nduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 5 photo Tim Beddow for ADNduara Liliondo Safari Camp-Serengeti-TANZANIA 3 photo Tim Beddow for AD

Jessop worked with the Houldsworths and the designers on adapting the tent for African use. “We began with the premise that it should be as eco-friendly as possible,” Payne explains, adding that the tent they devised is “totally tropicalized.” While most yurt frames are made of willow or ash, these are bamboo—a material that grows plentifully here. The wheel at the center of the roof is made from grevillea, a local wood, that’s steamed until it assumes its final, circular shape.

Unlike Mongolian yurts, of heavy felt, these are done in canvas, with sides that can be rolled up for ventilation in the heat of the African day, then back down when the evening chill sets in. Left open, the canvas-capped wheel at the top lets “the air flow, like natural air-conditioning,” Milly Houldsworth points out.

Inspiration: Architectural Digest

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