Where art meets nature
The owners of Motswari Private Game Reserve have put their weight behind rhino conservation
TEXT Debbie Hathway | PHOTOGRAPH Supplied
“I like that you have a dodo… because I’m always mentioning the dodo,” says Fabrice Orengo de Lamazière, co-owner of Motswari Private Game Reserve in Limpopo. “It links to last night’s performance. The same thing will happen to the rhinos.”
The tattoo of a dodo on my shoulder is always a talking point. A flightless bird endemic to Mauritius, it was extinct by 1681, having been hunted by sailors and the animals they introduced. The rhinos of the Greater Kruger National Park are facing the same fate due to poaching.
I’m talking to Fabrice and his wife, Marion Geiger-Orengo, at Geiger’s Camp in the reserve after their hosting of the launch of pianist Tian Jiang’s CD Motswari Fantasy Night Symphony. They all met at a private concert Tian gave in Cape Town 12 years ago and discovered a mutual passion for music and wildlife. “His music is powerful, moving,” says Fabrice. “Tian started to regularly visit Motswari – and one day we decided to host a crazy concert in the bush with a grand piano. Soon after that we experienced the tragic death of a rhino poached on one of our properties.”
The incident inspired Fabrice and Marion to establish Rhino Disharmony to raise awareness of the animals’ plight through the only language understood internationally: art in all its forms. Tian was their first Rhino Disharmony ambassador.
Motswari is a second-generation family-owned property in Timbavati and Umbabat Nature Reserve. Home to diverse and rare species, it is a natural source of inspiration for the design and decoration of Geiger’s Camp. Transformed into a four- bedroom “wing” a short distance from the main lodge, the once-exclusive domain for family and friends has been conceptualised as an intimate private commercial experience for guests.
Fabrice and Marion invited input from interior decorator David Strauss. “The first time David came up here, I wanted to get going to show him the rooms, but he just stood looking out from the veranda, smoking a cigarette, taking it all in. He said you’ve got to take your inspiration there (the bush) and it’s got to seamlessly come in,” says Marion.
It’s a homely space layered in bohemian chic, where people should feel comfortable enough to put their feet up on the couch or take an after noon nap on a lounger next to the pool. “We put our love into this building,” says Fabrice. “Marion’s artistic background has been important for the decor, and she brought in a few elements of fun, such as the chandeliers and paintings.”
Marion admits it took a while to get real confidence going. “The fact that it’s called Geiger’s Camp put me in the position that I could just choose, regardless of whether those decorative decisions matched the latest trend.”
The couple shops anywhere, not only at high-end stores, and often on their travels. “The outdoor shower tiles… they’re a completely mad choice. They were at a factory warehouse, end of range, nobody wanted them. We saw these tiles and thought they’ll make a statement.”
When it comes to antiques and objets d’art, they buy what they like, not always knowing where they will fit in. A cushion on the veranda bears one of Marion’s designs, stitched by the women of Kaross Studio in Limpopo; a 50-piece wooden crocodile collection donated by a friend graces a wall in the lounge; and the “weird chandelier” is from an “authentically off-the-wall” neighbouring house keeper.
As for the bathtubs… “We test everything,” says Marion. “We actually sit in the baths in the shop. These are the perfect size – small (because water is scarce) but big enough to be able to enjoy the experience.”
There’s no doubt Motswari offers amazing wildlife experiences, great food, beautiful bedrooms with fantastic beds and fine linen, but what makes it stand out from the rest? “There’s no secret,” says Fabrice. “It’s just love and passion for art and nature, and the staff, whom we are proud to call our family. This is Geiger’s Camp.”
HOW TO GET THERE: Book a flight from Johannesburg with Federal Airlines, which offers charter aircraft as well as daily shuttles to South Africa’s most popular reserves – visit fedair.com
HOW TO BOOK ACCOMMODATION: To book at Geiger’s Camp in Motswari Private Game Reserve, visit newmarkhotels.com/places/reserves/motswari-private-game-reserve
TO SUPPORT THE RHINO CONSERVATION MOVEMENT: Visit facebook.com/rhinodisharmony