Skip to content

11 architecturally spectacular wildlife lodges around the world

Sept. 12, 2022
16 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

These diverse international wildlife lodges are one of a kind, not only in their design but also when it comes to the experience of simply staying.

The best vacations are the memorable ones, full of fun with loved ones, experiencing exciting new cultural immersions or getting to see unique places and phenomena around the globe.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

When not just informed by the surrounding landscape, but conceived in concert with it, architecture and design are two ways in which a hotel or lodge can make an immediate and lasting impression on those who visit. Throw in rare wildlife encounters, and you have the making of a truly unforgettable experience.

Here are 11 wildlife lodges whose spectacular architecture sets them apart from the herd.

Baobab Treehouse at Xigera, Botswana

THE RED CARNATION HOTEL COLLECTION

This singular creation at one of the Okavango Delta’s newest safari lodges flips the script on the very concept of a treehouse. Instead of being built high in a tree, it is the tree itself.

South African architect Anton de Kock, who admits he didn’t know what a treehouse was when the client first asked him to design one, drew inspiration from artist Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef’s painting of a baobab tree—of which there are two rooted on the property. Rendered in steel, the Boabab Treehouse’s massive trunk became a first-floor bathroom linked to the second floor via a spiraling staircase.

THE RED CARNATION HOTEL COLLECTION

This level holds a king bedroom with carved timber African designer furniture, and a 33-foot-high viewing deck for panoramas of the floodplain, which is home to elephants, leopards, rare birds and lions. Eight gargantuan, twisting branches, also made of steel, were designed individually and laser-cut in Cape Town. They cantilever 13 feet out from the trunk.

THE RED CARNATION HOTEL COLLECTION

The experience inside the baobab is quasi-open air thanks to canvas walls that can be zipped down for privacy or opened entirely for nature sounds and star-filled nights. To book — starting at $2,320 per night per adult, fully inclusive, plus $250 per night for the treehouse — look to operators such as Roar Africa, which incorporates the special accommodation in many itineraries.

Freycinet Lodge, Tasmania, Australia

FREYCINET LODGE

From inside the curvy, glossy glass Coastal Pavilions of this longtime lodge in Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s east coast, guests can watch adorable red-necked wallabies (also known as Bennett’s wallabies) hop and scamper around outside. Echidnas and possums, too.

FREYCINET LODGE

The bathtubs and hammock-like netted balustrades on the pavilions’ wooden decks, on the other hand, are the perfect place to gaze up at falcons and white-bellied sea eagles. From the deserted beaches nearby it’s possible to spot seals and dolphins.

FREYCINET LODGE

The magnificent natural setting, particularly the park’s dramatic granite rock formations, gave the architects, Liminal Studio, direction for the fluid form of the graceful pavilions, which are framed with Tasmanian timber.

FREYCINET LODGE

The floor-to-ceiling glass, which bends around corners to simulate the feeling of being outside, is a critical element of the design. Viewed from the outside, the glass reflects the eucalyptus groves and cerulean skies, causing the hardwood structure to almost disappear. An encyclopedic array of amenities and services — such as platters of local produce and charcuterie, Tassie whisky and chocolate turndown treats, plus pillow mist, gas fireplaces, overflowing breakfast hampers, wildlife and art books, and sumptuous beds — means you never have to leave the pavilion, though it would be a shame not to do at least a few local hikes (or just some beach walks) if you visit. Pavilions are bookable directly from $519 per night.

The Muraka at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives

YASHRIB AHMED/CONRAD MALDIVES

Imagine lying in a sumptuous king bed and watching sea turtles and baby sharks swimming over your head. It sounds unreal but it’s an actual possibility in this otherworldly underwater residence in the Maldives. For just $9,999 per night (starting rate), that is.

JUSTIN NICHOLAS/CONRAD MALDIVES

The Muraka’s above-water experience is similar to an opulent overwater bungalow, with two bedrooms, an infinity pool and a large deck.

JUSTIN NICHOLAS/CONRAD MALDIVES

But guests can descend in the elevator or spiral staircase to the residence’s showpiece: a bedroom with a crystal-clear 180-degree curved acrylic dome ceiling and dreamy bathroom of floor-to-ceiling glass, all submerged 16 feet below sea level.

JUSTIN NICHOLAS/CONRAD MALDIVES

With the undersea villa — which Maldivian architect Ahmed Saleem began conceiving immediately after designing the resort’s underwater restaurant, Ithaa — Saleem and Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki aimed to help guests experience nature in an entirely new, truly immersive way.

YASHRIB AHMED/CONRAD MALDIVES

Kruger Shalati the Train on the Bridge, South Africa

KRUGER SHALATI

There is truly nothing else on Earth like this luxury lodge, which is housed in a train set high on the historical circa-1893 Selati Bridge in Kruger National Park.

KRUGER SHALATI

One hundred years ago, the 1920s train carrying Kruger’s first visitors would park overnight at this very spot. Paying homage to that early tourism train stop, the property’s 31 suites include land-based accommodations as well as 24 Luxury Carriage Suites, which are actually inside the reimagined train cars, though these versions contain contemporary African art and walls of glass opening to expansive views of not only the bush and peaceful river below, but also of the trellised bridge structure.

KRUGER SHALATI

Furnished balconies hang off the train’s side, but none so dramatically as the circular pool that juts out over it all from the Bridge House, suspended above bathing hippos, lazing crocodiles and grazing buffalo some 50 feet below. Direct online booking is possible, with rates starting at $422 per person per night.

Kisawa Sanctuary, Mozambique

KISAWA

As marine-based safaris go, Mozambique’s Benguerra Island is prolific and sensational. Think humpback whales frolicking offshore, graceful manta rays, hunting orcas and five species of sea turtle, not to mention hammerhead sharks, multiple types of dolphins and the last remaining dugongs in the Western Indian Ocean, all protected in part by the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies.

KISAWA

Kisawa Sanctuary, thoughtfully camouflaged within 300 hectares of the island’s beachfront and coastal forest, is (almost) equally impressive. Nina Flohr’s NJF Design conceived the wavy, scalloped thatched-roof design in collaboration with Mozambican weavers, thatchers and carpenters to reduce the lodge’s environmental footprint as much as possible. While the aesthetics celebrate Mozambique’s design heritage (and 80% of the workforce was local), the actual building techniques are modern, including concrete-free foundations, recycled and nontoxic paving for roads and 3D printed elements.

KISAWA

Biophilic design principles run throughout the undulating silhouettes and thatching of the multidomed Natural Wellness Centre. An in-house craftsman made small figures and oversized sculptures using offcuts from the construction process, while interiors are all unique from bungalow to bungalow and contain African artifacts and antiques sourced from across the continent.

KISAWA

Booking can be done directly with the property; the all-inclusive rate starts at $5,090 per night for two people.

Shipwreck Lodge, Namibia

SHIPWRECK LODGE

In the case of this eco-friendly Namibian lodge along the Skeleton Coast, the design inspiration wasn’t the desolate landscape so much as it was the manmade vessels that collided with it. As the name suggests, shipwrecks — as prolific as whale bones along the stretch of punishing Atlantic coastline — were the starting point that inspired the 10 instantly recognizable wooden cabins dotted atop a dune, overlooking the churning Atlantic Ocean.

SHIPWRECK LODGE

In contrast to the moody, ever-shifting weather outside, the rooms are all incredibly cozy and warm, with plush, gem-toned upholstery, wood-burning stoves and bathrooms that feel like that of an oceangoing vessel ... albeit far more spacious.

SHIPWRECK LODGE

Architect Nina Maritz and interior designer Melanie van der Merwe used nautical materials and elements such as rope and round porthole windows throughout the property, ensuring the maritime theme echoes throughout the property.

SHIPWRECK LODGE

Here, due to the harsh desert environs, there are not great numbers of lions, desert elephants, desert giraffes and Hartmann’s mountain zebra, which are easily spotted on slow drives across the sand and granite mountains. But that’s exactly what gives each hard-earned sighting such an aura of privilege and rarity. Book directly with Natural Selection starting at $1,145 per person per night during peak season (August and October).

Jungle Bubbles at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, Thailand

ANANTARA

If you’ve been fortunate enough to see one in person, you know every real-life experience with an elephant is absolutely spectacular. But perhaps the most surreal way to observe the intelligent gentle giants is from the two spacious Jungle Bubbles at this 160-acre resort in northern Thailand. The elevated plunge pool just feet from the gargantuan grazers isn’t too bad, either.

ANANTARA

Custom-designed by Eye in the Sky using high-tech fabric and technology, the bubbles offer unencumbered spectating of elephants wandering and playing around the forest from the comfort of air-conditioned accommodations. At night, turn your attention heavenward, since zero light pollution translates to phenomenal stargazing from bed. And if the idea of elephants seeing you bathing is a weird one, take solace in the fact the enclosed showers are not transparent.

ANANTARA

The overnight dusk-to-dawn Jungle Bubble experience is offered through the resort as an add-on at $585 per night for two people.

Nay Palad Bird Nest at Segera Retreat, Kenya

SEGERA

This monumental, nest-like structure could only exist exactly where it is since it’s a collaboration among multiple parties — Nay Palad founder Carolin Dekeyser, Segera owner Jochen Zeitz and Nay Palad Hideaway architect Daniel Pouzet — that celebrates its location in one of Kenya’s preeminent wildlife destinations, the Laikipia plains.

The Nay Palad Bird Nest stands on the sustainable safari retreat’s plains and dwarfs the trees around it, providing a prime rooftop perch for conservation enthusiasts to observe iconic African species day and night. Bubbly sundowners along with picnic-style dinners give this retreat a rustic vibe.

SEGERA

Inside the bedroom, timber walls made of louvers allow overnighters to open their slumber to the goings-on of the nocturnal wildlife — and the nearby river where elephants love to gather in the wee hours of the morning, so prepare to be woken up by their guttural groans.

Guests can add a Bird Nest overnight to their stay at Segera for an additional $1,700 per night for two people — which benefits Segera’s conservation efforts.

Treehotel, Sweden

TREEHOTEL

A mirrored cube that reflects the snowy treetops around it, a colossal nest hidden among trees, a UFO-like silhouette floating above the forest floor, and a burnt pine house levitating more than 30 feet off the ground.

TREEHOTEL

These are some of the exceptional pieces of architecture that make up Treehotel in Swedish Lapland, where guests can take a moose safari and also spy fox, reindeer and bears.

TREEHOTEL

This design destination was born of one local couple’s dream to remain rooted in their home village while building a business and has, over the past dozen years, drawn in preeminent Swedish architects as well as world-renowned firms from all over Scandinavia to contribute designs for distinctive new treehouses, one at a time.

TREEHOTEL

The most recent is Biosphere, a Bjarke Ingels Group creation that was designed with the conservation of a dwindling bird population in mind and features a facade of 350 bird houses. It appears to levitate on its own and can only be reached by a delicate suspended bridge. While the dark-hued interior is elegant and sleek, it was designed to constantly draw visitors’ gazes outward to nature and, of course, the avian wildlife. There’s a roof terrace with 360-degree forest views, too.

TREEHOTEL

Each of the treehouses can be booked online and rates start at $507 per night.

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

WILDERNESS BISATE

Incredible care and creativity went into the six thatched, spherical pods (dubbed forest villas) that make up Wilderness Safaris’ Bisate Lodge, a Kinyarwanda word that translates to “pieces.”

WILDERNESS BISATE

Their shapes mimic the way iconic volcanic cones of Volcanoes National Park, home to the endangered mountain gorillas for which this part of Rwanda is renowned, erode and are an allusion to the thousands of hills Rwanda is famous for, as well as traditional Rwandan building designs.

WILDERNESS BISATE

The design goes beyond the extraordinary architecture by Nicholas Plewman Architects, though. Interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn of Artichoke sought input from the likes of local textile experts, the National Ethnographic Museum and fashion entrepreneur Teta Isibo. The results — built by 350 locals — are meant to highlight the surrounding community and culture.

WILDERNESS BISATE

Rich emerald textiles evoke the surrounding rainforest while furnishings are embellished with the traditional geometric imigongo form of painting, which employs cow dung mixed with colored soil. Throughout public spaces and villas, chandeliers are made of recycled glass, volcanic stone went into the fireplaces and natural flamed granite clads many surfaces, all paying homage to the gorillas’ ancient volcanic home.

WILDERNESS BISATE

Book gorilla trekking and more through an operator such as Extraordinary Journeys; rates for Bisate start at $1,838 per night per person.

Awasi Patagonia, Chile

AWASI PATAGONIA

Whereas some luxury lodges practically shout all the ways their design is so bold, this one, in Chilean Patagonia near Torres del Paine National Park, was conceived to create the very opposite effect: silence.

AWASI PATAGONIA

Felipe Assadi Arquitectos designed the 12 secluded cabins to be hidden across a meadow beside a dense native forest, with towering, snowcapped mountains as the backdrop.

AWASI PATAGONIA

Built in the traditional style of Chile’s southern reaches, the cabins perch atop stilts on the fragile land, their pillared exterior structures clad in silvery lenga beech wood. Inside each are amenities meant to soothe visitors after a day out among the elements — roaring fireplaces, outdoor hot tubs, sheepskin rugs, wood-burning stoves and wool blankets.

AWASI PATAGONIA

The simplicity of design was intentionally straightforward so as not to take away from the exquisite landscape — which is home to guanacos (related to the llama), condors and foxes, among other species — as well as to be seamless for the local labor force to construct using traditional techniques.

AWASI PATAGONIA

The lodge is completely carbon neutral with everything recycled or composted and any carbon emissions offset three times over by forested areas it protects and maintains. Conservation efforts are also active, thanks to the Awasi Foundation and the hotel’s guides, who help keep hunters away from the local puma populations along the natural corridor bordering the park. Book through Relais & Chateaux or directly with the property; rates start at $4,070 per person for a three-night all-inclusive program.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Awasi Patagonia)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases