First Look

Modern Africa

Depending on your expectations of what a safari should be like, Ecca Lodge, the latest addition to CC Africa's Kwandwe Private Game Reserve on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, is either a betrayal or a discovery. Chris Browne, the designer of Ecca's six stand-alone suites (and all of CC Africa's properties), says he was after "a clean style, with old armoires, piles of memorabilia, and natural textures." What he has delivered is a seductive, if bizarre, slice of postmodern chic in the middle of the bush. Take the enormous walk-in showers: Look to the left and it's all stainless steel and mirrors, ergonomically carved basins, and polished stone. Look to the right and there's a sheet of plate glass through which 50,000 acres of wilderness glare at you with an almost disdainful magnificence. On the deck of the main lodge, aloe trees teeming with exotic birds bend in the breeze, and brush against overstuffed, brightly colored sofas that could have come straight out of a Henry James novel. The walls, constructed of loose stones contained in mesh, echo the Ecca shale on the distant hillsides. Inside, bright-orange pots and Warhol-like prints would look right at home on the Upper East Side, ca. 1979.

But such contradictions don't ultimately conspire against the aspirations of Browne and his team. Nestled in the hillside, with no barrier between you and the beasts, Ecca is just what Browne was aiming for, successfully complementing the lodge's more traditional safari offerings. Kwandwe's rangers and trackers, who lead two game drives a day, are expertly skilled. The food is excellent (especially the fireside barbecues). And the suites themselves, at about 1,500 square feet each, are roomy enough for the family experience on which Kwandwe prides itself. As for the Big Five, they're all here—lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, and buffalo. For us, though, it was three impudent young cheetahs that made Ecca completely transcend the expected: The hunting of a kudu antelope in front of our eyes was an explosive, heartrending piece of theater. It was also a reminder of the true raison d'être of Kwandwe's brash new progeny. Rates, $700 per adult, $350 per child per night; 888-882-3742;