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Jamala: a walk on the wild side

Rachel Marsh

An African safari in our own backyard.

It’s a storyline straight out of a Matt Damon movie. In 1998, Richard and Maureen Tindale and their six children set out on an adventure, deciding that they were going to start up their very own zoo. With zero experience in running a wildlife park, but lots of love for animals and for the African continent, they set to work with the end goal of sharing their passion with the Canberra community.

Fast forward 17 years, and the Tindales have not only built the impressive and continually evolving National Zoo and Aquarium, but there’s a new addition – the Jamala Wildlife Lodge. From the moment you step inside the foyer, you are transported to deepest Africa…but it’s just a taste of what’s to come.

Uhsaka Lodge

Uhsaka Lodge

The main entertaining area, known as Ushaka, will leave you speechless. High ceilinged and airy, the room is painstakingly decorated; a testament to Richard’s eye for authentic African items and Maureen’s decorating finesse. Each piece of furniture and every artefact has been lovingly selected, creating an interior that captures your imagination and takes you on a journey.

The positioning of the items in the lodge is deliberate, allowing each to stand in its own right. One sculpture is particularly arresting – a Zulu hat; beautifully hand-carved and beaded.

Masai Warrior sculptures.

Maasai Warrior sculptures.

The statue of the Maasai Warriors is another that makes a strong statement. Standing approximately two metres tall, it has a commanding presence in the room.

“I came across these statues in a shop whilst holidaying in Cape Town,” says Richard, “and knew I had the perfect spot for them back home.”

Built into the wall next to these warriors is a massive aquarium — the ‘hidden side’ of the view enjoyed to visitors to the Zoo — where fish, large and small, swim by. It’s a constantly changing art installation in the open plan space, which acts as a calming, almost mesmerising, anchor.

The acquarium links the public and private spaces of the National Zoo and Aquarium.

The acquarium links the public and private spaces of the National Zoo and Aquarium.

The private dining room takes you deeper into the wild, as guests move through an internal rainforest to a communal dining space where guests congregate each evening. White lions push their massive bodies up against the glass as guests enjoy an African-inspired meal created by Jamala Lodge’s private chef.

It really is a unique space and experience.

The magic continues when guests retire to their rooms. The Jungle Bungalows are warm and lushly furnished, practically nestled inside the habitats of the lions, bears and cheetahs. Full height glass encourages an optimal connection between guests and animals, with man and beast sleeping just metres apart.

Guests sleep just minutes from beasts.

Guests sleep just minutes from beasts.

The Giraffe Treehouses are tucked away in the reserve, overlooking the Molonglo River. It’s a magical view, but the best part of this accommodation package is the chance to feed Hummer the giraffe, right from the private balcony.

A stay at Jamala is much more than just a night’s accommodation; for many, it’s a life-changing experience.

“Many of our guests are deeply moved by their experience at the lodge,” says Richard, and it’s not hard to see why.

It’s not often that you can see majestic animals right here in Canberra, surrounded by stunning interiors, created with integrity.

Images courtesy of National Zoo and Aquarium

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Rachel Marsh

Originally a Wollongong girl, Rachel Marsh the interior designer behind Inspired Interiors moved to Canberra in 2013 and has now made it her home. She loves nothing more than assisting her clients in creating spaces that are warm and inviting. Always keeping in mind that each client is different and every home should be a reflection of those who live in it. Email her at [email protected]

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