#LoveSA: Not content with dominating the safari scene, Kruger has the prettiest airport too

2018-04-03 18:00 - Ethan Van Diemen
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The doorway of Skukuza Airport in Kruger National

(Photo: Step into Skukuza, SkukuzaAirport.com)

Cape Town - While the South African bush may long have been seen as a beautiful natural space, one of the newer man-made additions to the area is receiving rave reviews from travellers. The Skukuza Airport, near the southern end of the Kruger National Park, has been called “the prettiest airport in the world” by Jordan Bishop on Forbes.

The tiny, regional airport and gateway to the Kruger National Park is a breath of fresh air in a world saturated with generic airport infrastructure, aesthetics and design. Skukuza Airport is an immensely inviting and tranquil space that is more akin to a luxury spa retreat than an airport. Located close to the administrative headquarters of the Kruger National Park, it is simultaneously both the best place to start and end your fun and adventure in the South African bush. 

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All the rules and processes that seem formulaic and regimented in the standard airport context are immediately discarded as one steps through the doorway of Skukuza. What is the check-in area could easily pass for the lobby of a hotel or boutique spa. With an average flight carrying 20 passengers, there will be no long queues or confusion. At Skukuza, everything is laid-back and uncomplicated - exactly what nearly every other airport is not. Sit down on a comfortable couch or perhaps relax outside in the open-air courtyard. Forget the noise of a usual airport with loud announcements and the hum of crowds and chaotic activity - at Skukuza, the employees will come to you personally to announce that boarding has started.

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The aesthetics and design of the airport was the conception of design agency Grey in Joburg. A key aspect of the brief was that travellers, landing in the heart of South Africa’s bush, ought to feel as though they are in the bush immediately. To be precise, Skukuza needed to be an organic extension of the veld and should feel like the terrain in its immediate vicinity and beyond. The airport is thus in a very real way an anti-airport.

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Bringing together architects, designers and interior decorators, Skukuza Airport is of a truly contemporary but natural African design. Taking cues from the surroundings, the team was inspired by the colours, textures and forms seen in local soils, metals, stones, wildlife and wood. This is seen in the airport's use of neutral tones and colours as well as the use of shapes found in nature.

Added to this was the requirement that the building be both sustainable and low impact due to its location in the middle of a reserve. Indigenous grasses and low water-use foliage were used in the landscaping and Kruger Park environmentalists and plant specialists where roped in to identify protected species which went on to be incorporated into the design. The central water feature is used to cool the surrounding passenger areas with little need for external cooling. The airport also negates some of the impact of noisy aircraft by operating a single runway and making use of strategic departure and approach paths.

You can see more of Skukuza airport by watching the video below: 

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