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OMG! Fund Airbnb winner finally opens her eco-hut

After a tornado caused damage to her guest eco-hut a mere 10 days before the arrival of the first Airbnb guest in December 2023, it was back on the drawing board for Liezel Maree.

However, this did not deter Maree, owner of Salt Cave Eco Hut, from pushing forward and acquiring a loan to once again construct the roof and repair the damages caused by the freak storm. In 2022 Maree was chosen out of tens of thousands of entries from around the world to give shape to her unique idea of an eco-hut built from wine bottles, tyres and other upcycled materials in a competition by Airbnb’s OMG! Fund.

She received a share of the $100 000 prizemoney after a few rounds of conceptualising, sketching, vision boards, sustainability checks and a final interview. “The gruelling task of building the one-of-a-kind eco-hut started in early 2023, featuring a Himalayan salt room constructed with Himalayan salt bricks. “Wine bottles from local restaurants, tyres and up-cycled materials featured in the build,” says Maree.

Located on a wildlife reserve with ample game viewing and regenerative farming, guests can enjoy giraffe, zebra, leopard, jackal, hyena, roaming cattle, and ample bird life,” she says. According to her, the rooms reflect the harmony between naturally built sustainable living spaces and the African bushveld. Weathered trees feature in every room, with accents of bottles and an upcycled Landrover windscreen letting natural light through the walls.

Also read: Hoedie’s woman is one of three in Africa to win AirBnB design prize

“A salt cave features in the middle of the house, creating a wall space behind the beds in both bedrooms allowing the salt cave to light up the sleeping areas in a warm Himalayan salt glow. “The house also features two bedrooms, a kitchen, dining area, day-bed and a fire driven tickle tub. “A unique flood lounge complete with water feature and mosaic floors, can be filled with water from the borehole, to cool down indoors on t hot Hoedspruit days,” she adds.

Outside, the living area features a rocket pizza oven constructed from a termite mount and an indoor clay pot cooling system layered with sand and stones to keep fresh produce cool. Bio-soap and natural gravity filtration ensures water is safely recycled into the surrounding environment. The Salt Cave Eco Hut, managed by Melissa Wilmott, is available for bookings through the Airbnb app only

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