In a year where preserving the environment is becoming increasingly important, the travel world is changing! Renowned author and spiritual teacher Gary Zukav once said: “The decisions that you make and the actions that you take upon the earth are the means by which you evolve.” There are many establishments that have evolved and have found sustainable ways to improve their green credentials and minimize their impact on our planet, without compromising on luxury. The perception of luxury lodging has changed over the years with travelers seeking accommodation that is both unique in design and immerses one with nature in a protected environment. This is one of the greatest luxuries nowadays. The main objective of ecotourism is to positively impact environmental preservation and enhance the lives of people in local communities.
What is an authentic eco-lodge?
There are a number of characteristics that a lodge should possess in order to be deemed as eco-friendly:
- Offer a natural setting and preserve the vegetation.
- Use local and viable building materials.
- Offer comfortable guest rooms and main areas that displays local designs and heritage.
- Support local farmers when acquiring food supplies.
- Use sustainable energy and environmentally friendly waste disposal systems.
- Employ and develop local workers.
- Provide a selection of activities and educational subject matter that pertains to natural and cultural sites.
- Respected by the local community and businesses as a loyal and supportive establishment.
Our top 5 favorite green lodges and camps:
1. Elsa’s Kopje - Meru, Kenya
Located in a remote part of Meru National Park in East Africa, Elsa’s Kopje was designed to blend into the rugged surroundings of the vast expansive park, with each spacious cottage built around the rocks to minimize the impact on nature.
The elegant boutique lodge has been selected for many awards over the years but the most prestigious of them all is the Silver Level Rating with Sustainable Travel International - international recognition for their excellent standards of responsible tourism, and the Gold-Level Eco-Rating Certificate awarded by Ecotourism Kenya in recognition of the lodge’s high level of environmental responsibility and its dedication to the support and integration of local communities.
The lodge is deserving of these awards with its continuous efforts to conserve. The lodge consumes a minimum amount of energy through its investment in LED and energy saving bulbs, solar water heaters and power to supplement the generator; limiting diesel generator use to only 6 hours per day. To limit their carbon footprint and support the local community, the lodge sources their fresh produce from the farmers on the borders of the park and local traders.
Elsa’s Kopje employs over 50% of its staff from the local community. Timber used by the camp is taken from renewable sources and rubbish is responsibly disposed of after separating the recyclables. Glass is sold to the recycling plant ‘Central Glass’ in Nairobi. The lodge is also involved in rewarding conservation and community upliftment projects: Land & Life Foundation focuses on effective conservation initiatives and education and reinforces the conservation message in the Wildlife Warrior Program offered at Ura Gate Primary School and supported by Elsa’s Kopje.
2. Mombo Camp - Okavango Delta, Botswana
Located on the northern tip of Chief’s Island within Moremi Game Reserve, the newly rebuilt Mombo Camp is considered one of the best areas for wildlife in Africa. Nine large tented suites are elevated above the ground to reduce the lodge’s carbon footprint.
The lodge also strives to reduce energy consumption and fuel use by being 100% solar powered, with electricity and hot water provided via solar panels and inverters. Wastewater (sewage and grey water) is treated in an Above Ground Sewage Plant, ensuring that the water is clean before being allowed to enter the natural environment.
The concession’s diverse vegetation is well suited to the re-introduction projects that Mombo heads up. The Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project was established in 2001 when Wilderness Safaris and the Botswana government collaborated in the reintroduction of endangered white and black rhino into Botswana. The project is ongoing and aims to see the formation of viable rhino breeding populations and an overall increase in the number of Rhino in Botswana.
The Botswana Lion Genetics Project is an initiative run by researcher Simon Dures, who is putting together a comprehensive study of the past and present genetic structure of the lion population in the Okavango Delta. The aim of this project is to hopefully predict future genetic trends, identifying possible genetic risks faced by the lion population in northern Botswana and form suitable conservation management plans. This is achieved through genetic biopsy darting and laboratory analysis.
3. Serra Cafema - Kunene, Namibia
Located in the north-west of Namibia, Serra Cafema is undoubtedly one of the most remote camps in southern Africa. Inspired by the local Himba people, this intimate camp boasts eight elevated villas made of wood, canvas and thatch. The villas blend in with the natural surroundings, nestled perfectly amongst the shady albida trees.
Serra Cafema is constructed on the 300 000-hectare Marienfluss Conservancy which is owned primarily by the Himba people, who are amongst the last semi-nomadic peoples on the planet. Serra Cafema has a respected relationship with the Himba people, allowing their guests to experience the most authentic Himba cultural experience in Namibia. Serra Cafema strives to reduce energy consumption by powering the camp via a hybrid system - the combination of solar energy and a diesel-powered generator. Thanks to the solar energy the generator only needs to operate for eight hours a day as opposed to 24 hours. In addition, each guest tent has its own small solar geyser that provides hot water.
Serra Cafema is actively involved in a number of conservation and community-based projects.
The Sea Turtle initiative aims to secure beaches in southern Angola where turtles are vulnerable to slaughter by local fisherman. The turtles are monitored carefully when they are in Namibian waters. The Crocodile Research project aims to establish a population estimate of the crocodiles on the stretch of Kunene and Serra Cafema works closely with the University of Stellenbosch and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism to better understand the genetics of the Nile crocodiles across Namibia. The Pack for a Purpose project is a non-profit organization which Serra Cafema is partnered with, and focuses on providing travelers with information about supplies required for community-based projects.
4. The Underwater Room at the Manta Resort - Pemba Island, Zanzibar
Best described as a private floating island, the Underwater Room at the Manta Resort is a well-engineered masterpiece which poses minimal impact on the marine life. The floating structure provides three levels, with the upper-level beautifully constructed in local hardwood and each level offering a different experience. With an almost 360-degree private viewing experience and several underwater spotlights, guests can enjoy the beauty of the ocean at all hours of the day. The Manta Resort is actively involved in marine-life conservation and the local community. The Kwanini CSR initiatives aim to supply the local community with the tools needed to create a better life for themselves. The resort’s hospitality team consists of several members of the local community and combined with various community-based projects, the imperative link between the tourist sector and the local community is established. Crowne of Thorne is a project aimed to rid the sea of hundreds and hundreds of crown of thorn starfish that prey on coral and disrupt the ecosystem. They are big, heavy and venomous, so this is a tough job even for experienced divers, but successful progress has been made.
Seles School was inspired by the number of children who would not attend school due to the long distances they would need to travel. Manta Resort assisted Sele in building a school in the nearby village so that children could attend school. Guests are invited to get involved in building the school or just take a walk to meet the children and witness the progress made.
The Shamba project is aimed to provide farmers with land to cultivate and harvest fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables for the Manta Resort and eventually sold to the local market for additional income. Currently, Manta has employed five local farmers.
The Manta Curio Shop sells handmade products by the ladies of the local village. From hand woven ‘makele’ bags to hand carved ‘Ungalawa’ dhows, Manta does all they can to support the business ideas of these incredible women.
5. Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve - Cederberg, South Africa
Kagga Kamma, once farmlands spanning 15 000 hectares, was designed to be a welcoming resort in a truly unique environment and focuses on guest experiences. The Cederberg area is unique in that it comprises an untouched Karoo-like wilderness where guests will find beautiful wildflowers and small critters that are scarcely seen in other parts of the country.
Kagga Kamma is an award-winning establishment, recognized by the tourism industry for its contribution to conservation and upliftment of the local community through the employment of local people at the resort. Kagga Kamma runs on a Solar Photovoltaic hybrid energy system, reducing hazardous emissions that affect the resort’s carbon footprint.
The resort features impressive accommodation options. Ten unique cave suites were constructed to integrate with the huge sandstone formations and offer unparalleled views of the reserve. Five thatched huts resemble the traditional dwellings of the San clans that inhabited the reserve many years ago, whilst the open air room is a private platform located a short distance from the main lodge and offers a true wilderness experience, along with a canopy of glittering stars and the most spectacular sunset and sunrise. A nature lover's dream, activities offered at Kagga Kamma focus on the beauty of the reserve with one of the most unique attractions being the San Rock Art.
Staying at an eco-lodge truly is a unique and unbelievable experience. It is important that we support practices of green living - always striving to minimize the impact we have on the environment.
Get in touch with one of our Safari Experts to tailor make your very own trip to Africa. It is worth considering a vacation that includes an eco-lodge or two, or if you prefer, a completely 100% eco-friendly itinerary. There are so many exciting places to consider, so let us help you find that perfect African vacation.