BY DAVID PRICE
There’s more to an eco-friendly vacation than a bit of solar power and a non-disposable water bottle. The most environmentally-friendly resorts take the entire ecosystem into consideration. That includes actively conserving and sustaining the wildlife and human populations in the area with their touristic activities.
Your South Africa eco-adventure begins when you book flights with a local carrier that creates employment for the country’s citizens, and it continues when you enjoy a stay at a socially-responsible eco-lodge.
Consider these top picks for an eco-stay.
Phinda Forest Lodge
Rated as one of the best resorts in the world for eco-experiences, Phinda was also one of the pioneers of eco vacations worldwide.
This prestigious property is located within the 170 km2 private game reserve in the heart of Zululand. The lodge offers a unique brand of ‘Zulu zen’ with 16 rooms spaced far enough apart to create a total sense of seclusion in the forest.
Each suite boasts floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides which enhances your immersion in your surroundings and allows you to observe passing wildlife in comfort. Nyala, black-backed jackal and warthogs often pass by unperturbed by your presence.
When you’re not admiring the view from your room, you’ll be escorted to sunrise and sunset game drives, and walking safaris. A highlight is heading out on foot to find some of the black rhinos, which are the focus of Phinda’s conservation efforts.
You’ll also get a chance to tour the rehabilitation center dedicated to Africa’s endangered cats or a visit to a local Zulu village. Phinda’s involvement doesn’t end there. The lodge is also actively involved in re-introducing African pangolin and leopard into the area, as well as campaigning for conservation among local communities.
Phinda has also taken the local Nkomo School under its wing by building classrooms and providing after-care and hot meals for learners built a clinic for local communities and set up a craft market to help them to earn an income.
Every aspect of the lodge’s operations is under constant scrutiny to find ways to conserve and reduce their environmental impact.
Makalali Private Game Reserve
This Limpopo Province reserve offers a choice of four eco-friendly camps – Tandane, Mkhiwa, Emtomeni, and Phiva. Each of the camps has 6 luxurious suites. The accommodation is constructed using sustainable materials such as wood from alien trees, and electricity is provided by solar power.
The reserve is dedicated to increasing South Africa’s ‘green frontier’ by establishing an unbroken line of conservation areas between the Kruger National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains, through a careful project of re-claiming the natural environment and re-introducing species that were driven out by habitat destruction.
So far, elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and cheetah have been brought back, along with a host of lesser-known species.
You can enjoy the fruits of their labors on a daily morning, afternoon and evening game drives as well as birding expeditions and walking safaris in the park.
Singita Boulders Lodge
Singita has been dedicated to conservation and ecotourism for over 26 years and continues to do so at a host of lodges in South Africa. Boulders Lodge is no exception, located in the pristine wilderness of the Sabi Sand adjoining the Kruger National Park.
Private viewing decks, plunge pools, and exquisite river views are part of a stay at Boulders. Floor to ceiling windows allow the inside in and all the furniture and décor is hand-made from recycled materials by local artisans. Game drives depart from the lodge day and night offering incredible sightings of the Big Five as well as smaller denizens found in this wildlife-rich area.
Singita trains and employs dedicated poaching units to ensure the safety of all the animals in their environment. Community initiatives include contributions to local trusts to support education, skills training, small enterprise development, and conservation awareness.
Planning a Sustainable Stay in South Africa
There’s no doubt that vacationing at a top eco-lodge in South Africa should be at the top of your bucket list. The only question is when to book your flights and head out.
The best time for birders is during the summer months (December to March), while winter (June – August) offers exceptional game viewing opportunities.
Check out the rest of the travel articles on our blog for more reasons to visit the Rainbow Nation.