A Sustainable Safari: Discover Africa’s 10 Top Eco-Friendly Lodges
Luxury and amazing wildlife adventures don’t have to come at the expense of sustainability. An increasing number of African lodges has started to prioritize earth-friendly practices as much as they do show-stopping safaris. Here are some of Africa’s best sustainable lodges.
Phinda Private Game Reserve HOWARD CLELAND
The epitome of luxurious sustainability, this reserve is located in the eastern area of South Africa in the rugged and breathtaking KwaZulu-Natal province. Where possible, Phinda limits energy waste with energy efficient air conditioners, LED lights and timers on pumps and water heaters. The lodges on the reserve also feature in-house water filtration systems, and all plastic water bottles have been replaced with reusable glass (Phinda estimates that 11,800 plastic water bottles per month have been eliminated). The reserve also prioritizes conservation efforts; for example, the Pangolin Conservation Experience lets guests accompany a research team to locate the rare animal and help conduct health checks. The reserve also fosters community development and local employment.
Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
This lodge, located adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, is as innovative and it is stunning. In terms of sustainability, the lodge uses a water filtration system that negates the use of bottled water. Furthermore, Bisate doesn’t use cling wrap, straws or plastic bags, but rather relies on things like environmentally-friendly bee-wax wraps and re-usable eco-coffee cups made out of bamboo fiber. A rain water harvesting system was also implemented. To reduce food transportation, a garden is grown on site with organic waste donated to the community for stock feed and compost. The lodge’s exceptional reforestation program sees over 100,000 seedlings planted per year and has directly led to an increased abundance of flora and fauna in the surrounding area.
Mombo Camp PHOTOSAFARI/ WILDERNESS SAFARIS
Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
One of the best places for viewing game on the continent, Mombo Camp is situated in the legendary Okavango Delta. To protect this iconic natural environment, the camp adheres to the strictest environmental standards. Mombo is 100% solar powered; all electricity and hot water is provided via solar panels and inverters, and waste water is treated in an above-ground sewage plant before being returned to the environment. To reduce bottled water, reverse osmosis filtration is done on-site to produce high-quality drinking water. During the construction of the lodge, a professional arborist was hired to ensure that existing trees and flora were not damaged.
Kwitonda Lodge CROOKESANDJACKSON/SINGITA
Kwitonda Lodge, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
As one of Rwanda’s newest lodges, Kwitonda is also one of Africa’s most sustainable, having been built under the guiding principle of maintaining a “light footprint.” Even prior to construction, the lodge established a nursery called Akarabo, which to date is responsible for 250,000 indigenous trees and shrubs planted as part of a reforestation project for Volcanoes National Park. Plans for more reforestation are in the works, which will ultimately lead to creating more habitat for the endangered mountain gorilla and other wildlife. For the lodge itself, thermal engineers were consulted to evaluate and optimize energy performance, rendering air conditioning unnecessary thanks to the use of a mechanical ventilation system. Local building materials were used whenever possible and over 500 local artisans and builders were involved in the construction of the lodge.
Elephants in reception at Mfuwe lodge MFUWE LODGE
Mfuwe Lodge, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
A leading example of an eco-conscious lodge in Zambia, Mfuwe Lodge runs on solar power. Each chalet or tent has its own solar water heating system and also relies on solar panels for power, lighting and to pump water. In addition, the property nurtures a ‘worm farm’ where organic waste is composted down to produce an organic fertilizer, which is then used in tree planting programs at surrounding villages. Part of The Bushcamp Company, Mfuwe Lodge helps generate a portion of the $400,000 donated annually by the company to the Luangwa Conservation and Community Fund, which supports local community and conservation projects. The company also launched the ELE Collection, a handcrafted jewelry line inspired by the elephants who march through the lobby at Mfuwe annually. All proceeds go to support Conservation South Luangwa’s successful anti-poaching programs and the Commit to Clean Water project.
Honaib Valley Camp HONAIB VALLEY CAMP
Honaib Valley Camp, Namibia
Much of the material in this intimate, eco-friendly camp was locally sourced to promote regional cultures and communities. For example, the wooden dining tables were carved by Rundu wood-workers, the baskets were weaved by the artists from Omba Arts Trust and cushions were sewn by local women. The tents sit on decking of composite material of bamboo and recycled plastic, which is produced locally. Honaib Valley Camp runs on 100% solar power, and sewage is treated on site in sealed units so that outflow water is clean enough to be released back into the environment.
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve MICKY WISWEDEL/TSWALU KALAHARI RESERVE
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa
Located in the north of South Africa, Tswalu is owned by the Oppenheimer family, who are committed to promoting conservation and adopting sustainable eco-tourism practices. Both lodges on the reserve were built from organic materials yet remain incredibly luxurious. The Tswalu Foundation was established to ensure proper conservation management of the property and to promote ecological research. Tswalu means “new beginning,” which underscores the ethos of the park, which is centered on research, restoration of the surrounding land and the reintroduction of indigenous animals. The number of rare species (like pangolins, brown hyenas, aardwolf and sable) hosted by the reserve speaks to its success.
Angama Mara ANGAMA MARA
Angama Mara, Maasai Mara, Kenya
High above the Maasai Mara on a craggy rim overlooking the astonishing Great Rift Valley sits Angama Mara. To limit its carbon footprint, the lodge, which is plastic free, recently established “The Shamba” (Swahili for vegetable garden). The verdant garden supplies much of the property’s food and guests can even pick their own ingredients. As part of an Angama Foundation initiative, each guest gives a US$10 per night donation, which is then put towards local community and conservation projects.
An African elephant southeast of the Okavango Delta, Botswana LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES
Xigeria Lodge, Botswana
Opening in June 2020, Xigeria’s goal is to ensure that the unique wildlife surrounding the lodge survives and thrives. The lodge promotes the TreadRight commitment to removing all single-use plastics and will be 100% solar powered. Hot water is supplied by thermodynamic geysers, using a minimal amount of energy, while SolarView tinted glass enables energy-efficient air conditioning. The Xigera Energy Centre, an innovative solar hybrid power system, supplies over 95% of Xigera’s energy needs. This saves the lodge an estimated 175 000 litres of diesel and prevents the release of 500 tons of carbon emissions annually. With the installation of what is perhaps the largest solar farm in the Delta, Xigera hopes one day to charge their game-drive vehicles using solar technology.
Bushmans Kloof BUSHMANS KLOOF
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, South Africa
Set in the fabled foothills of Cederberg Mountains, the lodge is committed to conservation and social responsibility. It enforces a strict environmental protocol centered on reducing water waste, cleaning with only biodegradable detergents and using organic waste for mulch and compost in the gardens. The lodge’s gardener and her team reduce the property’s carbon footprint by growing indigenous herbs and vegetables and all crops are organic. Bushmans Kloof is proud to support the local Elizabethfontein Primary School; the lodge hosts grade 7 children from the school to learn about the hospitality industry and the importance of conservation.
by Sandra MacGregor