In 2021, we’re all looking forward to holidays like never before. We have a renewed appreciation of the sheer joy that travel can bring, and we’ve had time to reflect on how we can make positive changes to sustain the future of long term travel.
Demand is on the rise for holiday experiences that have a positive impact so we’ve picked some of our favourite lodges in Africa where your visit makes a difference. You’ll be taken on sensational safaris while being confident that your hosts are creating innovative ways to support their local communities and wildlife.
Explore the ‘Serengeti of the Sea’ at Grootbos Nature Reserve, Gansbaai,
Named one of the National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, Grootbos Nature Reserve is a world leader when it comes to sustainability. Nestled in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, known for its diverse variety and rarity of its plant species, are 27 extraordinary suites that overlook the wild and sweeping Walker Bay. You can really get back to nature here as you ride horse-back along the beach, hike along spectacular fynbos-clad walking trails, or head out on an ocean safari to encounter the ‘Serengeti of the Sea’. The most incredible marine wildlife is found in the waters near the reserve; you can spot African penguins, unique birdlife, dolphins, southern right whales (from June to December) and even great white sharks.
But the flourishing flora and rich aquatic life are not the only rewarding aspects of your stay here. Grootbos has won multiple awards for their conservation work and their efforts to transform the lives of local communities.
The concept of this reserve was always to create something more meaningful than just a luxury travel experience so, in 2003, they created the not-for-profit Grootbos Foundation. The foundation runs a number of different programmes which focus on developing skills within the local communities. Initiatives include the Football Foundation, which uses sport as a tool for engaging and educating young people, and Green Futures, which offers conservation-focused training courses.
To provide income for these projects, Grootbos employ eight staff to run their ‘Growing the Future’ organic farm, a commercial enterprise that cultivates vegetables, honey, herbs and eggs to sell to the Grootbos lodges. This produce is used to create some of the amazing dishes you will enjoy while staying here; we particularly love the Grootbos honey with homemade ice-cream.
Track lions with rangers at Governors’ Mugie House, Laikipia, Kenya
Go beyond a traditional wildlife-viewing experience with a stay at Governors’ Mugie House, a new boutique property, which is perfectly situated on a 40,000-acre private conservancy. It’s not just a key wildlife location; the lodge also has plenty of community and conservation programmes.
In between wildlife adventures and relaxing in the infinity pool, you’ll have the chance to get behind the scenes and learn about the work being done to create harmony between humanity and habitat. Head out with a ranger to track lions and cheetahs, or spend time with the Mugie bloodhounds and their handlers to learn how their powerful scenting ability helps track down poachers.
Back at the house, be sure to keep an eye out for Mugie’s cheekiest (and tallest) resident, Tala, the giraffe. Found by a local herder when she was just a few days old, she was taken in and cared for by the Mugie staff. She now freely roams the conservancy, curiously popping her head in windows or wandering over to meet new guests.
Meet ‘The Chobe Angels’ at Chobe Game Lodge, Chobe, Botswana
Owned by Desert & Delta Safaris, this five-star lodge is a conservation trailblazer and is a recipient of the highest level of eco-tourism recognised in Botswana. The setting of the lodge is one of a kind: it’s the only property inside the wildlife-rich Chobe National Park.
While the main attraction here is undoubtedly the high concentration of elephants ambling around the riverbanks (you can often see hundreds of them from the deck), the resort is also known for its other star residents, playfully known as ‘the Chobe Angels’. This all-female guiding team – the first in Africa – are some of Botswana’s best safari rangers; they were recruited as part of a female-empowerment initiative to break the mould of what was a typically male-led industry.
This is just one of the revolutionary ways Chobe Game Lodge is making a difference. As well as being the first lodge in Africa to operate a CO2 emission-free electric fleet of vehicles, there’s a number of social and environmental projects in place such as intensive recycling, a youth development programme and profit-sharing with staff.
Go plastic-free at Lemala Ewanjan, Serengeti, Tanzania
Beyond the plush safari-tents, five-star service and expert-led game drives at this intimate safari camp, there’s a fantastic ethos towards sustainability. The camp runs on an off-grid state-of-the-art power system, which means that everything is solar-powered. Even the WiFi is powered this way but don’t worry about patchy reception – they’ve harnessed a surprisingly strong signal for being somewhere so secluded.
Tanzanians have made a real commitment to reduce plastic waste, and the Lemala camps are embracing this eco-friendly stance. They’ve stopped the use of all plastic bottles and straws in camp, opting to gift guests with a reusable water bottle. Reverse osmosis is used to produce 100 %-safe drinking water throughout the camp. This has helped to use 20,000 fewer plastic bottles a year. And if any plastic does stray into camp, it’s sent away to be turned into desks for local schools.
There’s a tremendous sense of being part of the community here. Where possible, food and supplies are sourced locally; biodegradable lunch boxes are made by the ‘Lemala lunchbox ladies’ – a feisty team of stay-at-home mums whose skills are utilised to create sustainable packaging. These charming containers, made with local materials, are then filled with homemade treats for guests to enjoy while lunching on safari.
The staff, half of which are from nearby villages, create a wonderfully welcome atmosphere and provide out-of-this-world service. They’ll be there for your 4am wake-up call with piping hot coffee and cookies and provide hot water for your eco-friendly safari shower (guests are often amused by the so-called ‘talking’ shower – your host stands outside your tent to make sure the temperature is just right).
Stay in a remote and romantic hideaway, Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Winner of the first GOLD Green Tourism Certificate in Zimbabwe, this romantic tented camp is an outstanding example of luxurious sustainability. Owned by the award-winning African-based safari company, African Bush Camps, this hideaway was created from the humble dream of a local tour-guide, Beks Ndlovu, who’s become something of a celebrity conservationist over the years. Raised in the nearby town of Hwange, Beks had a passion for wildlife and a desire to create authentic safari experiences with minimal impact on the environment. And so Somalisa Camp was born.
There are just seven opulently-furnished sailcloth tents, each full of old world charm and overlooking a waterhole where elephants gather. Natural materials complement eclectic furnishings such as a stand-alone copper bathtub, a hanging wicker chair and teak decking. Sustainable features at Somalisa include a solar power farm and water purity system while the African Bush Camps Foundation empowers local communities to become self-sufficient, through education and conservation projects. A couple of other schemes include the solar lights project, which provides students with the chance to study their schoolwork after dark, and ‘goats for education’, where families are given a goat to rear and care for. This provides families with not only milk produce and fertiliser for household farming; the goat’s offspring can be sold to generate income for school fees.