Many travellers today are looking for accommodation and activities that have a minimal impact on the environment and contribute to sustainability. Dorine Reinstein rounds up some of the available options.

  1. Mumbo Island

Dominic Webb, MD of The Responsible Safari Co, says on Mumbo Island in southern Lake Malawi, every effort was made to minimise the environmental impact. If the tents and thatched decks were to be removed, within a cycle of seasons, not a trace would remain. “There is no electricity, so lighting is by solar power, paraffin lamps and wind-up torches. Toilets are dry composter loos and all composted material is removed from the island, buried in pits for a year and then used as great compost on our gardens on the mainland.” 

All kitchen waste is separated and taken back to the mainland to either be used in the compost or to be burned or recycled. Cooking is done on gas or rocket stove; water is pumped from the lake by a solar pump and filtered on the island. The wood and thatch for the decks is locally and sustainably sourced, as is the décor. All the cushions are covered in chitenje fabric bought in the fabric markets of Lilongwe and the covers are sewn by the village tailor. The faded covers are then made into clothes for the vulnerable children of the village. The food on the menu is mostly locally grown and fished.


  1. Wilderness Safaris Vumbura Plains Camp

Wilderness Safaris’ overall solar conversion programme now sees 11 camps operating on 100% solar power and a further 36 camps with solar-inverter hybrid systems.

Its Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta is the latest camp to have converted to 100% solar power. “The conversion of Vumbura Plains to solar power is of particular significance as, prior to this, the camp was the second-largest consumer of generator diesel in the entire Wilderness Group,” says Derek de la Harpe, Wilderness Safaris’ Chief Sustainability Officer. We believe that moving away from relying on fossil fuels is not only the responsible thing to do in terms of conserving the planet’s precious natural resources, but also results in a number of commercial benefits.”

The camp’s solar installation includes 460 solar panels of 245W each, along with 192 gel-filled batteries. The system can produce a total of 630kW/h per day, saving an estimated BWP1.8 million (€141 000) per year in diesel fuel and delivery costs. The lodge also offers guests water bottles that are filled from a water dispenser at the camp, reducing the use of plastic.


3. Chobe Game Lodge

“The good news is that green experiences are becoming increasingly common,” says Marcia Gordon, from Extraordinary Experiences. She says it appears that every camp in Botswana that is refurbished is moving to solar as part of the renovation.

“Chobe Game Lodge is a big property but it is doing so much to go green,” says Gordon. She says everything, from a deck made of recycled materials to a one-of-a-kind fleet of electric game vehicles (and soon electric boats), is green.

Heidi van der Watt, Better Tourism Africa, also commends Chobe Game Lodge as a ‘green’ lodge. She says the lodge uses electric game vehicles and boats, bio-gas plants and grey water recycling.


  1. Grootbos

“Ecotourism has become very popular as more and more travellers are now conservation conscious,” says Welcome Tourism Services Sales & Marketing Director Alessandra Allemann. She says the company caters for eco-travellers by offering a number of eco-friendly experiences, including the non-profit Grootbos Foundation, which was established to run the Grootbos environmental and social development programme.

Guests can take an interactive ‘Living the Future Tour’, where they’ll visit the Green Futures project, a Horticulture and Life Skills College. Here they will meet the students while they tend to their seeds and cuttings in the college’s greenhouse; prune the indigenous plants in the nursery; or attend a theory session in the classroom.

Thereafter, guests are taken on a scenic drive through the reserve to the Siyakhula Organic Farm. Here they can meet the inspiring women of the Food Production and Life Skills College, who grown organic vegetables and raise free-range chickens and pigs.

Guests are also taken to the Football Foundation, where sport is used as a tool for societal development.

At any point, travellers can combine this tour with a visit to the forest rehabilitation project, Future Trees. Here, they can get their hands dirty, put down some roots and contribute to the greening of the globe by planting a seed.


  1. The Cape Canopy Tour

“The Cape Canopy Tour, less than an hour's drive from Cape Town in the scenic Elgin Valley – as well as all the Canopy tours in South Africa – leaves a very small or no footprint,” says Louise de Waal, from Green Girls in Africa. She says the construction was all undertaken by hand. No foundation or concrete was used in the construction to leave a minimal footprint.


  1. The Wilderness Trails Skills Course

EcoTraining offers a five-night, six-day Wilderness Trails Skills Course which is 100% impact free, says Katherine Greathead, Marketing Manager EcoTraining. “The aim of the trail is to connect people with the wilderness that is inside them.  Guests sleep wild under the stars, track and observe game, and travel light with minimal supplies.

“What we carry in we carry out; we leave nothing behind except some footprints and we take nothing but photos.”

The campsites are chosen to have minimal impact on the wildlife in the area. They are not next to water so travellers don't interfere with animals coming to drink, yet they are close enough for travellers to collect water. Fires are kept as small as possible and only hard wood is collected as this has less impact on the environment. Ash is distributed into flowing rivers, spread out in the bush or buried deep below the ground. Afterwards, the campsite is cleaned and left as found.