The 9 Best Eco-Friendly Adventures In South Africa
In our era of conservation consciousness, it pays to travel responsibly.
If you, like a large number of discerning globetrotters, are seeking adventures of the eco-friendly kind, South Africa really ought to be high on your bucket list.
In our era of conservation consciousness, it pays to travel responsibly. Thankfully – on top of its 3000km of glorious coastline, wild fauna, and diverse ecosystem of national parks, sweeping capes, forests and lagoons – South Africa is also doing it right when it comes to sharing its natural gems in a sustainable way.
One of our mantras is to travel well and travel with integrity, so, with that in mind we’re dishing up some of the best, the most sought-after, and most sustainable eco-friendly South African destinations and experiences. Go eco and make that South African pilgrimage as wholesome as it’s sure to be unforgettable.
#1 Boulders Beach
As well as being the only place in the world where you can get up close and personal with the endangered African Penguin, each visit to Boulders Beach helps contribute vital revenue to local habitat conservation efforts.
Kick off at Cape Town, take a mesmerising road trip along the Cape Peninsula towards the Cape of Good Hope, and make a turn at Simon’s Town for a delightful — and very responsible — beachside experience.
Where: Klein Tuin Road, Simon’s Town, Cape Town
#2 Grootbos Nature Reserve
For one of the best spots to experience the glory of South Africa’s majestic Western Cape, look no further than the lodges of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. Meaning “big forest” in Afrikaans, Grootbos is named for the adjacent network of 1000-year-old milkwoods, one of many habitats the organisation works to sustain across 2500 hectares of wilderness, including protecting endangered species and engaging local communities through organic agriculture and sustainable animal husbandry.
Located on the continent’s southern tip, just two hours from Cape Town, the indigenous flora and fauna and radiant glowing skies over Grootbos (as well as its deluxe five-star accommodation), makes for a magical, bio-diverse experience – and an ethical win-win for all.
Where: R43, Gansbaai, 7220, South Africa
#3 Thonga Beach Lodge
The appeal of Thonga Beach Lodge is immense: 24 luxurious thatched-straw bush suites on golden Mabibi Beach amidst 328,000 hectares of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, replete with exotic species, lagoons, mangroves, marshes and dunes.
Between November and March, you can track local Leatherback turtles as they give birth to their young, while year-round canoeing, snorkelling, dolphin-swimming and excursions to stunning Shibuya Lake really tie the experience together. Best of all, Thonga’s engagement with local communities and its continued conservation of the local wildlife gives it the eco edge.
Where: Mabibi Beach, Elephant Coast
#4 Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve
A little further inland, not far from Johannesburg and Soweto, is Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve. Known as Johannesburg’s “Jewel of the South”, this place offers 700 hectares of protected park, stunning peaks and grassland, and is the largest and most diverse nature reserve in the region. Positioned just 10km from the Johannesburg city centre, proximity is a huge plus (as well as the free entry). Hiking buffs, this is your South African refuge.
Where: 4th St, Rietvlei 101-Ir, Johannesburg South, 2091, South Africa
#5 The Montecasino Bird Gardens
Ornithologists ought to schedule a day-trip to the Montecasino Bird Gardens. Located in Fourways, Johannesburg, Montecasino is the only bird park of its kind in the country, a must-do experience. Birds, mammals, reptiles and countless other unique species from around the world await, all within the breezy confines of a world class family entertainment facility.
Where: 1 Montecasino Boulevard, Midrand
#6 Melville Koppies Nature Reserve
Melville Koppies is old. So old, in fact, you can experience geology dating back a lazy three billion years. Early Stone Age humans camped around these parts 500,000 years ago, and its highveld grasses, trees and flora are the last remaining evidence of what Johannesburg looked like before the discovery of gold in 1886. Melville Koppies is for lovers seeking a much deeper sense of eco-history.
Where: 4 Judith Road, Emmarentia, Randburg
#7 The Cape Canopy Tour
For those thirsting for an adrenaline hit, Cape Canopy’s hair-raising cross-canyon zip-line delivers a sound remedy. Located just an hour west of Cape Town in the lush Elgin Valley, Cape Canopy is an aerial immersion like no other. Partnering with Cape Nature, a local conservation group looking after the best interests of the Western Cape’s natural heritage and resources, it’s also a green-friendly option.
Where: Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, Forestry Road, South Africa
#8 Gondwana Game Reserve
In the heart of the Garden Route, along South Africa’s Western Cape, you’ll find Gondwana Game Reserve: 11,000 hectares of natural wildlife reserve sporting the free-roaming Big Five (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, and leopard), and an array of sundry giraffe, hippo, cheetah and zebra.
Gondwana also offers a luxe accommodation choice, including high-end suites like the Kwena Lodge, to its more modest tented Eco Camp. As proof of its “eco-worth”, the Gondwana Conservation Foundation also works with local communities to conserve and protect local wildlife and habitats.
Where: Mossel Bay, South Africa
#9 Djuma Bush Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
As well as up-close encounters of the wild kind, ethereal sunsets and unforgettable starry nights, Djuma also works hard to sustain local efforts, employing responsible techniques for maintaining healthy habitats, while protecting its local human and non-human inhabitants.
Where: Kruger National Park, Mala Mala Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Hluvukani
(Lead image: Grootbos Nature Reserve)