Being an eco-friendly visitor is about more than avoiding plastic bottles (although that helps). It’s also about adding enjoyment to your holiday by learning more about your destination and giving something back, something that’s especially easy in South Africa’s Limpopo province. Here are our favourite sustainable tourism and conservation projects in this exciting region.
Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC)
HESC works to conserve rare and endangered species, being most noted for its work with cheetah. With only some 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, the work here is vital in supporting gene diversity. Particularly tragic are the centre’s rhino, some orphaned when their mothers were killed by poachers. As important as caring for the animals is the centre’s educational programmes for visitors, local farmers and communities, and support for anti-poaching initiatives.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
When wildlife or birds are injured, abandoned or poisoned, Moholoholo offers the hope of healing and a return to the wild. If that’s not possible, many are “adopted” to act as an educational opportunity for visitors. Serval, leopard and vultures are a special focus of the centre’s work but you might see anything from an orphaned rhino to a cheetah hit by a car.
Sondela Wildlife Centre
This wildlife centre, part of the Sondela Nature Reserve & Spa, cares for sick, injured and orphaned animals. As with Moholoholo, those who cannot be released back into the wild are well looked after and offer a means to educate people in caring for our natural heritage.
Kololo’s mission is to give guests a once in a lifetime wildlife experience, while upholding the African way of life. It does this by buying goods and services locally in the community, and by protecting the wildlife of this Waterberg Biosphere – you can see all the Big Five here. It also has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets.
H12 Leshiba Wilderness
This private game reserve nests in a valley of the Soutpansberg mountains – noted for its bio-diversity – and offers luxurious lodges and bush camps among some unique flora and fauna. It works closely with the local Vha Venda people and has set up a Centre for Indigenous Knowledge so traditional skills such as woodcarving, pottery, healing and medicinal plants can be passed on. Its gallery is dedicated to local artist Noria Mabasa, now internationally renowned for her colourful sculptures in wood and ceramic.
The Ant Collection
Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill are two lodges built of local materials in a private game reserve, enjoying remarkable views of the Waterberg. The reserve supports sustainable tourism by conserving the environment, supporting the local community and enriching the lives of both guests and staff. Among the more than 40 species of game you might see here are the rare sable antelope, which has grown over several decades of work by the reserve into a viable breeding herd.
Motswari means “to conserve and protect” in Tswana and this private game reserve, part of Greater Kruger Park, takes that to heart in its work with wildlife. Guests are equally well looked after, with fine wines and cuisine, luxury accommodation and traditional African hospitality. This is all built on a regard for its staff and neighbours, with a family-friendly staff village and support for community health and education.
Built in traditional Venda style, this lodge uses alternative, renewable and sustainable energy, including water heated by solar power, to minimize its impact on the environment. Its connections to the local community are equally thoughtful. The lodge is tucked away in a hidden wooded valley, where you fall asleep at night to the sound of owls, frogs and insects, and wake to the cry of monkeys and baboons.
Umlani is dedicated to the principles of Fair Trade, with all staff having a say in the running of the camp. Many have been here for more than a decade, working their way up to senior management roles.
Green initiatives include using 100% alternative energy, 100% biodegradable cleaning products, recycling and composting, using fresh, local organic produce in the kitchens and planting five indigenous trees every month.
Near the north end of Kruger National Park, Awelani offers a wide range of accommodation and a chance to walk or mountain bike among a wide range of trees, including Baobab, Mopani and Lobombo Ironwood. It’s especially popular with birdwatchers, with some 700 species on its sightings list. Certified as a Fair Trade Tourism Lodge, Awelani also works with the community by offering visitors a chance to enjoy dancing, watch craftworkers or share a meal with a local family.
Keen to find out more about eco-friendly travel to South Africa? Check out the official Limpopo microsite for more inspiration.