Ecotourism in Africa is a big business. Each year safari operators, vendors, and lodges assess how they can continue to improve sustainability. It’s likely one of the few industries that value the environment. As the concern over global warming only increases it’s a relief to find an industry that strives to find eco-friendly solutions.
Ecotourism in Africa extends beyond installing solar systems and reducing waste but has grown to include community development. Local communities benefit from employment, infrastructure, and education that includes an emphasis on resource management.
If you’ve followed our blog for a while you know we have a love for safaris and the environment. It makes sense for lodges in Africa to focus on preservation and conservation as it is their primary tourist appeal. It’s also a natural fit for a lodge in the middle of a desert or the bush to use solar power as they are miles away from any grid and often have to be self-sufficient.
We’ve stayed in countless lodges and every time we find a new business that is making clear green initiatives we are all smiles. Throw on your safari clothes, safari hat, boots, pack your bag and get prepared for the trip of a lifetime. In no particular order, we wanted to share some of our favorite eco-lodges we’ve stayed in during our travels.
What makes a great eco-lodge?
Here is what we look for in a good ecolodge:
- Community development
- Cultural respect
- Clear environmental guidelines
- Conservation efforts
- Education of guests and locals
- Recycling programs
- Reduction of waste
- Green building materials
- Use of non-permanent structures
- Alternative power sources
- Water treatment system
Eco Lodges in Africa
Linyanti Expeditions – Botswana
This remote mobile safari camp is located in the middle of one of the best wildlife corridors in Africa. It’s tough to think of a better place for a safari than African Bush Camp’s private concession located in the greater region known as Linyanti, located between the Greater Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta. It all plays into an ecosystem that is interlinked as the Linyanti Channel.
Over the years this extremely remote region of Botswana has grown in popularity for the access to wildlife it provides. We’d heard that it was a magical region to go on safari, and it truly was.
Linyanti Expeditions is African Bush Camp’s newest lodge in the region with beautiful tents that feature star beds and decks that provide spectacular views out over the Linyanti Channel. It’s a magical camp guaranteed to provide a memorable safari.
The camp has a minimal footprint, uses solar power, bucket showers, eco toilets, and has no permanent structures. What’s better is that African Bush Camps is a leader in sustainable safaris, constantly giving back to the land we use and local people.
Linyanti Expeditions is all about getting back to nature and cutting ties with the modern world. Even better to ditch the game viewer when here and head out into the bush on foot in search of wildlife with African Bush Camp’s expert guides. It’s what Linyanti is known for, so make sure to go out on at least one walking safari!
Our last night in the camp had lions, hyenas, and buffalo wandering through — that morning we woke up to an elephant and her baby standing over our head, only a few meters from our bed. This camp is truly what African safari dreams are made of.
Cheetah Paw Eco Lodge – South Africa
Cheetah Paw Eco Lodge was one of the first places we stayed at in Africa, and to this day we talk about how much we loved it. This tiny lodge is located near Hoedspruit just outside of Kruger National Park. We based ourselves here while we self-drove into the Kruger for our first African safari.
They used eco-friendly building materials, practice waste recycling, and the food is supplied by local farmers. We loved some of the green initiatives taken at Cheetah Paw and it was a good taste of what was to come.
I also really liked tthe affordability of Cheetah Paw. At $250 a night you will get a large tent with a comfortable bed and outdoor shower as well as half board – that’s a steal in Africa!
Travessia Beach Lodge – Mozambique
I always say if I could live one place in Africa it would be on the Mozambican Coast. Travessia Beach Lodge is located about an hour north of Inhambane deep in the palm groves and far from civilization. Travessia is family owned and operated. It is composed of just five lovely casinhas that create a very intimate feeling. Rooms here are all raised structures that are not permanent and hot water is supplied by wood-fired boilers.
The lodge prides itself on hiring locals from the surrounding communities and creating jobs where people need them most. They have done multiple community development initiatives to help a rural village in the area. That means building a school, donating books, and maintaining the wells that supply valuable water.
All of this is powered by a range of solar panels. The best part is this hideaway is affordable with rooms starting at less than $200 a night! Read more about our experience at Travessia here!
Gondwana Tented Eco Camp – South Africa
I can still remember the excitement I had when we were planning our safari in the Gondwana Game Reserve near Mossel Bay. This makes it one of the closest game reserves to Cape Town.
What makes Gondwana totally unique is its preservation of the Fynbos, which is the smallest floral kingdom in the world found only in the Cape of Africa. They offer a new safari experience called Eco-Camp. Guests can choose to stay for three or five days and go into the heart of the reserve and track, monitor, and analyze the wildlife and surrounding areas with qualified guides.
This includes water monitoring, game counts, and wattle clearing in a big five reserve. It lifts the veil a little on what goes into game management while still providing a wonderful guest experience. The camp itself is small with only five stilted tents and the main lounge built into the fynbos.
Choosing a tented eco-camp safari is one of those rare experiences you can’t find many places in the world, and for less than $1000 (all-inclusive) for five nights I can’t recommend it enough. Read more about our experience here!
Ila Lodge – Zambia
We got to ride in our first electric Land Cruiser at Ila Lodge, and we even had lunch on the Kafue River surrounded by elephants on Zambia’s first-ever electric pontoon! Awesome stuff.
Yep, that was all at Ila Lodge, a surprise hit lodge for us in Zambia. Ila Lodge is operated by Green Safaris and their premise is environmentally conscious travel. They implement a reduce, reuse, and recycle strategy and support local communities by teaching them sustainable farming.
Check out why we loved our safari in the Kafue National Park.
Bwindi Lodge – Uganda
We stayed at Bwindi Lodge while we went gorilla trekking in Uganda. The lodge is about a five-minute walk from the entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest and serves as a buffer zone between the community and the park. Bwindi Lodge is run on solar power and all rainwater is collected for reuse.
Showers are solar heated and most of the lodge is made out of eco-friendly materials. We really loved the initiative set in place by Volcanoes Safaris who focuses on blending African communities with wildlife so that they can live in harmony with nature. Added points for a beautiful interior design and excellent staff.
Hakusembe Lodge – Namibia
Hakusembe Lodge on the banks of the Okavango River was one of my favorites of the Gondwana Collection Camps in Namibia. Hakusembe and many of the other Gondwana lodges in Namibia have been awarded high marks for their initiatives. They have established themselves as leaders in the development of ecotourism in Namibia. Steps such as water reuse, re-planting of trees, and proper waste management systems are difficult.
They have also just introduced high powered glass crushers to help with glass waste. The glass is then used it for more building projects. I loved the initiative of the Gondwana Collection ever since we traveled around Namibia with them and stayed in most of their lodges and campsites.
They employ over 600 Namibians, which considering the population of Namibia, is a huge number! They are also luxurious yet incredibly affordable – so yes you can be an average joe-schmoe and stay here! Check out our Northern Namibia road trip itinerary.
Lukwe Eco Camp – Malawi
We hiked three hours up to Livingstonia in the hot African sun and two hours back down in the rain just so we could stay and eat at the Lukwe Eco Camp in Malawi. It was also a great way to get active despite having a vehicle that could have climbed a notorious mountain road. Overlooking the stunning Lake Malawi, Lukwe Eco Camp is built around the environment. They run off mountain spring water, use solar energy, and even have composting toilets.
Any trip here has to complete with at least one amazing and healthy meal. Most of their ingredients come right from their permaculture garden and the food is absolutely delicious and affordable. Oh yeah, did we mention their cozy mountain view rooms cost only $40 a night? Visiting Malawi was a highlight of our African road trip.
Sindabezi Island Lodge – Zambia
An exclusive camp on a private island in the middle of the Zambezi River? Yes Please! Sindabezi ranks as one of the Fodor’s top 10 eco-lodges in Africa, and after staying here we can see why! The island houses five thatched cottages all open to the Zambezi River.
The island is powered by solar energy and even does the cooking with gas. Along with their sister property, Tongabezi, the wood supplies come from sustainable forests and their sparkling bottle water system saves 20,000 plastic water bottles a year!
Not only is Sindabezi environmentally friendly, but they do all of these while still maintaining complete luxury such as biodegradable bath products. Read our full take on Tongabezi and Sindabezi here.
Kigelia Ruaha Camp – Tanzania
With tents placed peacefully beneath the Kigelia trees and elephants and giraffe as your neighbor, it’s hard to have a bad experience at Kigelia Ruaha. This camp is what you come to Africa for.
No WiFi, bucket showers under the stars, and campfires every night. Nomad Tanzania properties like Kigelia are committed to giving back to nature and the community. Read more on our safari in Ruaha National Park here!
Wolwedans Dune Lodge – Namibia
I’ve talked about Wolwedans a few times because it is one of my favorite camps in all of Africa. The Wolwedans Collection is set in among the worlds tallest sand dunes near Sossusvlei and waking up here every morning is a dream.
Wolwedans has consistently scored five flowers by the Namibian EcoAwards, the highest rating you can get. They actively reduce, recycle and reuse.
Wolwedans has a large “Basecamp,” where all camp water is treated, power generated, and waste managed. They operate a state of the art solar farm that powers all of their four properties that include WiFi. They also operate the only organic farm in the middle of a desert we know.
When we took the comprehensive tour of base camp, we knew we had made the right choice to stay there. Check out what our five-day safari in the Namib Rand was like!
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Book A Safari in Africa
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
What to Pack For Safari?
There are a few things that one should pack for an African Safari. We help you create your safari packing list and share some of our favorite safari products.
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl waterbottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
I used this a lot in the on my Ruaha safari. Early mornings in the park can be pretty chilly so it helps break the cold. Once the sun comes out temperatures climb and things get very dusty. So, I use the shemagh to cover my face and electronics.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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