The “green” luxury bush lodges in South Africa

Updated: Nov 10

by Carmen Visser


South Africa is known for its exquisite tourist attractions, especially its large number of luxury bush lodges. Many of these lodges offer unique wildlife experiences to their guests. In addition, these getaway gems aim to preserve their surrounding ecosystems and therefore, also place much emphasis on passing this message on. Below describes how Gorah Elephant Camp, Phinda Vlei Lodge, Kapama Karula and 57 Waterberg are environmentally conscious. Thank you to the featured lodges for sharing their “green” efforts.


Gorah Elephant Camp


Gorah Elephant Camp, part of the Hunter Hills group, is situated in its own private concession within the Addo Elephant National Park. The camp has 11 tented suites and various facilities, including the Gorah Manor House with a legend dating back to the early stone age.


One of Gorah’s main focuses is to be environmentally friendly and conserve the natural environment. The camp uses solar power for the lodge and all the suites. Alongside this, candle oil is used for all the lanterns. Gorah estimates that using these alternative power sources, instead of using Eskom for electricity, is a “green” and cost-saving activity.


Goral Elephant Camp also uses borehole water, which is purified into drinking water for guests. In addition, the lodge uses “grey water” from septic tanks and collected rainwater to fertilise the gardens and the lawn.


The private camp and concession believe that, as guests in Mother Nature, it is their duty to take care of the beautiful area “as best as humanly possible”. In order to pass this message onto the guests of the lodge, Gorah outlines the environmental issues in the area. These guests are encouraged to follow the environmental policies that Gorah has put in place. By following these, guests can minimise their carbon footprint during their stay. This is highlighted during the guest’s check-in, as well as being explained inside an information booklet available in each tent. The camp aims to show guests how they can make a positive contribution to the environment.


&Beyond Phinda Vlei Lodge


Phinda Vlei Lodge is part of the &Beyond group, which has properties on three different continents. The &Beyond travel group created a model more than 25 years ago with the central aim of being environmentally and socially conscious. The group have been using and developing their model ever since.


This model is based on three major aspects: “Care of the Land”, which includes minimising the impact and physical footprint that the business’ operations have on the environment, “Care of the People”, which ensures that the people within the community are looked after and “Care of the Wildlife”, which focuses on a conservation strategy to preserve endangered species.


&Beyond has a dream to leave the world a better place through their care of the land, wildlife and people. They believe that the environment can be conserved through “sound business principles”. In addition, the business believes that by creating exquisite experiences for their guests, they are portraying the significant and ongoing benefits for the surrounding community and natural environment.


Specifically, Phinda Vlei Lodge protects the environment in the following ways:

  • Regarding “Care of the Land”, Phinda Vlei Lodge has rejuvenated about 28 000 hectares of wild land and they protect about 800 hectares of ancient sand forest. In addition to this, the lodge also estimates to save 142 560 plastic bottles per year.

  • Regarding “Care of the Wildlife”, the lodge located in KwaZulu Natal have translocated 5 lions to Rwanda and have collared over 70 leopards with Panthera. In order to help spread their environmentally conscious efforts, Phinda Vlei Lodge has given about 1,272 learners a lesson on conservation.

  • Regarding “Care of the People”, Phinda Vlei Lodge has donated almost 700 hippo water rollers to the community. Furthermore, they have provided 373 bursaries to tertiary students through CLEF.


Kapama Karula


Kapama Karula is one of the four lodges within the Kapama Private Game Reserve. The others include the River Lodge, Southern Camp and the Buffalo Camp. Each lodge within the reserve has its own environmentally friendly initiatives.


Specifically, Kapama Karula believes that human consumption and other activities can disturb and destroy ecosystems and therefore, much of the biodiversity found on earth is in danger. Understanding the importance of sustaining ecosystems, Karula conserves and protects the natural resources across multiple ecosystems. They believe that future generations will be able to benefit from these environmentally-conscious initiatives.


In order to act in a “green” manner, Kapama Karula continuously finds ways to reduce the use of plastics within their operations, particularly single-use plastics. This includes removing all plastic straws, plastic bottles and single-use amenities in all their rooms. These have been replaced with “green” alternatives, such as refill containers. In addition, Karula fills glass bottles with water from their own on-site water recycling plant. They estimate to save about 10 000 plastic bottles per month.


The materials used within the lodge, such as paper, glass, cardboard, cans and plastic, are recycled as much as possible. Furthermore, Karula uses solar panels to heat each villa’s private heated swimming pool.


Additionally, Kapama Karula source all their fresh produce directly from local farmers and therefore, reduce the amount of plastic packaging. In addition to this, the lodge also serves lunch packs in containers that are bio-degradable and environmentally friendly.


Kapama Karula staff members, such as qualified Game Rangers and Assistant Rangers act as ambassadors for nature. They educate guests on the importance of the environment within every aspect of our lives. Guests are also taught about the cooperative way that ecosystems survive and the importance of protecting these.

57 Waterberg


57 Waterberg is a bush lodge within the WH Leisure group. They are located in the Welgevonden Game Reserve and have 10 suites for guests. The lodge believes that it is crucial to be environmentally conscious and have adopted several measures to conserve and protect the environment.


57 Waterberg recycles all plastic and glass that is used within the lodge. Moreover, they avoid the use of plastic water bottles. In addition to this, the construction of the lodge was limited to only three months. This was decided upon to ensure that their impact on the environment was reduced. 57 Waterberg also uses LED globes throughout the lodge.


Regarding the guest suites, the lodge has instilled several “green” measures. These include room designs that promote natural cool drafts in the summer and biofuel fireplaces for the winter. In addition to this, new room key cards were introduced that switch off all electronics when guests leave their room.


In terms of power and water, 57 Waterberg source their water from their own borehole. Furthermore, the gardens are irrigated using recycled water. Geysers throughout the lodge are heated using solar panels and gas.


57 Waterberg estimates that these environmentally friendly investments cost them an additional three million rand. However, the measures save money in terms of their operational costs. In the future, the lodge hopes to phase in the use of solar for their power. In addition, they hope to expand their herb and vegetable garden so that the kitchen relies solely on the gardens for its needs.


Every effort made by the above lodges helps to preserve and protect the Earth’s environment. As individuals, it is our responsibility to look after our home and hopefully, the methods and policies explained above inspire you to change your lifestyle in order to be more environmentally conscious.

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