We profile five Southern African lodges that positively impact on the lives of their surrounding communities and wildlife.
On the banks of the Zambezi, just 12km from one of the world’s seven natural wonders, Victoria Falls, is where you will find posh safari tent on stilts.
Cruise Africa’s fourth largest river at sunset, set off on an early morning game drive in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, or take it easy and sink into your outdoor bath to the symphony of hippos, a flowing river and ample birdlife.
Visit the mighty Vic Falls, plant and name an indigenous plant of your choice, and play a role in the reforestation of the national park.
Visit their “back of house” water recycling plant, nursery and worm farm to learn about their on-site eco projects, as well as where they bring kids from 10 schools in the area on eco clubs in the hopes of educating them and discouraging the chopping off of trees to make and sell charcoal.
Prior to Wilderness Safaris operating two camps in the Busanga Plains in Zambia’s Kafue National Park, poaching was rife and wildlife numbers were particularly low.
The presence of their camps has not only provided logistical and financial support to local anti-poaching activities, but seen wildlife populations rebound, and also contributed to changing lives by employing more than 130 men and women in various eco-tourism positions.
Get your hands dirty and dive into the conservation action in the heart of South Africa’s Garden Route at the Gondwana Game Reserve.
Stay in an eco-friendly, solar-powered tented camp with two expert field guides and a chef to ensure you sample some of SA’s finest cuisine, and learn key bush skills.
When you are not going on game drives or bush walks amongst the fynbos, join in for translocation and veterinary care of wildlife (season-dependent), elephant dung sampling, monitoring of the cape leopard cameras and removing invasive alien tree species.
With less than 7 000 cheetahs left in the wild and South Africa being home to less than 1 000 of these majestic cats, Gondwana has embarked on a cheetah rewilding project.
Gondwana offers 11 000 hectares of open country, and supports key prey species for cheetahs such as red hartebeest, impala, bushbuck and ostriches, making it the perfect habitat for a sustainable cheetah population.
Duba Explorers Camp, Great Plains Conservation
Located in the world’s largest inland delta, home to one of the richest ecosystems; Duba Explorers Camp will place you in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
Very few places in Southern Africa will beat the Delta in terms of game-viewing experiences, plus no place does wild and remote wilderness quite like Botswana.
Glamp beside the floodplains in an expedition-style tent on raised decking where you don’t even have to leave your veranda to spot lechwe, kudus, giraffes, elephants and more.
Glide through the waters on a mokoro, walk through the bush with a guide or go on a game drive and search for lions, leopards, and possibly even wild dogs.
The simple gift of light is one of the projects you can assist with in Botswana.
The Great Plains Foundation distributes solar lanterns to the communities living on the edge of the Delta, such as Seronga and Gudigwa, in order to provide households with safe and sustainable light rather than candles and paraffin lanterns that carry a real risk of fire.
Bumi Hills Safari Lodge, African Bush Camps
Swim towards the horizon’s edge here in the infinity pool of Bumi Hills Safari Lodge, and peek over the lip to the golden Lake Kariba below.
Zimbabwean-owned African Bush Camps positions itself perfectly at the intersection of luxury, sustainability and pristine beauty.
Here, on the remote hills of a sought-after Zimbabwean location, you can take to the lake for catch-and-release fishing, boat cruises to spot wildlife, or venture onto dry land in Matusadona for game drives or a walking safari.
Among other projects, the African Bush Camps Foundation provides scholarships for orphaned or vulnerable children, runs workshops for teachers, and provides them with comfortable accommodation to encourage the retention of quality teachers.
Their Mambanje feeding programme ensures that one hot meal is provided daily for each of the 139 students and seven staff members. As a result, the Mambanje school pass rate went from 0% to 31,25% in 2016, and to 47% in 2017.
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
Escape to the ancient desert wilderness of Southern Africa’s largest private nature reserve, the NamibRandNature Reserve. You will be overwhelmed by the sheer mountain heights and the ever-changing fiery hues of the Sossusvlei dunes.
Soar into the horizon in a hot-air balloon, ride on a quad bike through the desert, or dine in the dunes – the single most romantic way to spend an evening.
Enjoy solar-powered air-con, outdoor 180°-view showers supported by the water recycling systems, or stargaze each evening with a resident astronomer at the on-site observatory beneath one of the world’s few dark-sky reserves.
The lodge favours buying locally where they can – fruit and vegetables from a local farmers market, local artisanal spirits stocked in the bar, and locally made artefacts, jewellery and basketry from local weavers which guests can also purchase.
The lodge staff established an informal feeding scheme, reaching around 500 hungry children daily from two schools living in the Maltahöhe community.
Plans are in place to construct and equip a large kitchen and dining facility at the primary school, as well as a library, media centre and playground thanks to the collaborative efforts of &Beyond Sossusvlei Lodge, Africa Foundation, the Village Council, the community, and other private sector stakeholders.
- Zambia: SAA flies directly to Livingstone daily.
- SA Garden Route: Code-share partners SA Airline, SA Express and Mango fly to George.
- Botswana: Code-share partner SA Airlink flies to Maun daily.
- Zimbabwe: SAA flies directly to Harare daily.
- Namibia: SAA flies directly to Windhoek daily, SA Airlink and SA Express fly to Walvis Bay
Words by Lauren McShane