Top 10 Eco-Properties in Africa

By Shona 17 April 2018

2018 may be the Year of the Dog, but this spring is looking like the season for responsible tourism. Almost every new safari property opening this year has turned its eye towards eco-friendly practices, conservation programmes, and sustainable approaches in order to have minimal impact on the area in which it is built. We fully embrace these properties for their efforts in becoming eco-friendly, and now we list our collection of favourite eco-camps and lodges below – just in time to celebrate for Earth Day:

1. Elephant Watch Camp, Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Geared towards elephant conservation and aspiring to be green to the core, Elephant Watch Camp is a sight to behold. Here, boho chic meets adventure bush camp – all of the buildings and luxury en-suite tents are constructed from old fallen trees, solar-hardened earth plaster, and sustainably harvested palm thatch, and then decorated in vibrant cotton drapes and colourful cushions.

As well as offering a seriously eco-friendly camp, Elephant Watch is committed to elephant conservation and is perfectly placed in Samburu National Reserve to do just that. The camp is run by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, highly acclaimed wildlife conservationist and TV presenter. Guests enjoy incredible sightings of the gentle grey giants while learning about the efforts of the Save the Elephant foundation, established by Saba’s father Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

2. Ngaga Camp, Odzala–Kokoua National Park, Republic of the Congo

Ngaga Camp is located in ‘gorilla central’ – and is therefore a focal point for world-class research. There are six elevated guest rooms, each with wraparound walkways and views into the forest canopy. This treehouse-like camp is constructed from natural materials using traditional techniques such as locally woven raffia palm roofing panels, and it has been built with the lightest possible environmental impact. Within a short distance from Odzala–Kokoua National Park, Ngaga is a brilliant base from which to head out on gorilla treks for unforgettable primate encounters in the Republic of the Congo.

A trip to Ngaga also combines well with a stay at eco-friendly Lango Camp, also owned and operated by Odzala Discovery Camps. Lango is located in the south-central part of Odzala and overlooks a marshy bai that is often dotted with flocks of African green pigeons and African grey parrots, as well as herds of forest buffalo during the day and forest elephant at night.

3. Chole Mjini, Mafia Island Marine Park, Tanzania

Describing itself as ‘the acme of responsible tourism’, Chole Mjini is as rustic as they come – and it’s a property that certainly has a place in our hearts. Unique, quirky, and completely off the grid, it is located on the northern tip of Chole Island in the Mafia Island Marine Park, off the coast of Tanzania. The primary purpose of Chole Mjini was to offer development and support for the people of Chole Island, and a stay here provides direct income to the village projects. Built slowly and with local skills and labour, each tree house took from six months to a year to complete, as all were built completely by hand (no power tools in sight), using materials sourced only from traders living on Chole.

There is no electricity, running water, radio, TV, Wi-Fi, and especially no stress. To keep yourself busy at Chole Mjini, you can go diving, snorkelling, and dhow sailing, or simply walk along the beach, taking in Tanzania’s stunning southern Zanzibar Archipelago.

4. Greystoke Mahale, Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania

Well respected as one of Africa’s finest lodges, Greystoke Mahale is nothing short of spectacular. With access to the forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains, a total primate paradise, Greystoke Mahale is set along the sandy shores of Lake Tanganyika and has superb views of the calm waters at the front and the chimpanzee homeland at the back. The property’s six large bandas are made from wood reclaimed from wrecked or retired dhows bought from villages along the lakeshore, the ladders are made from old fishermen’s canoes, and the thatching was gathered from palm trees located outside the national park.

It may be on the more expensive side of accommodation offered in Tanzania, and getting to Mahale can often be complicated, but if you are a regular safari-goer and looking for something remote, beautiful, and authentic, with the added bonus of being eco-friendly, Greystoke Mahale should absolutely be your next adventure.

5. Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Resembling weaver bird nests found alongside many Rwandese rivers, the rooms at Bisate Lodge are cocoons of comfort and slick design, with bamboo balconies facing Mount Bisoke, contemporary geometric styles, and huge bathrooms with large resin bathtubs. As well as simply enjoying their stay in one of the most luxurious properties imaginable, guests of Bisate participate in the rehabilitation and conservation efforts set up by ecotourism company Wilderness Safaris.

With emerald-green chandeliers made from recycled glass and other features constructed using local volcanic stone, Bisate Lodge is a vision of jungle character and luxurious eco-accommodation. Additionally, prior to opening in 2017, it was involved in a community-based project centred on indigenous reforestation. Now welcoming guests, Bisate is forging forwards with rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation efforts, focusing primarily on the iconic yet Critically Endangered species: the mountain gorilla.

6. Sindabezi Island, Zambezi, Zambia

If you are looking for a romantic but extremely nature-orientated adventure, a stay at Sindabezi is a must! There are just five chalets perched on stilted wooden decks hugging the banks of a private island in the middle of the Zambezi. Winning accolades as one of the best remote places to stay in the world, Sindabezi provides an idyllic escape as well as a luxurious base from which to explore Victoria Falls.

As it is so remote, the property is making strong efforts towards ‘going green’ through recycling programmes, organic gardens, and solar energy supplements. The lodge uses recycled wood chips and solar power for heating, the rooms are built from sustainable forests, and there is absolutely no electricity on the island.

7. Desert Rhino Camp, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Desert Rhino is a successful joint venture between Namibia’s ‘Save the Rhino’ trust and the luxury ecotourism operator Wilderness Safaris, and offers one of the finest rhino-viewing experiences in Africa. It consists of just eight canvas tents and lies among 450,000 hectares of rolling, rocky hills, which make up the Palmwag Concession.

For the last 30 years, Save the Rhino has been solely responsible for helping protect the desert-adapted black rhino in this part of Namibia. Now, a portion of revenue from every guest at Desert Rhino goes towards the trust, which trains local people how to protect, patrol, and monitor the wildlife, ultimately contributing to the sustainability of the whole region.

8. Ngare Sero Lake Natron, Tanzania

Completely open to the elements, Ngare Sero Lake Natron is for the safari veteran who is seeking something a little different for their next trip to Tanzania. This is not an experience involving luxury – it’s all about adventure and scenery. Walking is the main focus, and without doubt the area offers some of the best walks in Africa. There are trails along the shores of Lake Natron, where you can see fossilised footprints of the Homo sapiens that travelled through the volcanic ash over 120,000 years ago. Hikes to Engare Sero Waterfalls and the climb up the area’s active volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai, are highly recommended. Though most activities revolve around the stunning walks on offer, there is also some superb birdwatching – stay here between November and April, and you can see approximately 2 million flamingos filling the lakes.

What makes this area even more special is the eco-centric camp. Its Bedouin-style tents are decorated with hammocks, sumptuous Persian rugs, and large pillows strewn across the place – and each unit is sheltered under camouflage netting. The camp has been designed so that, if it was dismantled, it would leave no trace and the landscape could self-restore in full – this makes Ngare Sero a real eco-hit with Yellow Zebra.

9. El Karama Eco-Lodge, Laikipia, Kenya

If the name didn’t give it away, the proudly featured ‘Eco Warrior’ award on this property’s website should make it obvious that El Karama is a strong contender for one of Africa’s most eco-friendly lodges. Set within the Laikipia district, El Karama is actually based on a private working cattle ranch where conservation is key. It follows a reduce, reuse, and recycle policy, and the lodge uses 100 per cent solar energy. Most of the buildings and structures have been constructed from reclaimed dead wood, and even the swimming pool is eco-friendly – it uses the ECOsmarte system, which is the first of its kind in the area.

This low-key property is a great choice for families on a first-time trip to Kenya, thanks in no small part to its activities: guests can go on tours of the ranch, enjoy game drives in the wildlife-filled area, and take day trips, which could include camel walks, half-day horse rides, or a rhino retreat. Even going on a game drive has a beneficial impact on the region, as every guide involved in this activity submits a report on wildlife counts and sightings, which in turn helps with wildlife monitoring and research.

10. Forest Lodge, Garden Lodge, Villa, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa

A recent survey of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve showed that the area is home to an incredible 765 species of fynbos, 100 of which are endangered and six of which had never been seen before. The Lutzeyer family discovered this hilltop location in the 1990s and have since spent years running extensive conservation and horticulture programmes to preserve the floral mecca. Removing invasive species, returning the farmland to fynbos, and then building a select few properties in natural clearings, the Lutzeyers have created something very special here. Grootbos Forest Lodge, Garden Lodge, and the Villa are undeniably the leading examples of sustainable eco-tourism and five-star luxury in South Africa’s Western Cape.

If you are a fan of flowers, there are numerous flower-based activities to take part in – from a flower safari in a 4 by 4 to a wander through organic gardens to meet some of the horticultural students who study here. Alternatively, you can ride across the blossoming hills on horseback or try to tick off the marine Big Five – whale, shark, seal, dolphin, and penguin spotting is first rate along this part of South Africa’s coast.

If you’d like more information on eco-friendly properties in Africa, feel free to call us on 020 8547 2305 or send us an email at [email protected] Alternatively, click on the selected lodges below: