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Top Five Green Destinations in South Africa Print E-mail
Jeremy Smith   
Wednesday, 09 July 2008
Top Five Green Destinations in South AfricaEarlier this year I spent a couple of months travelling through South Africa. I was looking for the best environmentally friendly and socially responsible places to stay and holiday experiences for a travel guide I am writing (Rough Guide to Green Travel, due out Aug next year). It was really inspiring to see some of the initiatives taking place across the country, and it left me with a deep belief that done right, tourism has a great place in helping South Africa develop a sustainable future. My favourite five places, in no particular order, were:

1. Kurisa Moya
Hidden away in the ancient forest of the Limpopo region, near to the legendary home of the Rain Queen, this is one of the most spiritually rewarding escapes I have yet found. Gorgeous and individually designed accommodation tucked away deep among the trees - many of which are several hundred years old, and the chance to go birding with South Africa's top local bird guide, David Setsaolo.

2. Bulungula

For me, the model of how sustainable community tourism should be done. Where most similar destinations charge a lot of money so that they have few high-paying guests and then use that money wisely to help the community they are based in, Bulungula charges backpacker prices, yet does more in the local community than anywhere else I have ever seen. Authentic, deeply immersed, unbelievably full-on, and in probably the most beautiful coastal location in South Africa.

3. Teniqua Treetops
the Garden Route can get all a bit overrun and bland for my liking, but Val and Robyn offer up an amazing escape from it all, hidden in treehouses in the thick forests above Sedgefield. Skinny dip in the tannin-brown river, hike in the densest indigenous forest imaginable, and shut yourself off from the world with a braai on your deck looking out across the treetops and the stars.

4. Grootbos
Five star luxury, but also one of the great conservation success stories of South Africa. Situated in its own 1 750-hectare reserve in the Cape Floral System, they are preserving a part of the country's newest UNESCO world heritage site, while also working in the local townships, running Southern Africa's only gardening college for previously disadvantaged youth and all the while providing guests with as luxurious a rest as you could hope for.

5. Thonga Beach Lodge
Tucked away in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park (another World Heritage Site), this lodge offers scuba diving, kayaking and turtle watching in season on one of the last unspoilt wilderness beaches in South Africa. And it's one of the best examples of a community partnership I've seen with 68 per cent of the lodge owned by the local community to ensure that while we tourists get to see unspoilt nature, the people who rely upon it for their homes and livelihoods get to benefit from it too.

Jeremy Smith ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is the former editor of British environmental magazine The Ecologist. He lives in London.
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