BISATE LODGE, RWANDA
Bisate Lodge, which is situated adjacent to Volcanoes National Park and is eco-tourism operator Wilderness Safaris’ first-ever project in Rwanda, is more than an exceptional gorilla conservation experience. It’s a shining example of sustainability in action.
As with Wilderness Safari camps, Bisate underwent an external environmental impact assessment and the result is a lodge “that will run with an exceptionally light footprint in terms of energy supply, water resources and recycling”.
The lodge blends the traditional and the contemporary, and the materials used – steel, timber, synthetic thatch, volcanic stone, bamboo, reed and papyrus – reflect this. A serious challenge to the construction of the lodge was its remoteness. Materials were delivered by truck to a central point and then literally carried up the slope “rock by rock, brick by brick and bag by bag”.
Bisate’s reforestation project has been an unprecedented success, with over 17 000 trees planted to date. Guests can be part of this visionary conservation project and are encouraged to plant a tree during their stay. In this way, every guest becomes a conservationist.
Local talent has been an instrumental force behind the exceptional decor and design. Teta Isibo, Rwandan fashion entrepreneur and founder of Inzuki Designs, was brought on board to source locally made products, while members of the Bisate community undertook many of the tailoring jobs for the lodge and greater area. Not long after Bisate opened, a group of ladies from the community began working together to make arts and crafts to sell to guests and community members. As Wilderness Safaris so aptly puts it: “Purpose is the new luxury.” Visit: wilderness-safaris.com/camps/bisate-lodge
BANGKOK TREEHOUSE, THAILAND
You may not expect such an eco-friendly establishment in the heart of the city, but Bangkok Treehouse is a green paradise. Located on Phra Pradaeng Peninsula, an island in the Chao Phrya River (often called “Bangkok’s Lung” for its hundreds of plant and bird species and lack of development), this gem offers a selection of rooms ranging from three-floor suites to beds under the stars. Committed to green values, the sustainability plan includes organic produce grown on-site, organic cleaning materials, renewable energy-powered lighting, river clean-ups, upcycling, carbon-free cooking and the use of bamboo for floors, walls and ceilings. Bamboo is sustainable, locally abundant and a strong and durable building material. You can only reach the hotel by foot, bike or boat. Visit: bangkoktreehouse.com
TIERRA ATACAMA HOTEL & SPA, CHILE
The hotel’s immense windows amplify the grandeur of the volcano-dotted Atacama Desert, and you’ll want to get out there right away to explore the glittering salt pans and snow-dusted volcanoes on foot or horseback. The Atacama Desert is one of the best places on the planet for star-gazing, and its views of the night skies and the Milky Way are truly unforgettable.
Solar panels provide nearly half of the lodge’s electricity and it uses recycled waste water to irrigate the gardens. Local agriculture is evident in its kitchen gardens, with seasonal plantings of corn, quinoa, figs and other produce – and all kitchen waste is composted. Visit:www.tierrahotels.com/
THABA ECO HOTEL, JOHANNESBURG
You don’t have to pack your passport to experience a peaceful – and green – retreat from the city: Thaba Eco Hotel is surrounded by Johannesburg’s Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, with its dramatic quartzite ridges. Take a guided eco-walk through the reserve and spot wildebeest, zebra and kudu. Everything here has been designed with nature in mind, and to this end it employs a full-time environmental manager and the hotel managers are trained in reducing energy consumption. The savvy eco-conscious elements include buildings designed to blend into the environment, grounds that make use of indigenous landscaping and waterwise gardens, harvested rainwater, double-combustion fireplaces to minimise the dependence on electricity for heat generation, use of a permaculture technique to ensure self-regulation of the hotel’s temperature, and solar-powered geysers throughout. Fun features include the Kids’ Survival Day, where young ones will learn essential skills for survival, including finding water and food, building a shelter and making a fire. Visit: thabahotel.co.za
A collection of camps in southern Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve, Wolwedans is focused on conservation and sustainable tourism. All the camps have been designed to minimise the impact on the environment and nature and people are at the heart of the business.
It was chosen as the founding member of the Global Ecosphere Retreats, an initiative spearheaded by the Zeitz Foundation, which aims to promote conservation, while enhancing livelihoods and encouraging cultural dialogue. The nature reserve covers an area of over 202 000 hectares while providing merely 44 beds for guests. Visit: wolwedans.com
MOMBO CAMP, BOTSWANA
Wilderness Safaris’ newly rebuilt flagship camps, Mombo and Little Mombo in Botswana’s Okavango Delta are yet more example of just how committed the wildlife and eco-tourism company is to conservation and the community. Not only has Mombo has played a key role in rhino relocation through its Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project since the turn of the century, it’s also geared to conserve and protect, encouraging each guest to play their part in conserving the concession.
“Each new tented suite has been built in exactly the same place as the previous one – with a slight increase in size out towards the floodplain to facilitate a pool deck. This has enabled all the vegetation – particularly the large trees in between the units – to remain, ensuring minimal impact on the environment,” explains Wilderness Safaris Botswana MD, Kim Nixon. “We even hosted a tree expert in camp to ensure that the trees were properly cared for and professionally pruned in a few areas that needed it and we did not cut a single root that was greater than 50 mm.”
There is also a focus on natural temperature regulation, with extended verandas for shade and an insulated roof design to manage the heat while still allowing the flow of cooling air. The three-layered walls and floors help maintain a constant temperature, while the suites are raised off the ground for the flow of air, as well as to allow animals to move freely beneath them. Visit: wilderness-safaris.com