This page is dedicated to the weird, wild, wonderful and wacky places we stayed at.
From the top eco accommodation spots in Southern Africa to the most remote backpackers and homestays, going from luxury to budget and everything in between, these are some of the most unique destinations across the country.
We'd like to offer thanks to everyone who sponsored us accommodation, a meal, and their time for interviews.
While not all these places are eco accommodation spots - they're definitely worth supporting :-)
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a luxury five-star private nature reserve that offered us accommodation in their Fynbos House. After learning about the incredible work they're doing with the Grootbos Foundation and their eco-friendly initiatives, it was with regret that we didn't physically stay there due to bad road conditions. Next time!
High up in the Koudeberg (aptly translated to Cold Mountain) amidst fynbos as far as the eye can see, permaculturists Luke Boshier and Dianne van der Walt have founded the Koudeberg Centre for Appropriate Rural Technology (CART) to raise ecological awareness, educate others and implement sustainable farming methodologies.
Not a backpackers or a hotel, soon to be off-the-grid Koudeberg is strictly for like-minded folk and volunteers to share skills and learn from each other. Simply beautiful.
Platbos, Africa's Southernmost Forest is a beautiful getaway in the Cape Floral Region near Stanford/Gansbaai. The accommodation ranges from the Forest Camp (safari tents and a teepee with beds) or Old Olive Cabin - all off-the-grid and offering total nature immersion. Hike in the ancient indigenous forest, try out owner Melissa Krige's African tree essences or just simply be.
Little Cottage, on the outskirts of the town of McGregor, is set against the backdrop of the beautiful Krans Nature Reserve. Part of the McGregor Alternative Technology (MAT) Centre, Little Cottage is a model of sustainable living - it's built of cob (clay and straw), stone and raw timber by Jill Hogan, a master of natural building, toilets are dry composting ones and showers are piping hot from either solar panels or gas, and equipped with eco-friendly guest amenities. Country living at its best.
Encompassing some 2 000 hectares, De Zeekoe Guest Farm lies between the majestic Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains in the heart of the Klein Karoo, just 7 km from Oudtshoorn.
Running on solar energy, the farm echoes owner Paula Potgieter's eco-consciousness – she grows organic veggies, installed solar panels and set aside 1 200ha for conservation, which is home to a family of 13 meerkats. It's a very special place.
Reflections Eco-Reserve is an off-the-grid nature-lovers getaway on a 28 hectare rehabilitated pine plantation right next to Wilderness National Reserve and the Rondvlei Dam.
Stunning log cabins built out of alien wood with expansive decks to take advantage of impressive views and a vast diversity of birdlife, combined with a large fireplace, comfy lounge and bedrooms make Reflections a haven for anyone wanting to get away from it all.
What's more - guests can plant a tree to offset their carbon footprint, while Reflections uses solar geysers, is powered by a hybrid wind and solar system, products are bio-degradable and they compost and recycle!
Part of a conservancy on the edge of the Knysna forest Peace of Eden offers cottages, self-catering woodcutter chalets, a backpackers lodge, safari tents and campsites on the forest edge. We stayed in a safari tent where the calls of the Loerie and bark of baboons provided a fitting soundtrack to such a beautiful nature escape.
Teniqua Treetops offers luxuriously appointed treehouse accommodation right in the indigenous Kynsna forest indigenous Knysna Forest, overlooking the Karatara River. With innovative dry toilets, solar-power and rainwater catchment, along with some of the most stunningly-designed treehouses I've seen yet, Teniqua is a great eco getaway.
Plett Beachfront Accommodation offers upmarket yet affordable accommodation right next to Central Beach.
Owners Kira and Giovanni Primo's hospitality, service and extensive knowledge of the area sets it apart - as well as the fact that you can go sea kayaking with Giovanni or rent a boogie board and surf the day away, while knowing that well-known environmental activist Kira is doing everything to keep PBA's footprint low.
Wild Spirit Backpackers Lodge at Khoinania farm is an eco-conscious backpackers in Nature's Valley, Garden Route. Overlooking the Tsitsikamma Mountains, Wild Spirt flows into the Tsitsikamma National Park - think waterfalls, lush indigenous forest, bambi...
A tree-house deck, log cabin lounge, garden cottages make the most of the location, while a commitment to the environment allows for some innovative ideas - they've got an organic, permaculture garden, are creating a greywater filtration system, recycle and compost waste, are developing a biogas digester and off-the-grid barn accommodation, while they are actively involved in removal of alien veg and introducing indigenous and medicinal plants. Guests can get involved in various projects or just sing for their supper or dig for their dinner :-)
Noorspoort Guest Farm is a sustainably-managed farm in the Karoo just outside of Steytlerville. They offer comfortable guesthouse accommodation in the farm, or self-catering houses in the town, while the farm tries to keep it's impact minimal through organic and water-wise vegetable gardening, natural sheep, angora goat and geese-farming as well as doing workshops such as natural building and ferrocement.
Hiking is great there - they're at the convergence of three biomes (Karoo, valley bushveld and fynbos), which means birdlife is extraordinary.
Deep in the heart of Addo, Woodall is a luxury country house and spa set amidst orange orchards. The thatched waterside dining area overlooks a nesting area for numerous exotic birds - offering hours of viewing pleasure for nature lovers.
One of the most hospitable places we've stayed - we loved hearing about their eco initiatives and work for the Thembulethu Trust Church Feeding Scheme, providing creches in the local communities with basic foodstuffs, donations of clothing and other essential items.
The Shire Eco lodge is a place that is so special your brain shuts down and all you can think is "wow". Handcrafted wooden cabins featuring curved wood and striking curved-glass windows are an architectural masterpiece, where each nook and cranny has been carefully thought out. Handmade eco furniture is fashioned from alien bluegum and wattle, there's an incredible indigenous nursery (owner Rob Scott has a wealth of knowledge about indigenous trees and bulbs)
Situated just 6 km outside of Stutterheim, the cabins make the most of their forest setting - bordering the indigenous Xholora forest. A perfect place to get back in harmony with nature.
Bulungula Lodge and Backpackers is where social upliftment and environmental consciousness are one and the same. The community owns 40% of the lodge and helps run the establishment (after all it's in their interest to do so). Set in the heart of the Nqileni Village overlooking the river mouth - rustic huts, rocket showers, compost toilets and simple off-the-grid living make this an unmissable spot.
Stay with the Siyephu family at Mbolompo Homestay in the Transkei and experience traditional Xhosa hospitality. Pump up your own shower water, heat it with a rocket stove, eat simple Xhosa fare and learn about local traditions and customs - all the while keeping your own footprint low. What more could you ask for?
50% owned by the surrounding Mankosi community, eco-conscious and Fair Trade Certified Mdumbi Backpackers is to be found in Tshani Village, situated on a hill overlooking the pristine Mdumbi Beach.
Offering traditionally built Xhosa rondavels, a communal kitchen and cafe, expansive organic food gardens (utilising a greywater system) and an eco-mindset (solar heating and backup), Mdumbi aims to create jobs and opportunities through sustainable eco-toursim - while their affiliated NPO called Transcape addresses social issues.
Terra-Khaya our ‘Earth Home Project’ is a very special Backpackers, camping facility and eco-farm high in the forested hills of Hogsback.
With shacks made of recycled and natural materials and 100% off the grid - Terra Khaya is a great example of sustainable living. They also offer Amathole Horse Trails through the forest where natural horsemanship ensures zero cruelty to horses, a bath under the stars and organic produce from the garden.
The Kraal Backpackers is like a breath of fresh air to the phrase 'sustainability'. They don't just talk it, they live it. Located in a rural village called Tswelleni (also known as Mpondo) the Kraal lies between the Sinangwana and Mpande rivers and you've got an incredibly high chance of seeing dolphins and/or whales cruising by.
A pioneer in eco-tourism, with a commitment to developing the communities and sustaining the environment, the Kraal offers a unique Pondoland experience with a positive footprint - they're off-the-grid, capture rainwater, grow veggies, recycle, use a biogas toilet and hybrid hot-water system!
Deep in the rural Gwentizaba village, Be Out in Africa is a spectacular place. Apart from the incredible Magwa Falls, here you can enjoy unaffected African culture, get involved with the vegetable garden or teaching sports, or learn about sustainable living - they grow their own veg, run on solar, heat water with a rocket shower and collect rainwater, while a ram water pump (installed by owner Louis Fourie) pipes water from the Falls to the village.
While Be Out in Africa offers backpacker accommodation, it's a volunteer centre that benefits the community through responsible tourism.
Once a battery chicken farmer, owner Debbie Sharpe has transformed her urban farm, in the heart of Port Shepstone, into the eco-conscious Far Horizon Lodge and is slowly going off-the-grid. She's setting up a recycling centre, working with pigs so their manure can power up the farms appliances and setting up organic vegetable and herb gardens. Come be inspired.
Three Trees is a luxury Fair Trade and Green Leaf Certified eco escape at the historical Battlefields site of Spioenkop.
Owner-managed by Simon and Cherly Blackburn, whose passion and enthusiasm for Africa's wildlife, history and culture is immediately evident, Three Trees is next to the secluded Mfazimnyama Valley of the Spioenkop Game Reserve, which means you can go on game walks or simply spot giraffes and elephants from your deck.
They've got an organic vegetable and herb garden, are constantly at work to lower their footprint through energy-saving lighting, cook with solar while a Wonderbag keeps food warm, utilise solar geysers and insulation etc. Recycling and composting is a given (they even have a worm farm), as is supporting local producers. Unmissable.
Midway between Johannesburg and Durban lies a piece of land with two private dams and a river running through it, set against the backdrop of the Drakensberg's majestic Ampitheatre.
This is Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge - dwellings are crafted from stone, thatch and wood, with recycled stained glass, mosaics, metal and wooden carvings that make the interior an art spread, while the exterior is surrounded by beautiful indigenous rockeries. If that's not enough, they're working to go off-the-grid too.
Sungubala Eco Camp is an off-the-grid wind and solar-powered eco camp up in mountains of the Drakensberg. Cosy A-frame huts, bungalows, chalets, safari tents make your stay a comfortable one, while it's the perfect base to explore the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage site.
Honeywood Lodge is a beautiful eco-conscious lodge offering self-catering 4-sleeper chalets set amidst a flourishing indigenous garden with abundant birdlife and butterflies in Port Shepstone.
Rainwater is collected, filtered and reused, geysers are solar and they do their utmost to keep their footprint low, utilising passive solar design and insulation to keep heating/cooling costs down and maintaining a water-wise indigenous garden.
In the heart of an indigenous, water-wise garden, Mackya Bella Guesthouse offers a centrally-located home away from home that feels miles away from the city chaos of Durban.
Owner Louise Rash is hospitable and eminently knowledgeable and breakfast is a decidely tasty affair. What's more, they're equipped with solar geysers and an eco conscious mindset - giving the green at heart a stay that is as comfortable as it is low impact.
SunMoon Lodge is an invite-only ecologically conscious spiritual haven in the heart of Rustler's Valley - settled on the slope of a mountain that faces north over a spectacular sandstone valley that has held human life for the past 100 000 years.
Taking in like-minded volunteers and the occasional visitor (for work exchange primarily), the main purpose of SunMoon is to host ceremonies including Sweat Lodges, Vision Quest and Sacred Fire, while owners Nixiwaka and Leanne aim to inspire others towards healthy living and correct eating (with a thriving organic garden).
Parys Adventure Lodge offers basic yet comfortable backpacker accommodation in the heart of Parys, where adventure seems part of the package. Everything is within walking distance and there's loads of activities to do in the area, while your hosts Bertrand and Michelle will do their utmost to make your stay special! They're open to suggestions too - which is why we hope to see them on the eco path soon :-)
Karen and Graeme Addison offer something unique with Otter's Haunt on the Vaal, just 2 km from Parys. With a self-catering river house and Bushcamp chalets, you're immersed in nature - canoe trails, island walks and hikes and information about Vredefort Dome are just some of what makes Otter's Haunt one-of-a-kind.
A stunning boutique hotel in the heart of Melrose, the Peech Hotel is a Fair Trade Certified, carbon-conscious eco-hotel. It has 8 garden rooms, each with either a small terrace or direct access to the lawn and all sport great local artworks.
Though we only stayed one night, it was great to see a hotel offering comfort with a conscience. If that not enough of an endorsement, owner James Peech drives a Vespa too :-)
Fair Trade Certified Soweto Backpackers is a lively backpackers in Orlando, Soweto with an incredible vibe. Lebo started out backpackers back in 1999 (officially 2003), and also runs (carbon-neutral) township tours - by bicycle.
Apart from hiring locals, using local produce and supporting local business, Lebo's Soweto Backpackers is involved in the greening of the neighbouring community park as well as various youth initiatives - which means visitors can get involved and give back.
Mosetlha Bush Camp & Eco Lodge is a family-owned, rustic and unfenced lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve, named for the tree (weeping wattle) around which the lodge is built. Tented wooden cabins, communal dinners all cooked on the open fire, dedicated guides on the twice daily game drives and a commitment to the environment make Mosetlha a very special place.
They're also one of SA's top eco lodges - bucket showers save water, heated by burning wood in a donkey boiler, toilets are ventilation improved long drops, and lighting is paraffin lamps - offering a genuine African bush experience withminimal ecological impact on its surroundings, as it should be.
PS: This list is by no means complete and will be updated soon :-)
Return from Accommodation Sponsors to Our Trip
Return from Accommodation Sponsors to Eco-friendly Africa Travel