19 Amazing South African & African Eco-Destinations To Visit In 2023

by | Apr 19, 2023 | Travel

Whether your motivations to travel more sustainably are rooted in wanting to be a better person or trying to avoid the holiday-halting increase in airfare prices, this is your guide to making a green getaway wherever you are in SA. And if you’re wanting to go a little further than our borders, we’ve got 7 eco-destinations in Africa.

eco friendly travel key

Interested in a particular element of eco-travel? Use this key to see which locations are taking part in these initiatives and plan the ultimate eco escape.

From community upliftment, alternative energy and nature conservation to animal conservation, green architecture and daily eco efforts, these stays have it all.

12 South African Eco-Destinations To Visit:

1. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve™

Gansbaai, Western Cape | Best For: Lapping Up Luxury

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Tucked between mountain, forest and sea, this award-winning eco paradise is the perfect spot if you want to dabble in tons of different activities. They’ve got horse riding, fine dining, mountain biking, beehives or a tour designed to showcase how Grootbos has been designed to best benefit the environment and local community. In short: it’s a way to stay active that doesn’t feel like you’re working out. Plus, after a long day on the trail (or halfway up a mountain) you can settle in at your choice of the garden lodge, forest lodge or a scattering of private villas. Itineraries are easy to tailor based on who you’re travelling with; whether it’s the SO, kids or your mates.

2. Hotel Verde

Cape Town, Western Cape | Best for: A Carbon-Offset City Stay

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Most layover stayovers at airport hotels are begrudging slogs, but Hotel Verde isn’t settling for a mediocre experience. Situated just 400m from CT’s airport, this spot is pegged as Africa’s greenest hotel. Your stay will be a 100% offset carbon-neutral stay. Plus, you’ll be close to all of CT’s major sights and landmarks. In one direction, you’ll find the Cape Winelands, in the other, you’re in the middle of CT’s central hub sitting in the shadows of Table Mountain. But if you don’t want to fly the coop before you, um, fly the coop, you can grab some R&R at the hotel’s eco pool which is free of chemicals and surrounded by lush flora. Or pop into the outdoor workout zone to sweat in nature—there’s even a wetland running track that’ll put the picturesque in your next PB.

3. Teniqua Treetops

Sedgefield, Western Cape | Best for: Escaping The Hustle

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When you’re booking time off, the main goal is to get away from it all. This locale will take you off the beaten track (and off the grid). Here, you’ll find comfy suites raised on stilts, giving you a bird’s eye view of the indigenous Knysna Forest. The closest town, shop and restaurant is 20 minutes away in Sedgefield, so make sure you stock up on the way in. If you’d prefer to keep planning to a minimum, the owners serve up a DIY menu with meals that can be cooked over the coals or—for the sake of convenience—the microwave. Stay active by hitting two forest trails or a scenic river walk that’ll net you access to the Karatara river and rockpools.

READ MORE: Time Off? Here’s How to Get More (And Better) Sleep

4. Umlani Bush Camp

Hoedspruit, Limpopo | Best for: An All-Inclusive Experience

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All-inclusive is a word that’s thrown around all too easily by hoteliers. Usually, it means dry muffins at a breakfast buffet that makes a mockery of the word buffet. This isn’t the case at this lodge where you can leave your wallet in the car—provided you’ve paid upfront—and enjoy near-infinite experiences from day one. Think: luxury accommodation, three square meals every day with no dry muffins to be seen, optional bush walks and treehouse sleepouts. Plus, you’ll get access to expert rangers and trackers. Yep, it’s all included in the base rate. Located inside the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, you’ll also have a chance to spot the big five. This off-the-grid eco-friendly lodge doesn’t skimp on rustic luxury or memorable experiences. It’s been built to leave the local wildlife undisturbed, so you may even spot an elephant or two meandering through the camp.

5. Thonga Beach Lodge

Maputaland Coast, KwaZulu-Natal | Best for: A Better Beach Holiday

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Situated in South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Thonga Beach Lodge
is just metres away from the beach. And it’s that beach that will be the showstopper of your stay. Explore the reefs and the diverse marine life with a snorkel or SCUBA dive. Track mother turtles that return to this unspoilt and undeveloped beach to lay their eggs. Go on a guided forest walk or get in some R&R with a spa treatment. Thonga’s 12 thatched eco-sensitive rooms are positioned for maximum privacy and minimal environmental impact. So you’ll feel like you’re all alone to enjoy the majesty of nature (with a clear conscience). That’s a win in our books.

6. Leshiba Wilderness

Louis Trichardt, Limpopo | Best for: A Wilderness Retreat

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Just like the flora, fauna and birdlife you’ll encounter in this area, the lodgings have just as much variety. With four accommodation options that have different offerings—catered and self-catered—there is something for literally everyone; from a lodge to a bush camp to a farmhouse. Go on a self-guided walk, hike one of the ten well-marked hiking trails or join a guided walk to the Bushman rock paintings. For the mountain bikers and trail runners, you can tackle the terrain with 12km of technical single-track. Exhausted? Tag in for a game drive where you can sit back, relax and see the wildlife, maybe catching glimpses of the rare Narina Trogon or Purple-crested Turacos. Pack extra camera batteries (or a power bank) so you’re ready to snapshot these once-in-a-lifetime sightings. Gotta catch ‘em all.

7. The Peech Hotel

Johannesburg, Gauteng | Best for: A Slick City Boutique Hotel Stay

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Based on pictures, you would never say this boutique hotel is slap bang in the middle of the Joburg hustle. Nestled in the suburb of Melrose, just 10 minutes from Sandton, The Peech Hotel is one of Jozi’s most iconic hotels, and has five different room types, two restaurants and two acres of lush gardens with two outdoor swimming pools. The rooms are so cosy you’ll never want to leave; kitted out with Kalahari toiletries, fluffy towels and lush dressing gowns. In 2021, the hotel snagged top honours in the 2021 World Luxury Hotel Awards, and in 2022, their restaurant Basalt received the Service Excellence Award at the 2022 Luxe HOSCO Restaurant Awards, so this is certified top quality. Bottom line: a serious retreat on your doorstep—what more do you need?

8. Horse Shoe Game Reserve

East London, Eastern Cape | Best for: An Easy Outdoor Escape

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Just 25 kays from East London, the Horse Shoe Game Reserve is a quick escape, so you can duck out for the weekend and come back refreshed and ready to tackle another week of meetings—trust us, we could all use this boost in resilience. You can self-drive, walk or cycle amongst the game while never having to worry about malaria. For those looking for an overnight stay, tucked away in the valley is an off-the-grid cabin that sleeps four. What makes this place special is the private sunset viewing and braai deck where you can kick your feet up and take in the view and the smell of delicious braaibroodjie and chops on the braai. Romantic evening on the cards? There is a wood-fired hot tub overlooking the mountains and krantz you can book.

READ MORE: Cook up the Best Mielies Ever (On the Braai) With This Simple Recipe

9. Ecolux Boutique Hotel

Komatipoort, Mpumalanga | Best for: A Versatile Bush-To-Beach Break

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Consider yourself a city slicker who isn’t up to roughing it but still wants to experience what Kruger National Park has to offer? This is the place for you. Against the border of the world-renowned park sits the Ecolux Boutique Hotel that offers a modern experience whether you’re on a business trip, family holiday, romantic getaway, trip with friends, fishing trip along the Komati River, golfing trip with your buddies
or just, well, there to see that world-renowned park. They pride themselves on being able to cater to everyone. And if you’re looking to make a splash, you can take a short two-hour drive and extend your stay at the Ecolux Boutique Hotel in Mozambique. That’s a 2-for-1 that’s as memorable as it’s convenient.

10. Thakadu River Camp

Molatedi, North West | Best for: Glamping

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This is a wholly owned, community-based tented safari camp in the canopy of the riverine forests, on the banks of the Marico River. Each tented suite (yes, suite) has its own private deck overlooking the Marico River from which you can enjoy a cold brew while you watch the sunset or stargaze through the night. When you’re done you can end the evening off with a relaxing bath in your clawfoot tub. For the families, there are four family suites to choose from, too, so you don’t have to forego this glamping adventure if you have kids. Plus, Madikwe Game Reserve, where this camp is situated, is home to a large population of wild dogs thanks to hard work and conservation efforts; so, it’s a chance to see these packs in their element.

11. Tutwa Desert Lodge

Augrabies, Northern Cape | Best for: Expanding Your Horizons


Northern Cape has a rep for being dry, barren and home to the occasional travelling tumbleweed. However, if you’re rushing through the province to adventures in Namibia, you’re missing a trick. Our advice: stop off at this lodge, which sits between the Green Kalahari and the Orange River that will net you a tranquil retreat that’ll make that fast-paced city life feel a thousand miles away. The lodge serves up a pick-and-mix of safari drives, nature paddles, birding and interactive conservation experience. Bonus: there’s even world class fly fishing on offer. What’s that? Yep, this is what it really feels like to relax.

READ MORE: The Hotel Room Workout You Can Do With Your Suitcase

12. Tswalu

Van Zylsrus, Northern Cape | Best for: Ecotourism At Its Finest

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Tswalu is first and foremost a conservation project supported by sustainable tourism. It’s the largest privately protected conservation area in South Africa. And they aren’t just conserving the Kalahari, they are restoring it. They take a low-impact, high-value approach with accommodation for a maximum of 28 guests at their Motse camp and Tarkuni homestead. The rates are inclusive of full-board luxury accommodation, access to a private vehicle, guide and tracker for day and night game drives, nature walks, animal tracking, horse riding, dune breakfasts, sleeping out under the stars, and spending time with habituated meerkats. And don’t forget Restaurant Klein JAN, the first local eatery of SA-born Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. You’ll get a complimentary dinner there. That’s your next holiday, sorted.

7 African Eco-Destinations To Visit:

Here’s our selection of some of the most innovative eco-ventures spanning the continent.

1. Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia

Having had their Damaraland Camp highly commended in the 2007 International Responsible Tourism Awards, Wilderness Safaris (again voted second best tour operator in Travel and Leisure’s 2008 World’s Best Awards) clinched a win at the Imvelo Awards for Responsible Tourism with their Skeleton Coast Camp, winning Best Overall Environmental Management System. (Their Kalamu Camp in Zambia was also highly commended)

2. Ol Malo Lodge, Kenya

This eco-lodge and charitable trust is situated in the deserts of Samburuland in northern Kenya, on what was an overgrazed cattle ranch. One of their key achievements is the establishment of the Ol Malo Eye Project, which successfully eradicated trachoma, an infectious and preventable disease that causes painful blindness, affecting over 80 percent of adults in the Ol Malo area.

3. Il N’gwesi Community Lodge, Kenya

Run and managed by the Ilaikipiak Maasai Il N’gwesi community, this is a successful cohabitation system in which both wildlife and humans “share” and own the area. Since the mid 1990s, profits from the lodge and generous donations have contributed to secondary and university school fees and provided funds for local school buildings, health personnel and buildings, and enabled the community to buy additional land to ease grazing pressure.

READ MORE: How To Have Your Sexiest Holiday Ever

4. Chumbe Island Coral Park, Tanzania

Tanzania’s first privately run marine park, with only one small lodge (seven thatched huts) run on the strictest ecological principals. All profits go to the upkeep of the reserve and a strong education and outreach programme, including free visits to the reserve for local school kids. It’s an idyllic Robinson Crusoe escape, with the most exclusive snorkelling (350 reef fish) on the East Coast of Africa.

5. Asilia Lodges, Tanzania

Asilia offers a great combination of “living lightly” with luxury in its Tanzanian bush camps. There are a number of semi-permanent camps in the Serengeti (moving to follow the migration), but our favourite is Oliver’s Camp in the Tarangire National Park. There are 10 tents (including 1 four-sleeper family tent and a honeymoon tent), attentive staff and opulent furnishings, not to mention plenty of ice for  your gin and tonic. Plus, you can even do a hot air balloon safari.

6. Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique

Nkwichi Lodge, a Green Spaces Travel Award nominee, and winner of Best Small Hotel in the 2008 World Responsible Tourism Awards, is on the shores of Lake Niassa—an idyllic eco-lodge with just seven spacious chalets set on a sandy white beach. A percentage of every guest fee goes towards conserving the 100 000-hectare Manda Wilderness Reserve, as well as the Manda Wilderness Community Trust, which has built five schools, one maternity clinic, one maize mill and two church roofs.

7. Singita Grumeti Lodges, Tanzania

Following on the success of their SA lodges, Singita was approached by US billionaire and wildlife philanthropist Paul Tudor Jones to help manage his Grumeti concession (adjoining the Serengeti) that was devastated by poaching and hunting. Jones formed the Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund; thanks to his efforts, game numbers have soared, as has employment and investment in the local communities.

READ MORE: 5 Trends Likely To Guide How We Travel in 2023

Need Provisions?

Greasy crisps, melted chocolate and questionable boerewors rolls are road trip staples, but these unhealthy snacks will turn your outdoor adventure into a scary brush with the dreaded dad bod. We’ve rounded up healthier alternatives that are vegan, more-ish and packed with nutrients.

Woolworths Salted Mushroom Biltong

Woolworths Salted Mushroom Biltong

Subbing in mushrooms for meat to create biltong may sound like a fool’s errand, but Woolworths’ fungi twist is super flavourful and will only set you back 40 calories per serving. Shiitake mushrooms, which make up part of this biltong remix, contain the compound eritadenine, which has been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels.

House of Macadamias Mocha Protein Bar

House of Macadamias Mocha Protein Bar

Macadamia nuts make up 45% of this treat. So it’s a hero snack for vegans and keto dieters. One bar contains 8g of protein, 17g of fat, 14g of fibre and just 18g of carbs. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a nut-rich diet could reduce levels of bad cholesterol. Pair this up with the mushroom snack above and you could help curb levels significantly. 

Chyps Roasted Chickpeas 

Chyps Roasted Chickpeas 

This plant-based alternative to chips delivers the same crunch factors without the calorie bomb. Plus, unlike their potato counterparts, chickpeas also bring protein to the table—almost 10g per bag. Studies found that chowing on chickpeas can help you feel full, making you less likely to reach for snacks. Best flavour? You can’t go wrong with salt and vinegar.

Nairn’s Fine Milled Oatcakes

Nairn’s Fine Milled Oatcakes

Oatcakes are a versatile snack that can act as a vessel for your favourite cheeses (if you’re not too committed to plant-based) or straight out of the bag. These are wheat-free and vegan; and have a light texture and creamy oat taste.

Men’s Health participates in various affiliate marketing programmes, which means we may get commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

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