The Safari Index’s most eco-friendly lodges

‘Responsible Tourism’ and ‘Green Accommodation’ have become essential considerations within the travel industry as many environmentally and socially conscious travellers base their accommodation and travel arrangements around responsible and sustainable operations. Many pioneering safari lodges and tour companies have instituted their own policies and procedures to be more green and eco friendly, ushering in a new era of sustainable tourism.

Sustainable tourism simply means tourism operations that replenish or put back what is taken from the local habitat. A lodge that is fully sustainable requires little in the way of natural resources, recycling much of what is used and leaving a relatively small eco-footprint on the local environment. An eco-friendly lodge does not damage the local habitat and provides a source of income for the local community while also providing funding for conservation initiatives. An eco-friendly lodge that is sustainable and environmentally friendly will usually have measurable statics and percentages relating to how much they have reduced waste, water waste and other consumables. When you are next on safari, ask the management team of the lodge what they have done to help protect the environment, grow the skills in the local community or support a local charity. When booking your next safari, look out for these key characteristics when inquiring with lodge management about any green initiatives.

Benefits the local community

An Eco-friendly lodge will usually aim to hire local people as their staff providing not only income to the community but also increasing their skillsets. The use of locals as guides and staff in the lodges instills a sense of pride and reverence for the property within the community. Guests also benefit from having a local who knows the area intimately as their professional guide, tracker or guest liason, providing greater insight into the country or area they are visiting. Lodges often include a local cultural tour as an optional extra in the itinerary – this involves visiting the nearest local village to explore the local customs and culture.

Local Produce and Fair Trade

The use of local produce is another indication of an eco-friendly lodge and many choose to either grow their edible produce themselves or purchase it from nearby local farmers. Fair Trade in Tourism stands for fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. It also ensures that the people who contribute their land, resources, labour and knowledge to tourism are the ones who reap the benefits. This not only supports the local community but also reduces the carbon footprint of the lodge. The use of local produce can extend beyond edible goods as some lodges have chosen to use locally crafted soaps, blankets and handmade products in their rooms and curio shops.


Eco-friendly safari lodges are usually built to be sustainable either by using recycled materials for the building itself, or by incorporating ‘Green’ design elements into the lodge. These can include but are not limited to: solar powered water heaters, grey water recycling systems for garden water, energy saving bulbs in all the light fittings and minimal structure impact on the immediate environment.

There are various organisations that verify the authenticity of a tourism operators claims of eco-friendly status, but here are two of the most recognised.

Green Leaf –

The Green Leaf™ Eco Standard (GLES) is specifically constructed as a sustainability and certification assessment tool for the performance management of any international organisation or property. In its name, “Green Leaf™” stems from the symbol representing the philosophy of people and place in environmental leadership and conservation of the Wilderness Foundation (the organisation, together with Andrew Phillips, which founded the Green Leaf Environmental Trust, the custodians of GLES). “Eco Standard” is an integrated concept which promotes the synergy of environmental, social and economic systems to facilitate behavioural and material adaptations in a business beyond the triple bottom-line. Certification under GLES demonstrates a firm, authentic and effective commitment to sustainability, both towards the environment and socially, under the globally-recognised symbol of the Wilderness Foundation, the Green Leaf™. The GLES is implemented internationally by accredited agencies which ensure impartiality and quality during the certification process.

Fair Trade in Tourism –

Fair Trade in Tourism (FTT) is a non-profit organisation that is leading the way forward in the development of sustainable and responsible tourism in southern Africa and beyond. It grows awareness about responsible tourism to travellers, assisting tourism businesses to operate more sustainably and facilitating the FTT certification programme across southern Africa. The FTT label stands for fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. It also ensures that the people who contribute their land, resources, labour and knowledge to tourism are the ones who reap the benefits.

Majete National Park

The Majete National Park, in the Great Rift Valley in Malawi, is committed to maintaining its biodiversity and restoring tracts of land depleted by heavy poaching in the 80s and 90s. Due to the park’s conservation efforts in the past decade, 2,500 species of animals have successfully been reintroduced to this former wasteland. The Park also employs locals, so they become invested in wildlife preservation. For those seeking a luxurious experience in Majete, Robin Pope Safaris’ Mkumuladzi is right on the Zambezi and offers exciting activities.

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Serra Cafema 

Located on the banks of the Kunene River in Namibia, near the sublime Namib Desert, Serra Cafema is one of Africa’s remotest camps. Serra Cafema is owned, operated, and staffed by the indigenous Himba people, one of the last semi-nomadic people on earth. The camp is also involved with the Namibia Sea Turtle Project, which works with the Angolan and Namibian governments to protect the sea turtles that congregate near the mouth of the Kunene River.

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Mombo Camp 

Mombo Camp is involved in multi-platform conservation efforts such as the Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project that reintroduced the white rhino to the Okavango Delta. Mombo Camp employs different ethnic groups to engage with the local community. The camp has minimized its carbon footprint through solar power, thermodynamic geysers, rainwater harvesting, and passive environmental architecture.

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Ghona Hills Savuti Lodge

Ghona Hills is found in the Savuti region of Botswana and boasts stunning views over the plains, as well as a busy waterhole. Its eleven en-suite canvas tents are built on elevated platforms, providing further breathtaking viewing opportunities. The wildlife viewing in the reserve is superb all year round. The lodge is an off-the-grid eco-friendly establishment that makes use of solar power and limits its impact on the environment.

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Little Makalolo Camp

Little Makalolo is a small, intimate camp in the remote wilderness of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. It has six en-suite safari tents with indoor and outdoor showers. The lodge has a swimming pool, lounge and dining area and log-pile hide for observing the busy waterhole nearby. Game drives and walks allow guests to get up close to reserve’s wildlife, which includes the big 5. The lodge uses solar power and aims to reduce environmental footprint.

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Mashovhela Lodge

Mashovhela is found in South Africa‘s scenic Northern Cape and is the proud achiever of the prestigious Gold Leaf green rating.The lodge is furnished and styled with traditional African designs. The ten comfortable rooms are en-suite and have facilities for families. In addition to walking safaris, guests have the option of visiting local villages, ancient ruins, a museum, sacred Venda sites, and a tea estate.

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Ndutu Wilderness Camp

Ndutu is a seasonal camp found in the Serengeti. It consists of ten canvas safari tents with en suite facilities, solar lighting and eco-friendly flushing toilet and shower. Game drives allow guests to explore the surrounding wilderness, and guests can also access the Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge and interact with the local Maasai people.

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Singita Sweni

Singita Sweni is a small, intimate lodge on a private concession in South Africa‘s renowned Kruger National Park. The camp is cerified “green” and has a minimal impact on the environment. The suites have glass fronts, allowing for fantastic views. A spa, gym, pool and Business centre are just some of the world-class facilities offered at the lodge. Game drives allow guests to experience the famous Kruger wildlife, which includes the Big 5.

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!Xaus Lodge, Kgalagadi

!Xaus is situated in the dry and vast Kgalalgadi Transfrontier Park, which is renowned for its abundance of predators and birds of prey. This desert lodge is owned and run by the local Khomani San and Mier communities. !Xaus Lodge (the “!” represents a vocal click in the San language, but can also be pronounced as a K) blends into…

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5-day Kruger & Lowveld Tour

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is renowned worldwide. This massive expanse of bushveld and wilderness is home to an incredible abundance of animal, plant, bird and reptile species. The area is also known for housing Africa’s iconic Big 5. On this 5-day safari tour, guests are taken on a comprehensive tour of the Kruger and surrounding area, for a chance…

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6-day Uganda Gorilla and Wildlife Safari

This comprehensive safari tour takes you through two of Uganda's most exciting national parks- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. In Bwindi, you will have the opportunity to track and interact with endangered mountain gorillas- a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, you will embark on game drives, and have a chance to spot a…

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Africa on Foot, Klaserie

Africa on Foot is a safari company offering a great combination of walking and game drive safaris in a remote part of the Klaserie Game Reserve - a conservancy of privately owned game farms open to the Kruger Park. The camp is a traditional family-run bush camp where the atmosphere is homely and relaxed and the facilities rustic yet comfortable.…

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Ai Ais Hotsprings Spa, Namibia

Ai-Ais Hotsprings Spa is a unique nature retreat in a dramatic setting. It is located on the southern end of the Fish River Canyon, among the mountains of the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park in Namibia. The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, the largest in Africa, and is famous for its multi-day hiking trails. The…

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Amani Safari Camp, Klaserie

Amani Safari Camp is based deep in the Klaserie Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger Park’s vast block of privately-owned wilderness. The conservancy of 3500 odd hectares falls along both sides of the Klaserie River, attracting herds of elephant, buffalo and of course, the big cats that hunt them. The affordable safari accommodation is in 4 en-suite air-conditioned bedrooms. Each…

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Aquila Private Game Reserve & Spa

Aquila Safari Lodge is a 4 star establishment in the Southern Karoo. The reserve is a 7,500 hectare conservancy in the southern Karoo, and home to the big 5 legends of the wilderness - elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. Aquila offers traditional game drives, safaris on horseback, quad biking, 4 x 4 mountain trails and so much more. Aquila…

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Best of Zambia - East to West Tour

Looking to see all the natural splendour of Zambia? This safari tour from 'East to West' in Zambia includes the highlights of Zambia's pristine National Parks. We will spend four days in South Luangwa National Park, visit the famous Kafue National Park and carry on to the remote Liuwa Plains National Park, one of Africa's last true wilderness areas. Mosi-oa-Tunya…

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Blue Footprints, Inhambane

Located on a beautiful beach between Bara and Tofo, about 25km from Inhambane in Mozambique, Blue Footprints lodge is a hidden beach oasis. It offers understated elegance and unparalleled ocean views, specifically designed so that from the bar, restaurant, lounge, pool and villas, the full magnificence of the Indian Ocean is just a glance away. A pristine environment for your…

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Blue Zebra Island Lodge

Located on the stunning Nankoma Island in Lake Malawi, Blue Zebra Island Lodge is a truly unique experience. Completely uninhabited and far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, there is truly nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. Under the protection of the Lake Malawi National Park, these three Islands offer a unique opportunity to…

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Botswana Affordable Wild Camping Tour

This adventurous safari tour provides you with a true safari wilderness experience. On this tour, which lasts for 8 days and 9 nights, you will get to camp out in the wilderness of Botswana, embarking on exciting game drives and viewing the incredible wild game species the region has to offer. Accommodation is provided in the form of semi-participation camping,…

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Botswana Highlights Tour

Botswana is one of Africa’s top wildlife and safari destinations. From the fascinating desert landscapes of the Kalahari, to the spectacular waterways of the Okavango, to the game-rich national parks, Botswana is the ultimate destination for the nature or safari enthusiast. On this safari tour, you will spend 16 days exploring this incredible country- a comprehensive, complete experience. You will…

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Budget 7-day Primate Tour, Uganda

This classic primate trekking safari tour takes you through the forests of Uganda and is perfect for those on a budget. Accommodation each night is in tents which are set up for you. The tour highlights are encountering mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in their natural habitat on primate trekking excursions. Being a camping tour it provides an adventurous yet wild…

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Bundox Safari Lodge, Greater Kruger

Bundox Safari Lodge is located ona small game reserve in South Africa’s renowned Greater Kruger region, on the doorstep of the world-famous Kruger National Park. This safari camp offers a variety of accommodation types, as well as access to a range of safari activities. The lodge consists of luxury safari tents, as well as self-catering chalets, perfect for families. The…

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Bushmans Wilderness Trail, Kruger

Situated in the south western corner of Kruger this wilderness area is characterised by deep quiet valleys and high rocky outcrops with spectacular views. These secluded valleys exclude trailists from the outside world whilst the high lying outcrops are accessed early in the morning to enjoy the vastness of the landscape and useful to search for game, The heavy density…

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Camp Carnelley's, Lake Naivasha

Camp Carnelley’s is a campsite and budget lodge located on the shores of the stunning Lake Naivasha in Kenya. It is a tranquil and picturesque camp, where monkeys swing from the trees and guests can enjoy scenic views of the lake. The camp is designed and built with the environment in mind, and the accommodation strives to be eco-friendly. It…

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Camp George, Klaserie

The self-catering and exclusive-use Camp George is located in the Big 5 Klaserie Game Reserve in South Africa. The self-catering camp is made up of five luxury air-conditioned chalets with en-suite facilities. The camp's main area features great indoor and outdoor entertainment areas in a garden setting, as well as a TV lounge with satellite TV, allowing guests the chance…

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Cape Cottage, Malawi

Cape Cottage is a wonderful little cottage situated on the beach at Cape Maclear in Malawi. The cottage is self-catering, with space for up to four people. It features a fully fitted kitchenette and en-suite facilities, and is the perfect place to overnight at Cape Maclear before setting off on an island safari to one of Lake Malawi’s islands. The…

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Central Kalahari Campsites

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is located int he centre of Botswana. This desert landscape, while appearing harsh and barren, actually teems with fascinating desert-adapted flora and fauna. These include everything from large predators like lion and leopard, to smaller species such as springbok, zebra, and the ferocious honey badger. The birdlife is plentiful as well. The reserve is the…

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Chelinda Camp, Nyika Plateau

Chelinda Camp is located in Malawi’s Nyika National Park, high up on the Nyika Plateau. The camp provides stunning views of the region’s rolling hills and grasslands, and also overlooks a dam. The camp is made up of two types of accommodation: four two-bedroom chalets, as well as six en-suite twin-bed rooms. The chalets have en-suite facilities, lounges and dining…

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