“Imagine Scholar is a place where I become who I want to be, where I don’t have to pretend to fit in. Spending a day at Imagine Scholar means I get to explore my deep interests, which grow and enrich my life with authentic happiness.” Given Sandamela, Grade 10

Founded in 2009 and set in the rural Nkomazi region of South Africa, Imagine Scholar is an after-school mentorship program that exists to catalyse young leaders’ potential. With the belief that a student’s ability to succeed should not be determined by the situation they were born in to, Grade 9-12 Scholars sit in the driver’s seat of their own development, taking the reins for their own personal, professional, and academic achievement – all with a sense of humour.

Pioneering 21st century education

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. This quote from Howard Thurman encapsulates Imagine Scholar’s ethos.

Academic standards and averages are not enough to cultivate the robust and empathetic leaders we need to solve 21st Century challenges. Instead of celebrating conformity, we instigate quirkiness and individuality.

Instead of prescribing information for Scholars to memorise and regurgitate, we give students a toolkit to understand the reaches of their cognitive ability and let them explore. The result? Scholars evolve to be critical and tactile – taking note of issues they see in the world and designing solutions. Instead of reading a book about organic farming, a Scholar will build a farm. Instead of dreaming about a future career in tech, a Scholar will code an app that is useful to his or her peers. Scholars tinker, test, and model their way to understanding their world.

Our program challenges students to go beyond theorising and to become ripple-makers. We facilitate instead of tell, guide instead of force, and see ourselves as the scaffolding for a students’ progression. Imagine Scholar is a 21st Century tool kit to the curious learner.

Innovative Curriculum 

Being a Scholar is no easy task. Students attend Imagine Scholar for approximately 25 hours per week, on top of traditional school. Our curriculum is divided into multiple segments, each positioned to equip students with a diverse set of skills to tackle real-world problems:

  • Think Tank is a three-year journey into cognitive self-awareness. Students explore with creativity, abstraction, bias, and behaviour, examining topics like psychology, cognitive science, heuristics, and even behavioural economics.
  • Ommm (Open Minded Meaning Makers) Lab is grounded in storytelling and imbuing Scholars with confidence to create meaning. Oracy, linguistics, discourse, and communication styles provide fodder for learning in this class.
  • Learning Zone is a meta-learning workspace that allows young leaders to sharpen their academic and scientific learning skills. Learning Zone encourages Scholars to design, test, analyse, and re-create.

Imagine Scholar’s innovative curriculum pushes the boundaries of education in our community and has yielded incredible results from numerous groundbreaking acceptances to international universities, to students building award-winning electric vehicles, launching chess tournaments, and improving literacy in our community.

Inclusive Culture

Our distinctive organisational culture is the glue that holds our program together, and the secret sauce for our success. At Imagine Scholar, a sense of openness to emotional and intellectual vulnerability is the norm; our culture allows students to have a safe space to blue-sky think, try, and fail without fear of ridicule.

Our culture begins with our rigorous application process. The sheer rigor of the process means that hundreds of students wane, leaving only those who truly want to be here. From there, our mature students take the reins, choosing our final cohort of 10 based on character interviews. This not only to allow our students, who have worked hard to create a culture they love ensure its longevity, but also to give new Grade 9s an immediate sense of inclusion.

Inclusive culture, innovative curriculum, and a dedication to pioneering a new style of education are the ingredients that make up Imagine Scholar. We are constantly learning, growing, and evolving, always looking for the next best way to inspire and empower the young leaders of tomorrow.

Find out more about Imagine Scholar and connect with them via their Eco Atlas page.

Ryley Grunenwald shares her behind the scenes story as the award winning eco documentary The Shore Break premieres in South Africa this week!

Ryley Grunenwald directed and co-produced The Shore Break with Odette Geldenhuys

Ryley Grunenwald directed and co-produced The Shore Break with Odette Geldenhuys

South Africa’s Wild Coast is my favourite place in the world – it has a rugged, mysterious beauty. Since my great-great uncle was posted on the beach to look out for German U-boats during the Second World War, generations of my family have spent their holidays there. When my father returned from a fishing trip to tell me that SANRAL was planning to build the Wild Coast Toll Road and an Australian mining company wanted to mine the beaches for titanium, I imagined the environmental destruction of this paradise. Only later would I learn how deeply it affects and divides the people living there.

Photo 3 (Copy)

I went on a fishing trip with my father and met Nonhle Mbuthuma who is a leader in her community against the highway and the mine. She was so hardcore. When I found out her arch enemy in favour of the developments was her own cousin and that the South African Government had dethroned her environmentally conscious King, Mpondombini Sigcau, it felt like something out of Shakespeare.


In the early stages of filming I was only aware of how the titanium mine and highway threatened the homes, farmland, graves and traditional lifestyle of the people living in their pathway. However spending time with Madiba, Nonhle’s cousin, definitely made me see things from a broader perspective. He pointed out things that I couldn’t deny: the Wild Coast’s dire need for more schools, hospitals and employment.

Photo 1 (Copy)

He believed large-scale development is the only hope for change. On the other hand Nonhle wanted development that would last longer than the 25-year lifespan of the mine. She believed alternative development such as widely spread eco-tourism could develop the area without their having to give up their land and livelihood. Throughout production I kept changing my mind about who was more ‘right’ about the development of the Wild Coast. The complexity intrigued me and I wanted to allow the audience to see things from both sides.


Personally, I would be devastated if what I believe to be the most beautiful part of South Africa is damaged with mining and a highway. However it’s really not my call. It should be the people living on the affected land who decide what kind of development they want.

Sign The Petition NOW if you would like the mining to be stopped.

Watch The Shore Break trailer and find out all the details to make your bookings for the premieres in Cape Town and Jozi on The Shore Break on Eco Atlas

(Two great examples of responsible eco tourism on the Wild Coast with true community ownership are Bulungula Lodge and Mdumbi Backpackers, bookmark them if these photos made you hanker for your next road trip…)


Honest, inspiring and real life tips from artist and activist Carol Nathan Levin as she documents her journey to live a waste free life…

I have always been interested in recycling and ways to reduce my waste.


Recently I have noticed a trend of people who are living “waste free”.


So I have taken up a challenge to be super conscious and document how I go about my day aspiring to creating a waste-free life as much as possible, and at the very least keep trash out of the landfill.


It is so simple but requires a small amount of thought and planning and is very satisfying when it becomes a habit.

I leave home in the morning with 4 objects, a stainless steel cup, a glass bottle full of tap water, a re-usable shopping bag and a glass container which comes in handy for left overs in restaurants, sometimes I fill it with coffee granules (from coffee carts) for my compost, or it’s useful if I buy fish or cheese.


Waste Free Tip 1: Take a re-usable water bottle, coffee cup, take-away container and shopping bag with you whenever you leave the house.

Waste Free Tip 1: Take a re-usable water bottle, coffee cup, take-away container and shopping bag with you whenever you leave the house.

So I always make sure I have cloth bags in my car or these nifty ones in my bag.
As I move through my day I am super aware how we automatically bag everything so I have now taken to refusing even the flimsiest of bags where possible, like the ones for fruit and veggies.


Waste Free Tip 2: Refuse plastic wherever you can.

Next up, food waste: I used to have a worm farm but always had a problem with animal waste and fatty substances. I sold it and bought two Earth Probiotic Bokashi bins instead. These take everything, (including a moderate amount of chicken bones) The liquid that comes off it can also be diluted and used to make a super-nutritious tea for the garden. You have to sprinkle the Bokashi Saw Dust every few layers, so it does have a cost (which the worm farm does not) but it’s not that expensive and totally worth it. After it sits for two weeks I dig it into the compost or you can dig it straight into a bed.

Waste Free Tip 3: Turn your organic waste into compost gold for your garden.

Waste Free Tip 3: Turn your organic waste into compost gold for your garden.

prefer to plant from seedlings as I’m not great with seeds, so I accumulate quite a few of these trays. I found that when I take them to the woman at my local farmers market she is SO grateful as it saves her money and she loves the “re-use” ethos.
(She sterilises them whether I wash them or not so I don’t even bother anymore)

Waste Free Tip 4: Return used trays and cartons to shops and local suppliers, markets.

Waste Free Tip 4: Return used trays and cartons to shops and local suppliers, markets.

Sometimes she rewards me with free plants, in this case creeping roses that I have had difficulty in finding.
I also take my egg cartons back to the shop from where they came ….or pass them on at the farmers market to the egg stall.
Plastic is insidious, it hides in the most obvious places. As each pen gets thrown out I am replacing it with a pencil.


Waste Free Tip 5: Write with pencils rather than pens.

Waste Free Tip 5: Write with pencils rather than pens.

Below is not soap. It is actually shampoo. Coconut oil and veggie glycerine shampoo. From the second I rubbed this on my head I LOVED it. It’s from “Ruby Soul” at Old Nick Village and is available online.

Waste Free Tip 6: Use shampoo that doesn't come in plastic bottles.

Waste Free Tip 6: Use shampoo that doesn’t come in plastic bottles.

As a rule I shop at small local business as much as possible. I asked my local  Green Grocer if I returned the polystyrene there and then would they re-use it? the answer was “of course”. Win-Win, they save money, I save trash.
Gives me a spring in my step and a secret grin for the next few hours.

Waste Free Tip 7: Refuse the polystyrene packaging at your local grocer, he can re-use it and you have fresh unwrapped veggies.

Waste Free Tip 7: Refuse the polystyrene packaging at your local grocer, he can re-use it and you have fresh unwrapped veggies.

Plastic water bottles are the biggest scam (and scourge) of the century. The companies instilled fear into us about the quality of our tap water as a way to market their product to us. The truth is it sits on the truck in the boiling sun leeching poisons into the plastic. Why are we paying a fortune to drink poison? All day I sip this: tap water with lemon, mint, parsley, celery and cucumber or a variation thereof.
Sometimes I use strawberries or blueberries, oranges or grapefruit and its great for dinner parties.

Waste Free Tip 8: Rater drink tap water (filtered if you wish) than water from plastic bottles. You can flavour it with all sorts of fresh and delicious herbs and fruits.

Waste Free Tip 8: Rather drink tap water (filtered if you wish) than water from plastic bottles. You can flavour it with all sorts of fresh and delicious herbs and fruits.

Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid one-time-use plastics. These below are not recyclable. It’s become a trend in our town to compact them into a plastic bottle as tightly as possible. Some clever person is going to make a bench or a wall out of them, in PE they are even building a pre-school!
This alone has contributed to a massive reduction in my garbage.
I have gone from a garbage bag every two weeks (we are a family of 2) to a bag every 6 weeks which means I am sending 8 bags to the land fill a year.

Waste Free Tip 9: Compact all your non-recyclable plastics into a 2 litre bottle to make an Eco Brick which can be used for building.

Waste Free Tip 9: Compact all your non-recyclable plastics into a 2 litre bottle to make an Eco Brick which can be used for building.

And lastly, throwing out broken objects led me to some creative thinking and some great up-cycling.
Please check out my Facebook page  The Plight of Plastic for more information on just that and “LIKE” and “SHARE”  if indeed you do .

Carol Nathan Levin is an artist and Art Activist. She lives in the Plettenberg Bay area.



My passion about being waste and plastic free began at the age of 18 when I worked in a clothing boutique and was horrified at the packaging that arrived at the store that the customer never even sees. It opened my eyes to packaging per se.


Over the last 30 years I have noticed that marketing has become “cleverer” and packaging much more layered. Many of my friends, (some of them directors of huge Ad agencies), have left the advertising world in disgust when they finally realised that they are dreaming up how to sell “stuff” that people don’t want or need.  And then it comes wrapped in 3 layers of plastic and gets shipped around the world. 


Now 35 years on from my first “awakening” I see the exponential growth of the affect of not addressing the garbage as well as the unconscious disposal of it. “Out of sight out of mind” and a blind trust of authorities.


I believe every single individual has a massive impact through their choices and that each one of us can affect powerful long lasting change.



Dolphin Adventures Sea Kayaking give us insight on the changing weather patterns and what that means for the kind of sightings you will have on a sea kayak trip in the beautiful bay of Plett on the Garden Route….and why going out on a sea kayak is one of the most eco-friendly activities around!

eco tourism plett south africaOver the years on our sea kayak trips we have noticed our climate has been changing and these changes are affecting our marine life, in particular the Southern Right Whales. Over the past two years, sightings of Southern Right whales have dropped in our area (don’t worry, the population as a whole are on the increase, they are just changing patterns and travelling further Westward), but we see more Brydes and Humpbacks than before. Our dolphin sightings are awesome and include the ever playful Bottlenose, super energetic Commons and the highly endangered Humpback dolphins.  We have a variety of sea birds which are often sighted as well as the ever growing Cape Fur seal population on Robberg Peninsula, which has also been home to a huge Elephant Seal for the last year. There are a lot of other animals sighted like turtles, Otters, Sunfish, Penguins, we never know what we will find, and that is why every trip is very different.

Whales and dolphins live in a world of water and sound. They feed, communicate and find their way around their world using sound. If we humans pump oil or chemicals into that world, or high levels of unnatural noise, then the animals will suffer. Chemical spills, seismic noise used to find oil and gas, conducting loud military exercises at sea and increases in boat traffic can all put dolphins and whales in danger by causing them to strand on our coastlines.

It is not too late for humans to learn to live responsibly, allowing the continued survival of all creatures and the continued health of this planet. The task is large, but not impossible if we each consider the influence we have in our lives and how much we can accomplish together. Each one of us can make a difference if we are willing to take an active role.

Written by Kira Primo, if you would like to learn more about their eco choices or book a trip visit their page on Eco Atlas.


eco tourism outdoor activity       robberg peninsula plettenberg bay

eco activities south africa

_4A_0004We at Mdumbi Backpackers are grateful to Eco Atlas for creating an opportunity whereby probably some of the most important aspects of being involved in the tourism industry today, could at last be acknowledged. This actually puts this industry ahead of most others. We believe that in line with the historical economic development of the human species culminating in the current form of individual capitalism, powerful transnational organisations and economic inequality, humans are approaching the point to transcend to the next level, a form of economy appreciating that we are one global community dependent on the natural environment. For the first time in history this is becoming possible as we have become all connectable. What is interesting is that which made this possible, tremendous technological advances through the use of fossil fuels, is also creating the first global human challenge, global warming. And global warming is for the first time making world leaders consider sustainable development more seriously, and why we see potential for a new level of economy.

At Mdumbi we are in a uniquely advantageous situation to explore these “futuristic” economic possibilities. In a sense the current economic system has not yet got its tentacles thoroughly wrapped through the lifestyle and world view of the local Xhosa people we live and work with here. This makes them vulnerable on the one side to be easily exploited but it also provides an opportunity to explore alternative forms of true community ownership if driven by sincere enough Western capital. With sincere capital I mean to use it in a way stemming from gratefulness and not selfish righteousness. In the end if you had the slightest Western form of upbringing, even in South Africa, you have tremendous capital privileges in the forms of skills, education, know how, understanding of dominant governance systems like capitalism and physical capital like assets and money compared to any Xhosa born in Transkei. Obviously they have other forms of capital which relevant to the Western world doesn’t seem important but relevant to the previous mentioned transcendence towards a higher level of economy, could be leading the way. I am talking about the harmony they have with nature, how they share everything, how there are no street children or homeless people although they are the poorest people in South Africa, how they live their lives in a home and when they pass away, after a year or so their home becomes nature again.

g_backpackers3_popupBut I must say, it is not easy to marry the two, it mostly feels the only way is one or the other. For instance, we see the tourism potential at Mdumbi as belonging to the local communities in the area. But how do you structure a tourism business to reflect fair community ownership? How much skilled private ownership is needed to establish sustainability? Is any really needed? Is there not an approach with which community could identify and take full informed ownership with the necessary know how? You will be surprised how sceptical most people are about that being possible, even government. It is as if everyone is so convinced that the only way to sustainable business is that individual capitalist strive of how much profit can I make. Further strengthened of course with the recent collapse of socialism, the only alternative we had until now. And this is starting to stick its head out in the local communities. With their traditional things they share but when it comes to money and business, its capitalism. Is it a case of having to ride that bull first before we can transcend it? Is it possible to bypass capitalism and move straight to the next level, if there even is one, like most Xhosa people are by bypassing the computer and yet they all have phones and know better how to use it than I do? What about the dire economic inequality? Could we expect the majority have-nots to be OK with not having a go? Shouldn’t we instead expect the minority haves to let go?
During the coming weeks we will have several meetings with our direct community to explore with them options of how they prefer to own the new Mdumbi Green Destinations development we helped them with obtaining permission to develop. Mdumbi Backpackers was an existing place and business which we are trying to draw local ownership into. We try to keep profits low and employ as many people as possible, but that is not local ownership. We give a percentage profit to local representing community bodies but that is also not really local ownership. We have helped our kitchen staff to start their own cooperative and are giving them the restaurant side of Mdumbi. That is local ownership but not fairly representing the whole community . With the new Mdumbi Green Destinations development we have an opportunity to start from scratch, to start from where local people are at, to delve deep for their traditional cultural principles and see how that shapes the ownership structure of a state of the art eco-tourism lodge. I haven’t got a clue what will come out, it is up to the people. I am excited though, capitalism’s time is up.


Hyman van Zyl with Transcape NPO and Mdumbi Backpackers has been working on a range of tourism projects with community members since they first started in 2002. Through this experience the managers of Mdumbi anticipated further job creation opportunities that could arise through appropriate development of skills and allocation of resources.   b