Maybe it’s because of fairy tales, but children gain a keen sense of adventure when you head over any kind of mountain, perhaps they have this vision of another land opening up before their eyes when they crest the last rise. And it’s true, when you wind your way up the Outeniqua Pass, leaving the lush green of the coastal belt behind you, the Klein Karoo unfolds before you like a different land, one of folded grey hills, wide open spaces and big skies. The low grey-green scrubland also makes games like ‘I Spy’ much easier, you can see far and spot more animals, birds and… ostriches.

We have not yet succumbed to using screens as entertainment for road trips so we make up inventive word games and this time round we discovered the most unexpected entertainment for little hands and minds, you are never going to guess what it is!

Knitting, yes knitting was a complete win, luckily my 7 and 9 year old had both already been taught the ins and outs (pun intended) at their school as one of their crafts, because if I had had to teach them simultaneously from the front seat while whizzing through the countryside, let’s just say the road trip would not have been quite as successful as it was. But somehow the inevitable restlessness of children strapped into a car for hours was incredibly eased by their hands having something rhythmic and productive to do and they could multi-task by also looking out the window and playing word games or just simply sitting in happy silence with the needles clicking to the obligatory road trip music. And no I don’t have two girls, my 7 year old boy absolutely loves the satisfaction of seeing his knitted scarf grow in length through his doing alone and he has no inkling of gender stereo-typing when it comes to knitting, long may it last.

Road trips with kids are always better when divided up into bite sized chunks (like 3 hours), but no matter the length of the journey the joy of arriving at the destination is always the same. We pulled up to our wooden cabin on the vlei at De Zeekoe Guest Farm just outside Oudtshoorn and the children reveled in exploring our cosy home for the next two nights. And as we settled ourselves on the stoep to soak in the view we knew we had come to a good place to rest our souls when a pair of Fish Eagles welcomed us with their calls. What more could you ask for? And De Zeekoe ticked so many happy holiday boxes for the children, they could canoe on the vlei and visit the bird island where the fish eagles nested, ride their bikes easily and freely down the farm roads, stoke the evening fire in the huge indoor hearth and most of all, what all children wish for, is the time and space to have mom and dad’s undivided attention for card games and ball games, storytime and together time. We always try to keep phone use to a bare minimum, if it at all, on road trips with our kids, it makes all the difference to their world.






And De Zeekoe ticked so many boxes for me too in terms of a holiday with a conscience. I love the fact that they empower and upskill all the local families on the farm to work and manage the guesthouse and they have also set up a school, for all the neighbouring farm children too.

It’s one of the many reasons they are Fair Trade certified, employing and upskilling local people is a crucial key to the health and wellbeing of our country in terms of local economic development.

De Zeekoe guesthouse and farm employs, houses and educates 22 families! They also see the value in supporting local producers and while their breakfast buffet is sublime (you have to try the carrot quiche and tomato tartlets!) it just takes it to another level for me that the eggs are locally sourced and free range. Now if only my children would appreciate the concept of a diverse and delicious breakfast buffet and not simply go for the corn flakes because they don’t get them at home. We had a good laugh…three bowls of corn flakes later!




But I’ve skipped to the breakfast before telling you about our most exciting adventure at De Zeekoe! Holidays are not usually associated with early mornings, but this was definitely worth getting up before sunrise for. We bundled ourselves, beanies and all, into the car to get to the meeting spot for Meerkat Adventures by 6am then drove in convoy to the nature area not far from the R62. Tea and rusks, sunrise over the scrublands and before we knew it we were sitting in a semicircle of camp chairs right next to a meerkat burrow. And then we waited. You see we were up earlier than the meerkat family. You have to be or else you will never spot them while they are out foraging in the wide open spaces, this particular family has over 20 burrows to choose from to lay their weary heads every evening, that is one seriously vast area they cover. The excitement of seeing the first head pop out of the burrow was immense and we really had to pinch ourselves because it does seem dreamlike to sit in the wild watching wild meerkats go about their morning sun worshipping ritual while completely ignoring you (unless you sneeze!)




For anyone who is keen to give their children (and themselves) animal encounter experiences where the animals are not caged, not interacted with or interfered with and are able to go about their natural rhythms in their natural environment then Meerkat Adventures is definitely one for the bucket list.

The guides were so incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about conservation, but I won’t spoil it for you by telling you all the delightful nuggets of meerkat info and how these magical encounters have been made possible, beyond saying it involves years of passion and patience. I will never forget watching the pregnant mommy meerkat lean back with her front paws rested on her rounded belly just like we do, or the way the little ones played and rough tumbled – to give my children the gift of this experience was priceless.




Some tips for taking kids to experience the meerkats with Meerkat Adventures

  • Children need to be able to sit still and quiet for a few hours so it is definitely not recommended for little ones.
  • They recommend children be over the age of 10, the high pitched voices of children remind the meerkats of an alarm call to danger, this is especially enforced over busy season time.
  • It’s a very good idea to have something quiet for the children to do while waiting for or sitting with the meerkats (we sat for over 2 hours). And what am I going to recommend? You guessed it, knitting was an amazing activity that kept the children’s hands occupied but still allowed them to be present. Any hand craft like that would be similarly useful. Screens would not be recommended because of the noise and the focus would be removed from the magical meerkats.

To book at De Zeekoe for B&B rooms, self catering, dinner or meerkat tours (you get a discount when you are a De Zeekoe guest) visit their Eco Atlas page. Even the self catering cabins have a cleaning service (with biodegradable cleaning agents of course) which further adds to the holiday relaxation element.

To book directly with Devey Glinister and the Meerkat Adventures team simply visit their website.

Happy roadtripping, ours didn’t end there, we still went to Die Hel and back, but that is a story about going over a mountain for another day….

P.S. if you would like to make your road trip as zero waste as possible, here are a few things to have in the car with you for those inevitable food stops where you are given polystyrene parcels and plastic straws…

  • a few tupperwares and food containers for takeaways
  • reusable water bottles to fill up along the way
  • reusable straws, glass or stainless steel
  • some cutlery so that you can say no to the plastic ones
  • reusable shopping bags

You will be amazed at how willing all the roadside food stops are to comply with your planet saving ways!

Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas

You know you have come to a good place to rest, unwind and let your gaze softly adjust to the horizon when the lizards sunning themselves on the deck are so at ease with your presence they almost shuffle up to make space for you, even though you have your very own and inviting deck lounger to fall into and thereby join the sun worshippers and their stillness. Farm 215 is the kind of place where not only the lizards are at ease, but the leopards are too, as are the multitude of rare Fynbos species and thriving life associated with them. You see it covers 800 ha of protected nature reserve and so the entire complex web of life from leopard to lizard and everything in between feels safe, in this Overberg haven, to go about their natural rhythms and sun lounging, as are you.


A great escape from the city, Farm 215 banks up against the mountains behind Gansbaai which makes it just a two hour drive from Cape Town and before you know it you will find yourself in one of the sun drenched fynbos suites. The suites are completely off grid and in fact Farm 215 was the first guesthouse in the Western Cape to install solar panels, thankfully now more and more places are seeing the long term benefits of harnessing sun energy. The suites are simply and beautifully designed to give one a sense of space and tranquility with a full wall of windows looking  onto the uninterrupted vista of the Agulhas Plains. Yet they also have a fireplace for winter getaways and with all the alien clearing that is a constant conservation coup, there is no end to the wood available.


So whether you feel like lounging like a lizard on the deck of your suite, at the Zen pool area, or in front of the fire you can expect your worldly worries to evaporate into the great open spaces surrounding you. And you don’t need to wander far to experience the ever changing seasonal glories of the Fynbos flowers, they are right under your nose, but to fully feel the fresh air flowing through your body there are breathtaking hikes and horse rides exploring the landscape from mountain to sea. Then relax with a glass of local red wine in the fire warmed dining space which serves breakfast, lunch and supper. Sound like a retreat for mind, body and soul? It is.

Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


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Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


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Farm 215 on Eco Atlas



Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


To book your getaway at Farm 215 Private Nature Reserve visit their Eco Atlas page


In conversation with Maarten Groos, the changemaker who owns Farm 215…

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Maarten speaks with deep passion for the land and his enthusiasm for his reforestation project is palpable – “It feels a bit like love, you know when you fall in love with someone you think about them all the time. When I’ve planted some trees I fall asleep with the image of what that forest will grow to be later.” He explains that the deep heartbeat of nature is easily felt when walking on Farm 215 and the reason he enjoys running a sustainable guesthouse and retreat is that the kind of people that come to stay are those that hear the heartbeat too.

When asked what needs to change Maarten responded with’ “ The mentality needs to change, where we as humans focus on our well being rather than on the maximisation of profit – we need to look to the future with trust instead of dread.” And what is Maarten doing about this? He’s planting trees of course.

You can offset your travel to your Farm 215 getaway by purchasing a tree with the Trees for Tourism reforestation project and Maarten will make sure it joins the ever growing forest.



More ideas for winter getaways…



If you would like to turn your Overberg winter getaway into a road trip there are other fabulous places to stay at that are also doing their bit for people and planet in a range of positive ways. Have a look at Grootbos, White Shark Guesthouse, Greyton Ecolodge, Poespasrivier Cottage and the Potato Patch Self Catering Cottage for a range of different budgetary options.







Or why not take a road trip up the Wild Coast, you know you want to…stopping at the incredible range of places achieving both eco and empowerment wonders. You could start at Buccaneers famous for its hospitality and views. Then on to Peas on Earth where Permaculture is at play, as are horses. Continue on to Bulungula, Wild Lubanzi and then Mdumbi,  all of whom are on the coast, community empowering and will give you the sense of freedom only the Wild Coast can. When are you leaving?

Davinci decor

Being green or having any kind of sustainable practices has often been washed with the same paintbrush and seen as fringe, small-scale and, often, rural. But the times they are a changing, and incorporating any kind of eco or empowerment practices is gaining a cutting edge, urban and sophisticated feel to it. There are exciting manifestations of this in South Africa in so very many shades of green and while, yes, we do have the expected fabulous eco lodges along the Wild Coast, we also have the hip and happening – luxury to budget accommodation options in Cape Town too. And deep in the heart of the wealthiest square kilometre of South Africa, Sandton boasts the Davinci Hotel which oozes sustainability throughout its glamorous black and white themed glory.

Having to be in Joburg for an awards ceremony I grabbed the chance to experience how green can be luxurious, how green can be urban, how green can be large-scale and how green can be chic in black and white. The decor is clever and creative and makes you want to take a photo at every turn, mixing the glint of mosaic, the curve of baroque furniture and then clean lines highlighted with only African art. All in black and white. Sound like an intriguing mix? Well it’s worth the visit!

But far more intriguing for me was the manifestation of their sustainability practices. I can’t tell you the joy of running a rare indulgent bath  knowing that all the water had been heated by the 117 solar panels on their roof. They have enough solar panels to provide hot water to all their guests in over 200 hotel rooms and suites. I find that impressive. But what excites me most is that this stands as an exemplar to all other luxury hotels in our country, that going green does NOT mean having to compromise on the standards you would like to offer your guests, quite the opposite, it heightens them. The challenge is on to see which other hotels will follow suit.

Other elements I enjoyed were knowing that all the waste is recycled or composted, can you believe they have active worm farms to process the organic waste deep in the parking lot basement? How fabulous. And those small touches, like delicious homemade yoghurt for breakfast in small re-usable glass jars just made me smile and realise this is a big city hotel with a heart. My only advice would be that they come up with creative ideas to do away with any single-use plastic in their system, such as plastic water bottles, but this is a challenge we all face and I don’t doubt that Davinci will rise to the occasion as they have to other sustainability goals.

So, if you find yourself needing to stay in Sandton, ask the right questions and make sure that the hotel you choose meets your needs as well as those of the planet. Your night’s sleep, I promise, will be all the more sweeter.

To find out more about Davinci Hotel’s eco and empowerment practices or make a booking click here.


A luxurious bath with solar heated water and aerated taps to save on water.


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It’s in the little things, locally produced natural yoghurt in re-usable glass jars.



My time at Terra-Khaya was a little like stepping out of the box where things you thought were just imaginings become reality and the possibilities for living lightly on the earth are endless. It’s amazing how simple everyday elements like a beer bottle top, a horse’s halter and a solar panel can be seen in a completely new light because of the beauty and exquisite experiences they can manifest when put to good use. This is how it unfolded….

The principles of living lightly are evident everywhere at Terra-Khaya, from the characterful cottages made from salvaged wood, road signs and other unique upcycled elements, to the recycling zone which is an everyday changemaker’s dreamland. Absolutely NOTHING is thrown away at Terra-Khaya, everything is sorted into categories in bright yellow old oil drums nailed to the wall so that the lids, bottles and corks can be given new life or recycled. So when it came time to mosaic the freshly daubed inside wall of the  new lodge, built from the ground up on natural building principles, it made perfect sense to use the colourful, shiny metal bottle tops from beers and ciders. They were easy enough to find in the well-categorised drums and while the mud wall was still wet we pushed them in gently to create a glittering tree of life in celebration and in preparation for the reforestation festival that was about to start. That weekend, along with Greenpop, 250 of us planted 2 400 trees on that land and not only did I discover first hand the power of a human chain to move trees up a mountain and how many hands, including little ones, make light work, but I will never again look at an insignificant bottle top in the same way. It really is not something to be thrown away, it can be given new purpose in the tree of life, and it was.


Being aware of our footprint on the Earth comes down to reverence and respect for all life and Shane Eades, founder of Terra-Khaya, expresses this compassion beautifully through his natural horsemanship techniques. There are no bits and bridles at Terra-Khaya and horses are guided by your body, your voice and your respect for them. I grew up riding bareback on ponies, but I had never before been on an outride without the control of a bridle and so when Jeremy Loops, one of the local musicians performing at the festival and co-founder of Greenpop, was keen to swop out his surfboard for a trusty steed I was glad to get a chance to try the natural riding with just halter and reins. Riding through the tall tree forest and enveloping mist at dusk and feeling the freedom where horse and rider become one was truly memorable and the pure exhilaration was balm for the soul. What we think we know because that is the way it has always been done does not have to be so….


And of all the out-the-box experiences of my time there, one of the most heartening for the future was the vote of confidence in renewable energy and what it can manifest. Terra-Khaya runs purely on solar power and fire from alien tree wood. This includes cooking, hot water and computers being powered by sun and fire. And while the sun luckily does not have an off button, it seems neither do musicians. Jeremy and James were not going to be held back by our mental dependence on Eskom electricity to make a music video they urgently needed to send to  America. So they proceeded to film it, cut it and mix it using GoPros and their computers fueled by the stored solar energy. So the Jeremy Loops video you see below is made purely on solar power and a whole lot of love right there on Terra-Khaya. Now that is something to get excited about, the innovations, the reverence, the creativity is there and waiting, all we need to do is step outside the confines of what we think we know and create the future beautiful we’re all dreaming of. Who’s game?




Photo credits to Kate Janse van Rensburg, Jeremy Loops, Rhian Berning, Terra-Khaya and Wesley Davis.

If you would like to experience the Hogsback Festival of Trees for yourself, happening this month 24-27 September 2015, then visit their page on Eco Atlas to find out how to book your tickets, and just for luck enter the competition below and you could win two tickets!



Plant trees, dance to local musos, do yoga in the forest, eat healthy food, attend eco workshops and revel in the magic of Hogsback this September.

Here is how you enter, have fun!

1. Tag the person you would oh so love to go with in the comments of the Facebook post (feel free to add in a bit of poetree)

2. For an extra entry add a photo of a tree you’ve planted or tweet us on @EcoAtlas.

Share the love and share the Facebook post while you’re at it.

The prize includes…

Two three day tickets valued at R1300 from Thursday pm to Sunday lunch.

9 healthy vegetarian meals for two, tree planting, live music & Dj’s on Friday & Saturday Night, eco-workshops, yoga, meditation, discussion groups, upcycle art sessions & share fair. PLUS extra workshops on permaculture, natural building, making compost, building swales, forest hikes, food forest gardening, natural horsemanship & gardening with indigenous trees AND free camping on the Thursday night.

(The prize does NOT include transport to the festival or accommodation on the Friday and Saturday night, camping costs for the weekend at Terra-Khaya would be R200 in total for two people or you could find some magical accommodation in Hogsback village)

Winners will be announced on Friday 11 September 2015.


Numbi Valley on Eco Atlas

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Lying in the warm winter sun overlooking the organic olive grove, the aloes is full amber flower and the majestic Swartberg mountains with the wide Karoo sky reflected in the fresh water pool the words that floated through my head were ‘This is bliss. This is beauty’. And it is, both blissful and beautiful to stay at Numbi Valley as you sigh off the worries of the world and immerse yourself in the fresh air, the stillness and the incredible vistas of this secret valley in the Klein Karoo.

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Numbi Valley is an active permaculture farm growing fresh vegetables, fruit and olives and owners Kathryn and Ross are living out the off-grid, self sufficient dream so many of us secretly or silently harbour. The self catering cottage is a lovingly restored labourer’s cottage with beautiful finishes and touches from the bathroom in earthy tones of wood and stone to the African basketry, fresh flowers and very necessary large and warmly roaring hearth. We woke up to a world washed clean by a rare Karoo rain and explored the microcosms of diamonds and dew drops dangling from aloe, spekboom and acacia thorns, each globe reflecting the rounded hills surrounding us. The cottage is also completely off-grid, with sweet water fed from a natural spring and warmth and light from solar and fire, so rainy days call for a donkey fired hot shower, deliciously rewarding. Our days were spent cycling the quiet farm roads, exploring the diverse plants and succulents on the walking paths, taking the time to watch the complex scurryings of termites as they stocked up their nests and yes, blissfully suspended in a hammock in the boma allowing our eyes to soften and relax on the horizon.

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So not only did Numbi Valley tick all our boxes for beauty and bliss, it just felt so good that our weekend away was one where we could truly tread lightly on the earth. We ate organic greens freshly picked from the abundant veggie garden, saved our kitchen scraps for the farm chickens, played family games by the light of solar power and made our pizzas in the exquisitely sculptured outdoor oven with wood harvested sustainably on the farm. A feel good holiday of note, the only question that remains is, when are we going back?

To book your weekend away visit their Eco Atlas page for contact details.


Change Makers – Kathryn and Ross Eybers

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I asked them why they have chosen this way of life, what inspires them to do what they do. Ross replied with a smile, “Is there another way?” Kathryn explained that it’s because of the principles of permaculture, they don’t want to have any negative impacts and they want to multiply the positive impacts. When they bought the farm the land was dead, bulldozed and then intensely farmed with ostriches (one of the worst kinds of farming for nature and biodiversity, food for thought when ostrich meat is marketed as the healthy option…) There were barely any birds and the absence of frogs was deathly quiet. And slowly they started growing and bringing back the natural harmony and now there is abundant life. And that, in a nutshell, is why they do what they do, to create abundance.

Eco Tip 1 – When building a natural cob house it is best to not use lime in the internal plaster  mixture, it causes the walls to shed powder when you touch them, for the best and strongest finish use just pure red Karoo earth (in this instance).

Eco Tip 2 – There is a fantastic large fridge/freezer by Bauer on the market which runs really well on solar power, is affordable and is available at OK Furniture.

Eco Tip 3 – Poplar wood is great for rustic construction as the poles stay free from insect damage without any chemical treatment (plus you are removing alien trees!)



GIVEAWAY: 2 Nights for 2 People at Numbi Valley Self Catering Cottage

This is your chance to experience the beauty and the bliss for your self and it’s really easy to enter! I will draw and announce the winners next Friday the 14th August.

You will be able to choose any two nights before the end of November 2015 (subject to availability) and will need to make your own way to Numbi Valley Permaculture Farm, between Oudtshoorn and De Rust.

Here’s how you enter, good luck!

1. Like Numbi Valley’s Facebook page

2. Like the Eco Atlas Facebook Page

3. Like and share the post on Facebook and tag who you would love to take with to Numbi Valley.

(4. For an extra entry you can write in the blog comments below who you would love to take with you or Tweet @EcoAtlas)




In a very short space of time here in the beautiful South, and even as close to home as my own home town, there have been attacks and close encounters with apex predators both on land and sea. We know the stories, they have been well publicised or watched on YouTube repeatedly, from the death of the young American tourist at the Lion Park to the shark incident at the JBay Open surf contest this weekend past, from the old leopard being driven over repeatedly for grabbing a tourist’s arm to the two varsity students attacked by sharks in the space of two days here on the Garden Route. The rapid succession seems uncanny and, at the risk of anthropomorphising (and philosophising), I would say the king of the jungle and the great white of the seas seem angry, these predators at the top of the food chain appear to be in fight or flight mode, but have opted for fight, as any good predator would. The balance is out of kilter in their natural kingdom and it brings into question many things, but has really made me think how we as a country interact with our fellow wildlife, as well as the opportunities we create for tourists to interact with animals. After all, is that not one of the main reasons people come to South Africa? The land where wild animals roam free?

A rhino family roam free at Sibuya Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

A rhino family roam free at Sibuya Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

So then, what is a truly ethical animal encounter? We’ve had to face that very question in our home over the past few days with my nature loving son’s birthday on the horizon. He deeply wants a party with meaningful animal experiences but is super aware that many places will be out of bounds on principle. You see he has a tricky mom (that’s me) who won’t even let them get a hamster because it sets up the wrong relationship between child and animal from the outset, where the animal is constantly viewed behind bars, like that’s ok. And I don’t think it’s ok for animals to be behind bars, it objectifies and commodifies them and creates the false impression that we are different when in fact we are just one strand in this complex web of life. It also dulls our sense of empathy, the emotion at the crux of it all. The ideal way to have a meaningful experience is by viewing animals in their natural habitat from a respectful distance, in places where they are free to roam over large expanses and fulfill their natural rhythms. We are really lucky in South Africa because while it’s not always realistic to visit the last few places of true wilderness where animals are free and wild, there are many great reserves that are well managed and passionate about biodiversity, wildlife and the respect thereof. No matter how much we’d love to, we won’t be making it to one of those for my son’s birthday, so we have decided instead to take him to a  real raptor sanctuary.

An African Fish Eagle is released back into the wild by Dennis Robson of Radical Raptors.

A rehabilitated African Fish Eagle is released back into the wild by Dennis Robson of Radical Raptors.

Radical Raptors is for me a true animal sanctuary because they follow the principles of Rescue,  Rehabilitate and Release. They take in injured birds that have been hit by a car or broken a wing and facilitate their recovery in such a way that they can be successfully released back into the wild. Isn’t that beautiful and necessary? The birds that have been in captivity, or human imprinted or, for whatever reason, would not be  able to survive in the wild, are cared for with much love and their life journey is to instill a sense of wonder in the visitors who view their flight displays and are educated about these incredible birds of prey and the threats they face. Because if just one tourist from each group is touched by the beauty of these magnificent birds and inspired to not ever use rat poison again at home, that there is a meaningful animal encounter with long lived positive benefits for the birds of prey and wildlife back home, wherever home may be.


Children in awe of a magnificent eagle at Radical Raptors.

Children in awe of a magnificent eagle at Radical Raptors.

Eco Atlas does not support animal encounters which involve petting, riding, hunting or breeding of wild animals in captivity. Today (22 July 2015) sees the premiere of the documentary Blood Lions which aims to blow the lid on the canned lion hunting industry in South Africa and its links to cub petting facilities and the lion bone trade. Visit their site to find out how you can get involved.

Follow the hashtag #AnimalRightsInTourism to find other responsible tourism blogs posted on the topic today!


green annexe

I recently had the novel experience of trying out a low carbon stay in Cape Town’s city centre. Now cities and low impact are not usually synonymous, especially for a country girl like myself for whom a city embodies high input and high output of resources and consumerism. And yet, the densification of people and buildings certainly has its merits, as I soon discovered, because you are able to minimise your carbon footprint by using the most eco friendly mode of transport around, your own two feet! Saving time, money and well, a whole lot of carbon into the already burdened atmosphere.

I was lucky enough to stay at the Green Annexe, part of The Hollow on The Square, where every care has been taken to be a low impact hotel. It was built using recycled materials and has energy saving features such as double glazed windows, A-rated appliances, eco light fixtures and has a real organic feel compared to most hotels with its cork flooring, bamboo furniture and upcycled wooden picture frames. And isn’t it exciting that we have great innovations at our fingertips like saving on electricity by only allowing the lights and air conditioner to work when the hotel card key is inserted in the card slot, which makes sure guests don’t leave the room with everything blazing (that is if you absolutely HAVE to use the air conditioner). I think the lesson that can be learnt here is that luxury does not need to be lost when creating a green hotel experience.  On the contrary it makes the stay all the more real and feel good.

So there were no taxis, trains or traffic jams involved in my trip to Cape Town, I simply stepped out the door of the Green Annexe and walked 5 minutes through well treed squares and avenues to the international convention centre. And it felt so good! I also walked up through town for the most sublime ethical breakfast in the calm haven of Dear Me, but that story deserves a blog all of it’s own… So while Uber may have revolutionised the way we travel within foreign cities we must not forget that walking was the original and ultimate way to experience a city…and by far the best if you’re conscious of carbon.


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To search for this hotel or other eco friendly accommodation or activity options in South Africa, use the Eco Atlas search tool.



Here’s a dozen eco places to experience in Cape Town that will make living in and visiting the Mother City all the more diverse, real and feel good. After all, eco means ‘home’, in all its richness of people and life, and we only have this one home, so join us in exploring the spots that are doing what they do conscious of the positive footprints they’re leaving behind….



  Coffeebeans Routes will take you on storytelling journeys to experience the heart and soul of Cape Town. You’ll meet musicians, artists, poets, business women, spiritual leaders and plug in to the depth and diversity of perspective that makes up urban Africa.There are a wide range of tours to choose from… a Beer Route to an Art Route, a Jazz Safari to an Eco Adventure, Design, Fashion and Revolution Routes, all creating authentic experiences that live and breathe sustainable and responsible practices.




Township (1)-001  What better way to experience the city than on a bicycle. Good for you, good for the planet, good for climate change! Awol Tours provide bicycles for rent or guided tours through townships where you’ll get to visit and support small start up businesses and spend your money where it matters. Far better than experiencing the city in an air conditioned bus!





story1  Saucisse Boutique Deli in the Old Biscuit Mill is pioneering a movement, by living out that it is not difficult to make the transition to becoming green and adding ethical practices. The Eatery is a platform for local, artisanal produce to showcase their products, promoting the idea “Know your farmer,know your food”; it uses biodegradable packaging, as well as bio-friendly cleaning products. Did we mention that the food is fresh and good?

(All food wastage goes to the Haven Night Shelter in Observatory. )




swordfern on eco atlas

  And if you need your hair done or a bit of pampering then Swordfern Emporium is the place to go, a fresh and edgy hair and beauty salon in the old District 6 that oozes eco-consciousness. Swordfern thinks Nature and Hair should be treated the same, with respect and care. The Salon and its team promise to go the extra mile to ensure loving kindness to the Earth and clients alike with organic, vegan and cruelty free products. You may even find a good read in the book exchange…






  Greenpop is a social business dedicated to urban greening, reforestation, and eco-education. Greenpop believes sustainable living can be fun, popular, and accessible to all, and aims to inspire a ‘Treevolution’… an inclusive green movement. You can get involved by going to one of the fabulous and fun reforestation festivals, volunteering or visiting their very new second hand clothes hub.





Dear_Me_1_720_540_85auto_s_c1_top_center   Dear Me is deliciousness personified with such care taken to be healthy and ethical as you will see the moment you glance at the menu which has been so thoughtfully put together. A haven of clear freshness in the inner city with solid wood tables and a whole foods deli, a great place to go to up the feel good factor of your day.







  Uthando South Africa raises funds for community development projects in Cape Town. Uthando offers travel experiences and team building interactions to visit these incredible projects and shine a light on the remarkable people that are helping to build the country at a grass roots level. The experiences are authentic, meaningful, non-invasive, respectful and very importantly beneficial to the communities being visited.





IMG_6669 (1280x853)-400x0  The Little Green Box is an eco-friendly skincare clinic in a calm leafy corner of Constantia that believes in sustainable skincare for the future. They believe that taking care of your skin means understanding what you put onto it, which is why they only use local, natural and organic products. So if you feel like treating your self to a treatment that is both good for you and the planet then this is the place to go.





Gallery2  The Kitchen is a bustling eatery in the sophisticated hood of Woodstock. Famous for its array of Salads, Love Sandwiches and perfect treats, The Kitchen is an all-woman establishment, and draws a loyal community of locals and visitors from all over the world. They strive to source local products, provide patrons with organic options and make sure all their food waste is turned into compost gold.





bird 28-400x0  Ikhaya Garden believes in  ‘making gardening cool’. It’s about getting young people in touch with nature, producing organic food, planting trees and taking care of the earth. They run after-school, weekend and holidays programs working with children from the school as well as from the community. Why not get involved with their next planting day?






  Para-Taxi Tandem Paragliding offers a first class Tandem Paragliding experience where you can sit back in an ‘arm chair’ comfortably and enjoy spectacular views over Cape Town while the pilot guides you through the air. Nothing quite like paragliding for a bit of a fossil free, low carbon experience of the city’s beauty. They are deeply committed to responsible tourism and are Fair Trade certified. So what are you waiting for…take the leap!






  Hemporium is a South African hemp company dedicated to educating people about industrial hemp’s potential through the use of innovative products, while creating an awareness of all that hemp has to offer.Hemp fibre is stronger and more durable than cotton and is not grown with all the pesticides. So visit their shop on Long Street for eco friendly clothing, body products and high protein food supplements.





Feel empowered to leave positive footprints, make awesome memories and vote with your wallet by visiting the places that are walking the talk! If you know of more spread the eco love and recommend them here!


(And if you’re looking for a place to stay here’s a list of eco accommodation in Cape Town)




On my last visit to Durban, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day (and night) with Michelle and Mike from the Happy Hippo  at their colourful haven on Mahatma Gandhi Road. What an exciting couple to chat to, with their sparkling ideas and plans for the future of their Backpackers and Durban.

Here are five reasons why you should go pay them a visit on your next trip to Surf City.

  1. Location.

Happy Hippo is  just a short walk to Durban’s world famous Beachfront area.

Feel free to ask Michelle about the many budget activities for just under R50 by the promenade, enjoy some leisure time on the beach,  catch a bus or a minitaxi into the city, or rent a bicycle and ride along  and admire the Beachfront’s natural charm. Don’t miss the opportunity hop on one of the funky and colourful rickshaws for a ride, a uniquely Durban tradition that goes back to 1893.

Happy Hippo hosts The Globe – the roof terrace bar – which offers a great view, spectacular sunsets and urban integration by experiencing lively conversations with interesting locals and visitors from all over the world.

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe - rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe – rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris

  1. Great value for money with a personal touch.

Happy Hippo offers different accommodation options, from en-suite double rooms, twin and triple rooms to a wide variety of dorms, with four, five or six sleepers with en-suite or shared bathroom, great for group trips. The second floor provides ample space for leisure and privacy.



Enjoy some down-time in the relaxing lounge. ©David Peter Harris

Enjoy some down-time in the relaxing lounge. ©David Peter Harris

Cheerful lounge at Happy Hippo ©David Peter Harris

Cheerful lounge at Happy Hippo ©David Peter Harris

The colours of the walls reflect the colours of the South African flag, adding quirkiness to the bright open-plan communal space. ©David Peter Harris

The colours of the walls reflect the colours of the South African flag, adding quirkiness to the bright open-plan communal space. ©David Peter Harris


The communal kitchen has all the facilities needed and breakfast and dinners are available, with flexible and affordable menus whipped up daily by Etienne. “Three guests had to leave this morning at 6 am; I arranged their last breakfast in Durban on the terrace so they could watch the sun rising”, Etienne told me when I met him in the kitchen area.  That sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Guests can book meal options by signing in the book on the kitchen counter, easy as that.



Happy Hippo Accommodation has a kitchen where guests can cook and store food. Alternatively, they can write their name for a delicious and affordable home-made breakfast and dinner. ©David Peter Harris.

Happy Hippo Accommodation has a kitchen where guests can cook and store food. Alternatively, they can write their name for a delicious and affordable home-made breakfast and dinner. ©David Peter Harris.

  1. Authentic experience – Local is lekker.

Indaba, Umjondolo, Ndebele, Shosholoza, Babalas; I am not rambling, these are some of the room names. “Everything at Happy Hippo is about South Africa; each room has a different name that depicts a cultural aspect of our country. This creates conversations and hooks for cultural discoveries” says Michelle. We stayed in Lalapanzi, the Zulu word for “sleep tight”.


Room names reflect local culture. Photo courtesy of Happy Hippo Durban.

Room names reflect local culture. Photo courtesy of Happy Hippo Durban.

Room names reflect local culture. Photo courtesy of Happy Hippo Durban.

Room names reflect local culture. Photo courtesy of Happy Hippo Durban.


The communal lounge is spacious and open-plan, set in the colours of the South African flag. Everything at Happy Hippo raises awareness of linguistic and cultural aspects of the country, in a jovial and vibrant style. The Globe hosts Chilled Out Sundays, a Bring & Braai (bbq) paired with Cocktail specials, every Sunday afternoon from 2 pm.

Happy Hippo is about South Africa, enjoy the local experience Durban has been rated #7 top destinations to visit in 2015 ©David Peter Harris

Happy Hippo is about South Africa, enjoy the local experience Durban has been rated #7 top destinations to visit in 2015 ©David Peter Harris


  1. Staff

Welcoming, helpful and engaging, the staff at Happy Hippo is a tight knit crew, dedicated to making your stay a memorable one. With almost no staff turnover, Michelle and Mike strive to empower everyone who works with them, helping them to develop to their full potential. “Dumi started working here as a cleaning lady; she showed interest in working at the front desk and now she is one of our loving receptionists. This is what empowerment is, passing on knowledge and letting people fly with it” Michelle says.

This special bond is part of the atmosphere at Happy Hippo; while at the front desk I met a Belgian visitor who had been extending her stay for the last 6 weeks; when I greeted her, she sighed and said “I don’t want to leave.” Yes, it gets this infectious.


The lovely staff at Happy Hippo, Michelle, Zandi and Nomfundo. ©David Peter Harris.

The lovely staff at Happy Hippo, Michelle, Zandi and Nomfundo. ©David Peter Harris.

  1. Eco Hippo

Michelle and Mike have built the Backpackers on serious eco-friendly and planet-friendly ethics. Recycling is common practice in the kitchen, the establishment uses biodegradable products, and there are projects for Happy Hippo to become 100% solar powered and water efficient. Happy Hippo is very active in the communities and it spearheaded the very first Street Children World Cup in 2010.

City revival - Durban has been rated #7 top destinations to visit in 2015 ©David Peter Harris

City revival – Durban has been rated #7 top destinations to visit in 2015 ©David Peter Harris


The Happy Hippo has created a safe and vibrant space for travellers to explore the hidden gems of Durban, rated #7 top destination to visit in 2015 by the New York Times.  After our brief visit, it is no wonder that this Eco Establishment made it to the Best 25 Backpackers in SA.

Support Happy Hippo’s eco ethics; get in touch via their Eco Atlas page and make a booking the next time you plan to visit balmy Durban.