Tag Archive for: Garden Route

The smoke may have cleared, but now the rebuilding of lives begins….


We may have seemed a bit quiet here on the Eco Atlas front lately, but there has been the matter of some firestorms on the Garden Route. It was even on CNN. I think what so many found hard to assimilate is the concept of their holiday paradise burning. How can the Garden of Eden burn? Well actually the Garden of Eden forest didn’t burn because it’s thick indigenous forest which doesn’t naturally burn. But so very much did burn… people’s homes and animal habitats. Having said that about the forest though, we’ve actually been watching a circle of burnt forest grow and grow over the past 6 months as it slow burns underground through the drought dry roots spreading from tree to tree. So indigenous forest can slow burn in these drought conditions. But not like the alien invasive species and exotic plantations of pine, wattle and bluegum, they take burning to a whole other level, literally, quite a few stories higher as anyone who witnessed the flames here will tell you. It’s a wall of fire. And as for the fynbos, well that’s meant to burn every 15 years or so to germinate the seeds and clear the woody old growth. But it burns through fynbos like a flash fire, fast and not too hot so that the creatures who play a part in the life cycle of regeneration after fire can survive.


So we really were the proverbial canaries in the coal mine when our home fell in the path of a firestorm that came out of nowhere on a hot and dry north westerly gusting day 4 months ago. Not quite out of nowhere though, because while there was no smoke when I left home to pick up the children from school, there had been a smouldering fire in the alien stands of trees for weeks which was very tricky for the firefighters to quell due to the density of the trees and the fact that it burns underground. It didn’t matter that we had no alien invasives on our property, once the fire is fuelled by wattle and gum and chooses a path with the wind there is no stopping it.
And now we are joined by so many more climate change refugees here on the Garden Route, statistically it is uncanny how many of my circle of friends have lost their homes to fire, we can literally have a dinner gathering and every single person there will have lost their home. Normal is not part of the equation anymore. And while we plot and plan the rebuild of our home which is soon to begin (and we will document the process for those that need to follow to see how a truly eco, sustainable, efficient and climate resilient home can rise from the blank slate of ashes, watch this space) there are so many who still have a lot to process and a long journey ahead before they have the sanctuary of their own home again.

There were countless questions of how you can help, here is a list of ways to take action:

  • Donate to the following disaster relief, rebuild or animal welfare funds:

knysna donations Plett Fire Donations Final mine

  • Donate to an individual family who needs to rebuild their home, there is a very long list of families to help listed here. You can also have a look at Ana and Gareth, the Reitz family, Erez and Louisa, Peter and Gabriella, James Wolfaardt, Paul and Magic, Gilan and Jos, The Heartland School of Self Sufficiency to mention just a few that I know of or have helped set up. There are many many more families needing support, especially those without insurance, so have a look on the BackaBuddy site.
  • Donate to a group fund for Plett that will focus on the rehabilitation of injured firemen and ensuring the firefighters are properly equipped to fight more fires and any overflow will go to those who have lost their homes.
  • Donate to a group fund for Knysna that will focus on the rebuilding of homes.
  • Read up on the effects of runaway pines and other invasive aliens on water catchment and fires in the future. Then make your voice heard to your local and national leaders to ensure that this problem is nipped in the bud. Literally.
  • Remove alien invasives from your own properties especially those with a high fire risk such as pine, eucalyptus and wattle and replant with trees and shrubs indigenous to your area. Motivate your neighbours and any government or SANRAL owned land to do the same.
  • Get involved with the active reforestation of the area with The Precious Tree Project, email them on 1000precioustrees@gmail.com if you would like to donate trees. The Green Ticket is another organisation that focusses on reforestation of the Garden Route.
  • Donate to other animal welfare groups besides KAWS and PAWS who are also focussing on fire relief for domestic and wild animals. Moya Animal Outreach, Knysna Vet, Bitou Horse Welfare.
  • Or help with your skills, if you have knowledge of insurance then assist those who have it through the quagmire to make sure they are treated fairly, if you have skills in sustainable building or reforestation make yourself known and help rebuild the Garden Route. Contact Knysna Fire page or Plett Fire page to offer up your services.

Losing your home and your sanctuary and seeing the green of the garden blackened is like having the world pulled out from underneath you. And while fires are a natural part of ecosystems we need to recognise that human activities have impacted on their ferocity due to our affect on the climate and the naturally resilient systems. This is our chance to do things differently and to emerge Stronger, Greener and Better for a future in which we need to be resilient to constant change. How will you be taking action?

P.S. Look at how people came together through the fires, imagine what else we are capable of…

flowers from the ashes WhatsApp Image 2017-06-28 at 15.47.58


For every star on their five star rating, the folks at Fynbos Ridge have also made an effort to give you a first class, eco-conscious experience. It’s so seamlessly integrated; you may not notice it against the luxury finishes, fine gardens and delicious fare, so here are 5 reasons for the eco warrior to stay at Fynbos Ridge Country House and Cottages in Plett:


  1. Accessible. Country stays often entail interesting and unusual dirt roads better suited to trucks and SUVs. Fynbos Ridge is a Garden Route wonder just a few minutes from the N2, on a well-maintained level dirt road that your tyres will flow over smoothly. When you’ve been led through the bundus (bush) by Waze and Google Maps against your will and intention, this is a relief.  But more than this, a well-kept country road means less low-gear driving, which means less fuel emissions on your eco mission.
  2. Personable. The personal touch is felt from the moment you arrive through every interaction and long after you’ve left. The proprietors are hands-on folk, gentle, focused and attentive. This may not sound like an eco-aspect, but with eco consciousness still at grassroots level in South Africa, individual effort is key to its growth, and being in the company of those who care is a wonderful way to participate. Ask Liz and Brian about their relationship with the local baboons, their recommendation for good food in the area, and how they have become a certified carbon neutral establishment. They have much love for what they do, and how they do it.Fynbos-Ridge-PLETT-(3)
  3. What footprint? We all have one. Five star establishments especially. This particular guest house, however, has made concerted efforts to neutralise theirs and embrace the green revolution that is sweeping the hospitality industry (link to responsible tourism eco page or a list of relevant listing of hospitality establishments in the Western Cape). They do this with annual tree-planting that you can be part of.
  4. Unusual community. Meet your new best friends, Riley and Ruby. They are the two hairy hogs that you’ll discover foraging and frolicking around the grounds. They are part of the Fynbos Ridge family, respected, respectable, clean and cute. Apparently they’re also a rather small breed, though they easily reach a lady’s knees. It’s great to see intelligent domestic animals included in the eco system here and there’s no doubt that their hooves and snouts do as much for the undergrowth as their droppings and nibblings do.
  5. Excellent eco choices. Discerning travellers will appreciate that they hold a TripAdvisor Certificate Of Excellence for 2014, but Fynbos Ridge is also careful to cater to the future in their five star establishment. Their efforts to reduce their and your impact on the environment include: biodegradable cleaning products, solar heating, recycling, integrating indigenous plant life, bio-friendly sewage treatment, burning schedules and alien plant removal to restore the property to its natural state.

So if you’re on a business trip in Plett or Knysna, attending one of the amazing festivals in the area or taking a well-deserved luxury break, it’s good to know that you can do it with a clearer conscience, and still get your golf on, and play a little polo while you’re at it!

If you’d like to read more about their eco choices, the accommodation or make a booking, visit their Eco Atlas page.

Effort and elegance make a more sustainable holiday stay in Plettenberg Bay



When I decorate my home, I’ll base it on Stone Cottage’s “eclectic elegance”.  Colourful but never cluttered, rustic but never rusty, its balance of antique and contemporary makes it a self-catered space that has everything you need – including hot water bottles.


Place this on a hill just seconds from central Plettenberg Bay and minutes from the ocean, and you’ve got a small-town holiday home that beautifully blends location, decoration and consideration for the environment.


We arrived tired and wired from a long, hot, slow drive through the Eastern Cape. It was dusk, and Dimi was waiting, gently, quietly, full of fun and good ideas. One of them was Old Nick’s fresh produce market the next day, and another was the Jacuzzi, warmed and watery.


Don’t tell our parents, but Emma and I sank into its gently humming depths in the pouring rain. It’s treated with biodegradable products and, when refilled, feeds their organic veggie garden adjacent. Guests are invited to forage in this little food forest by a board in the kitchen that tells you which plants are ready for harvesting. Dimi will also personally source organic, locally produced foods and goods for you.



“I try to plan my trips so that I can walk as much as possible,” she says, aware of how easy it is to forget the hefty carbon footprint of a quick drive to the shop.  A strong sense of involvement at Stone Cottage is a great inspiration for greener living at home.


Bins are provided for all recyclable goods, including the ones less often reused, like single-use soft plastics. These are repurposed into Wish Brix (aka Eco Bricks) used to build low-cost, recycled structures in development projects around South Africa.  Stone Cottage asks you to put your solar-powered, Consol jar  night lights out on the immense balcony to recharge during the day (and save electricity at night), and points out that your organic waste feeds their worm farm.


Other considerations include a deep, double sink that is hard to fill up with dirty dishes and a range of comfy cushions that are as colourful as they are comfortable. Your afternoon reading session will definitely morph into a napping marathon with them around.



Sleeping to the sound of the ocean at night is amazing, and the gentle hum of the town during the day is great for guests who like to feel connected to urban energy whilst taking time out. The bed is sublime; I am sure I snored.

TIP : Grab some mint from the garden and add to just-boiled water for the freshest morning tea in town.

Read more about Stone Cottage’s eco and ethical choices on their Eco Atlas webpage and why not write a review if you’ve been, you could win one of three fabulous eco friendly hampers for body or home! All the #EcoFeelGood Competition details are here.




holiday guide

Here is a useful guide to making your holiday in Plett all the more mindful with practical tips on finding places to eat, shop and play that are good for both people and the planet…


Eating out….

If you are looking for restaurants that will serve you up truly delicious free range eggs for your breakfast or meal have a look here

If you’ll only eat chicken when you know it’s free range, these are the restaurants to visit

And if organic greens are your thing this is where you should go, or if you’re more specifically looking for organic vegan places to eat out, click here

For a general perusal of restaurants in Plett that have factored in people & planet friendly practices have a look here


Getting Active…

Why not go for an eco friendly kayak on the ocean, take a short or long guided hike through nature, explore the birding routes, go on an untouched adventure or an unforgettable kloofing experience?

And if you’re looking for Fair Trade certified activities then this is the place to look


Shopping local…

If you’re passionate about buying local, fresh, organic and free range, then this is the market to visit. Or if you’re up for a Saturday adventure then take a short drive to this fabulous farmer’s market.

And if you miss the market days then this is the farm stall to visit or you could get fresh greens directly from this organic farm

You could even have fresh farm produce from the area delivered to your doorstep!

Some of the greatest exports from Plett are these locally made biodegradable cleaning products,  or these exquisite skincare products, all natural and not tested on animals, of course! Stock up while you’re here. Or support a fantastic community project making shwe-shwe hotboxes that will cook your food while you’re on the beach, find where to get them here



Recycling is actively happening in Plett, you’ll see the new drop off points on Marine Drive and on the Piesang River, but they’ll even pick up your recycling from your holiday home! Simply put all your clean recyclables (paper, plastic, tin and glass) in a clear bag outside, the day after your usual rubbish collection day. And voila, you can give all those holiday champagne bottles a new life!

Oh and speaking of champagne you’ll need the local variety, or visit this new tasting room to try out the full spectrum of locally produced wines (and craft beers from the Cape).


 Footprints in the sand…

Breathe deep on the fresh sea air, stretch your sun kissed body, up the feel good factor of your holiday and leave only your footprints in the sand, taking with you memories of magical moments….


(If you have a fantastic experience at any of the above eco ethical hotspots why not share the love and rate & review them? Or grow the planet friendly list and recommend a place that you think should be in the limelight)


The secret of the Garden Route is its surprises. Hanois Crescent winds up the side of a Plett hill that appears fairly ordinary and urban. Getting out at number 45 is a point of departure as well as arrival. You know that wands are made from trees, right? Maybe that explains the magic …


Winding down wooden steps, I came to a bright doorway that suggested a Bauhaus for hobbits: clean, cute and classy. It opened to a ‘reception’  that felt more like a huge tree house that blends dining room, kitchen, patio and bush. A cascade of creativity and nature and optimal use of space: that’s Feo Sachs’ touch. He’s the resident architect responsible for every building in the spell or, rather, dell. Entire walls of glass and clever angles lend each separate building grandeur and nature in equal proportions. It’s mesmerising. And perfect for guests with dogs as TreeHaven is pet friendly.


After introductions, Feo’s wife, Carol, whisked me off on a maze of lush pathways snaking through dappled milkwood and wild olive boughs.  On the way I met worms with their own farm. “Vermiculture” said the artist slash tour guide, “we give them all our organic waste, and I feed all my plants with their juice and encourage my staff to sell it for extra cash.” The ingenuity and generosity of a good person with a natural plan still curls through my mind with the paths, like the lines in her paintings. You’ll see them spotted around the dwellings, celebrating life.


For a change of mood from your own balcony or view, take a walk around the garden and find the little bench amongst the jasmine bushes and you’ll understand why the proprietors think of it as their own private biome.


The studio I stayed in is a corner of paradise replete with nesting Loeries and a north-facing patio that tracks the sun season in, season out.


Immersed in natural isolation despite having neighbours nearby, I didn’t leave for the rest of the day, though the beach was calling and the weather near perfect.


When strains of Carol and Feo’s classical music faded, I tuned in to a myriad of other winged ones singing the song of a sunny afternoon in a private idyll. By nightfall, the frogs sang too, and sleep was deep.


Tip  : use insect repellent. Big mozzies from the bullrushes below.

To find out more about their Eco Choices or make a booking, visit the Treehaven page on Eco Atlas.

eggsWe all know the benefits of choosing free range eggs, for ourselves, for the planet and of course for the chickens sparing us their eggs for breakfast! And if you want to throw in climate change as well, I was interested to learn at the Africa Climate Reality with Al Gore earlier this year, that factory farming is one of the greatest contributors to the global warming phenomenon. Eeek, solutions please!

So, who wants to miss out on a yummy breakfast (that you don’t have to cook for yourself!) because you’re not sure of the origin of the eggs! You don’t have to, here is a list of ten South African eateries who are committed to serving free range eggs. Do you know of one that’s not on the list? Share the love and recommend them on Eco Atlas, click here. Or, even better! Take a selfie at the restaurants and share them with the #iLoveECO competition and you could win a luxury weekend for 2 at an eco star lodge in the Drakensberg (where, of course, your breakfast eggs will be truly free range!)


bramonBramon is the only Wine Estate Restaurant slap bang in the middle of The Garden Route! Enjoy an afternoon of local wines, cheeses, oysters, meats, pates and more all served with freshly baked homemade breads and polished off with a decadent dessert. Set in the vineyards and overlooking the Tsitsikamma mountains, this family run estate offers organoleptic fare for the entire family. Besides serving free range eggs they have made many other ethical commitments. Find out more.



dear meDear Me is a brasserie, pantry and event space in Cape Town CBD. They are committed to using local, ethical and sustainable produce as far as possible. They also accommodate many specific dietary requirements, such as vegans, food intolerances and allergies. Their menu changes on a regular basis and showcases artisanal methods & produce. Dear Me is committed to serving free-range meat & eggs, and only use sustainable seafood as well as Fair Trade coffee and chocolate. Could it get any better? Find out more.



fynbos estateNatural beauty and outstanding cuisine combine to make Fynbos Estate near Malmesbury an ideal venue for all kinds of gatherings and celebrations, as well as workshops and retreats. Fynbos Estate caters for up to 20 people in the farmhouse and up to 90 in the Pavilion. They use all their own vegetables, seasonal fruits, fresh fish and free range birds, as well as farm sourced meats. The small winery runs on organic principles, the olive, honey and lemon products are also all organic. Find out more.



grand cafeGrand Café in Plett, for alfresco dining in a grand style! They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a unique style and magnificent views of the bay . They strive to follow as many green initiatives as possible to minimise their carbon footprint and to help create awareness to preserve the planet for future generations to come. Find out more.




la cafeteriaLa Cafeteria is a cool & casual eatery situated on Plett’s main beach. They offer a simple menu of breakfast and lunch with focus on quality and freshness. You have to try their thin based pizza smothered in rocket! They also serve Fair Trade coffee. Find out more.




le fournil2Le Fournil de Plett, Bakery and Café offers a wide variety of slow-risen artisan breads baked daily using organic stone ground flour, as well as pastries, desserts and croissants. They use fresh, simple and local ingredients wherever they can and their almond croissants are to die for. Find out more.





the kitchen2The Kitchen is a bustling eatery in Woodstock, Cape Town. Open during the week, they serve their legendary Love Sandwiches (possibly the best sandwich you will ever have), a host of exciting salads and all manner of delicious things for coffee or lunch. They are particularly proud of their salads. They are fresh and unusual and excite their loyal customers with new, fresh flavours daily. They are committed to sourcing local products wherever possible and many of their ingredients are organically grown. Find out more.



the tableThe Table Restaurant is all about simple food with serious taste. Everything they make from their thin-based, crispy pizzas, handmade pastas and signature dishes, to their lunchtime  Harvest Table, is lovingly prepared using only the freshest ingredients for a whole lot of yum. Simple, warm and modern – a place for families, friends & foodies alike. They use salad ingredients from their own veggie garden when in season and otherwise support local growers. Gluten free pastas and pizzas are also available. Find out more.



thyme and againThyme & Again on the Garden Route offers its customers a variety of scrumptious savoury and sweet home-made delights from its very own bakery as well as carefully selected, local delicacies and an excellent collection of fine wines mainly from the Western Cape. You can browse around the farm stall or relax in the garden cafe whilst enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee, accompanied by their treats or home-cooked meals. Kids can explore the magical castle and furry friends are most welcome too! Find out more.



holaHola Café in Plettenberg Bay is a friendly family-run business and a great local hub with a Spanish flair. They are famous for their gourmet coffee and they cater for those in a rush with mobile coffees to take away. Delicious health and freshly squeezed juices are available and kids and dogs are welcome. Find out more.




Know of any more great green restaurants serving ethical produce? Suggest them here.