Tag Archive for: green accommodation

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…

maarten Groos of Farm 215


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?

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.



It takes hard work and vision to build a world that works

Getting lost in Cintsa is as easy as pronouncing its name is not – “Tsk”-IN-t-SAH. Along the way, you’ll see marvellous aberrations, I mean adaptations of the word on road signs advertising everything from trees to beer. Very entertaining.  Maybe that’s why I struggled to find it.  Maybe it was Google Maps’ crowd-sourced content or the receptionist’s colourful directions. It definitely doesn’t matter; I’m not the first to get lost in the sticks and I won’t be the last to look upon this piece of the Eastern Cape coastline with wonder.


Pulling in to Buccaneers in time for a delicious dinner, I dined with the co-owner, Sean Price, a marvellously incisive and passionate man who approaches his work responsibly and efficiently.


Going greener is ideal, but easier in some ways than in others and small businesses have a big challenge here. Growing herbs and harvesting rainwater –  which they do – is not quite as complicated (or as expensive) as going off-grid, which they’d like to do. For any existing tourism and hospitality business to serve both the law and the land, this usually means major changes to existing infrastructure and a significant investment in appropriate alternative energy. Speaking of which, Buccaneers is busy changing its garbage disposal process in alignment with new regulations. “We manage ALL our waste ourselves,” Sean pointed out before outlining how they are continuing their existing commitment by upgrading their processes at their own expense. Buccaneers is also Fair Trade Certified since 2010 and believes that business can be an instrument of change as long as it’s economically viable.  The question of whether business can, by itself, afford to invest in the gamut of sustainable solutions still sits in my mind next to the question of whether we can afford not to as a species. I left the dining room deep in thought.


My home for the night was a stylish wooden house on stilts called Biko. I’m glad my host did him justice by giving me a lot to think about and that the finishes were clean and fine to calm me. In that little palace with its wonderful view of the river opening out into the ocean, I pondered the balance of things in the company of complimentary beach towels, polished floors, and a beautiful shower. Would I give aspects of this up for Mother Nature? Would I need to if products and services that serve the earth were cheaper? Can the consumer subsidise this, or must government?  Having failed to solve the problem of this aspect of the human condition in one evening, I went to sleep with the song of the ocean wafting up through the windows.


Tip : get up extra early for spectacular sunrises.

To find out more about the social and environmental priorities focussed on at Buccaneers, visit their page on Eco Atlas.

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.

Ever been to a restaurant or guest house and wondered what happens behind the scenes? Are your breakfast eggs free range or is your special bottle of red wine going to be recycled when you leave? Wouldn’t it be nice to kick back, enjoy your freshly grown salad and sip on your glass of Chardonnay feeling assured that the establishment you are visiting has practices in place that are good for people and planet? A new concept in conscious consumerism has emerged which allows you to find out just that, and more.

Eco Atlas is a pioneering online directory which empowers you to make ethical and environmental choices when choosing where to eat, where to stay and what to buy. It marks a move towards a more consumer driven market. Through a series of twenty clear eco icons called Eco Choices you will be able to see at a glance which places are recycling, serving sustainable fish or empowering their staff, enabling you to make informed decisions about which places, products and services to support, with a conscience. The unique search function also enables you to source locally produced and earth-friendly products.

This new directory is the first of its kind in the country in that it provides consumers with both the socially and environmentally ethical achievements of places and highlights businesses that are making a difference. The website features accommodation, restaurants, outdoor activities and goods providers. Featured places include a full spread of photos, write-ups, maps and of course their full list of eco ethical practices. Importantly, you as the visitor are able to review the places online and give them an eco rating based on your experiences. There are so many people and places creating positive change and walking the ethical talk in our remarkable country and Eco Atlas provides you with the map to find them.

Rhian Berning, Eco Atlas founder says, ‘If you want to change the world, start with your wallet and change the places you visit and support. We so often underestimate our power as consumers, but we are in fact extremely powerful.’

So, you may well be asking, where are these places and how can we find them and start putting our money where our hearts are? Well, all the information is available online, but let’s have a little explore and discover some gems.

Bartholomeus Klip Farmhouse is a charming small hotel for only 16 guests on a working wheat and sheep farm just over an hour away from Cape Town – ideally situated for exploring the winelands. There is a 4000 hectare fynbos nature reserve, with a spectacular backdrop of mountains, to be explored on game drives or by mountain bike, and beautiful gardens. The food is renowned, with lavish brunches and high teas, and a gourmet three-course dinner. Ah, but what of their eco and ethical practices? Well, you can enjoy the sumptuous food secure in the knowledge that much of the produce is organically or locally grown, the meat is from predator friendly farms and nothing will be wasted, the worm farms process all organic leftovers into rich compost for the gardens. In terms of resource use there are water saving and energy saving practices in place as well as  solar geysers for both guests and staff. Not only that, but Bartholomeus Klip is also Fair Trade accredited, an international stamp of approval for responsible travel. And it doesn’t stop there, the farm is also recognised with the Biodiversity Eco Choice for its management of the one of the largest remaining tracts of the rare Swartland Alluvial Fynbos and Renosterveld plant communities, and includes the largest remaining habitat of the geometric tortoise – the world’s second most endangered tortoise. So have you booked in yet?

Next stop, how about a truly real experience for both locals and travellers? AWOL Tours offer bicycle township tours on recycled bicycles. The tour allows guests to interact and engage with the local community from the bicycle seat rather than from an air conditioned bus. It has a profound influence on stimulating the local economy when visitors support the small businesses, also fostering improved relationships and creating a personal insight into how local urban South Africans live. Besides the obvious health and environmental benefits of cycling, AWOL Tours are also Fair Trade accredited and provide ethical choices by visiting wine farms that are members of the ‘Biodiversity Wine Initiative’. This is an outdoor activity that you can feel good about from your head to the tip of your cycling toes.

Back in the MotherCity where can you eat out with a conscience? There are many restaurants that have joined the slow food movement and have shifted to serving organic. The Kitchen is a bustling eatery on Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, renowned for their legendary Love Sandwich and a host of fresh and unusual salads. Owner Karen Dudley has made a point of providing free range and organic options and is passionate about supporting local suppliers and the empowerment of women staff. And even in Woodstock your leftovers will be transformed into liquid gold by the hardworking earthworms!

If we are to go by the billion dollar online behemoth that is TripAdvisor, a study they did last year stated that 71% of people surveyed would make environmentally friendly choices this year. But without the relevant info how can they make the choices! Put the power of choice back in your hands and become informed about where you choose to eat, play and stay by using tools such as Eco Atlas and the Fair Trade website. And don’t forget the clout you have as a consumer, simply ask all the questions you would like the answers to. And then, put your money where your heart is. www.ecoatlas.co.za