Tag Archive for: responsible tourism

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. www.bloodlions.org

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.


green annexe eco atlas


hollow on the square eco atlas


green annexe cape town


eco accommodation cape town



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)




Iain Harris, Founder and Creative Director of Coffeebeans Routes at its Headquarters, Cape Town Creative Emporium ©David Peter Harris

Iain Harris, Founder and Creative Director of Coffeebeans Routes at its Headquarters, Cape Town Creative Emporium ©David Peter Harris


Coffeebeans Routes, gold winner in the category Best for Engaging People and Culture in the African Responsible Tourism Awards, is a cultural tour operator  that provides collections of stories. “When it comes to stories, we are the most equal, but they also provide ground to turn the tables on traditional assumptions  – Coffeebeans Routes is the connection between disempowered communities that are excited to share their stories, and international and local travellers hungry for narratives”, Iain Harris, Founder and Creative Director, tells us when we met him at CR Headquarters, home to Cape Town Creative Emporium.

“Why do I believe what I do makes a difference to the world? I get to hear stories that open my world in amazing ways, I feel very privileged to have this access. There is a financial benefit to it, as Coffebeans Routes offers a formalized structure with remuneration for the storytellers that values stories above everything else. There is a cultural element to it too; coming out of an economy of silence, the audience is interested, and  has warm welcoming ears  to stories in an environment where people are not usually listened to. What comes out of it is not only a financial benefit for the story tellers, but great affirmation, and this is shown by the terrific response we get from them [story tellers].”

Golden Team: Iain Harris, Natasha Moses and Kabelo Michael Letlala ©David Peter Harris

Golden Team: Iain Harris, Natasha Moses and Kabelo Michael Letlala ©David Peter Harris

“There is no sustainability without social justice. No matter what green interventions we put in place, they will not work unless society becomes socially and culturally equal. The starting point is asking yourself “How do we treat each other?”. This is also an angle that makes you see things differently, why people act the way they do. If your work is geared towards challenging and undoing inequalities through your business ethos, then you’re at a good point. After that we can look at practical interventions, like recycling and reducing. They can happen in parallel, but the one can’t happen without the other. “

Coffeebeans Routes has teamed up with Africa is a Country to present a concert series in Cape Town on the last Thursday of every month, kicking off on June 25th 2015 with Loit Sols & Churchill Naude. If you are not in the area, tune in to Africa is a Country where concerts will be live streamed. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover some of the most precious musical gems in the Mother City.

Read more on Coffeebeans Routes, make contact and book a tour via their Eco Atlas page.


It’s my habit, when in foreign restaurants, to close my eyes and point at anything on the menu. It takes care of my illiteracy, and doesn’t take the mystery out of the meal. Of course, it works better for omnivores with tough stomachs, and I no longer qualify in that department. Eating out isn’t easy for plant-based junkies. Salads are swathed in cheese, and veg thai curry is infused, unannounced, with fish sauce. I usually go for fries as a compromise and hope that my arteries will forgive the needs of my gut and conscience. How wonderful, then, to eat at a local restaurant in Cape Town where I can do the same and know that everything is safe.

This animal-friendly eatery in the centre of town is as clean-looking as it is clean-living, replete with its own vertical garden. Earth-loving patrons will also love its green contribution, as the establishment uses no meat or animal products at all.  It’s got a feather-light carbon footprint compared to the other eco sink-holes in the city.

Maybe I should have used the finger trick to choose : with so many options, FOMO kicked in. The menu is packed with an array of dishes for all dining moods. ‘You can just come back again’ I reminded myself.





After a starter round of red latte with almond milk (me) and miso soup for my date, I almost went for what I suspect is the house favourite (and is certainly my dinner mate’s favourite) but it didn’t make sense for us to have the same meal. Mine was a mild mushroom and spinach lasagne with a creamy butternut white sauce that appeared too big to finish, but fitted well in my tummy and even left a little room for dessert. My date raised his eyebrows when his mains arrived and said, ‘Dayyim. Now THIS is meat.’ Mushroom burgers maketh man, it seems; the man opposite me, the men in the street passing by and giving his burger the hungry eye while he made rather suggestive sounds (and I don’t mean chewing with his mouth open).

Tam, the manager, had kindly kept sweet treats aside for us. A chocolate brownie and a raw cake that melts in the mouth with hints of berries proved that there’s no need to feel left out when you don’t eat butter or dairy.

If you prefer good (healthy, delicious, vegan) food, and you love the earth, take a trip to Plant Cafe in the Mother City. Even better if you arrive on a bicycle!

If you think Plant Cafe should be featured on Eco Atlas for their eco ethics then recommend them here!





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