There are many camps and lodges that consider themselves ‘ecolodges’ – but there are some who take this more seriously than others. These six, thoughtful ecolodges offer an incredible, meaningful experience of a destination whilst minimising their guests’ footprint on the planet.
Though there is a spate of new openings in Namibia, Wolwedans has been a staunchly sustainable luxury camp in this stunning desert country for over 15 years. Wolwedans Private Game Reserve is in the NamibRand Nature Reserve in southern Namibia, surrounded by dunes and ancient desert. Wolwedans’ camps have been constructed in an eco-friendly design, with a low-footprint that involves no concrete, just canvas, poles and elevated wooden decking. They have also invested in a solar hybrid system and solar-powered fridges.
Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya
Co-owned by the local Masai community, Campi ya Kanzi is in the Chyulu Hills region of southern Kenya. The lodge is 100% carbon neutral and run by solar power. Local materials were used in the construction of the lodge, with zero trees removed from the landscape. They recycle grey water and collect rainwater, which accounts for all their water needs. Food waste is recycled as compost in their organic vegetable garden and meals are cooked with an eco-friendly charcoal made from coffee husks: by-products from coffee farming. Other waste is recycled where possible and the rest incinerated in a UN-recommended incinerator.
Chumbe Island, Tanzania
Six kilometres from the main Zanzibar island, Chumbe Island Coral Park is an award-winning, private nature reserve founded in 1991 as the country’s first marine national park. The lodge is entirely sustainable, with thatched bungalows, the roofs designed to collect rainwater used in the bathrooms, solar power, and composting toilets. This is one of the original ecolodges, opened long before ecotourism and sustainability became fashionable. Due to the protected water around the island, you will find an ocean sanctuary right off the beach: 90% of East Africa’s hard coral species are found here, alongside over 400 reef fish species and both hawksbill and green turtles.
Sindabezi Island, Zambia
A private island in the Zambezi River, Sindabezi Island is a short journey from ‘the smoke that thunders’: Victoria Falls. The island is home to just five open-sided thatched chalets made of sustainably-sourced wood. They recycle their grey water and use recycled wood chips and solar power for their energy needs. As there is no electricity on the island, evenings are lit by candles.
Mumbo Island Camp, Malawi
On the shores of Lake Malawi, Mumbo Island Camp is an off-grid retreat that takes sustainability very seriously. There is no electricity, so lighting is provided by solar and paraffin lamps. The toilets are dry composting and there are hot bucket showers. The camp has been constructed with thatch, timber and canvas, with grass mats and cane furnishings made locally. Mumbo Island prides itself on doing as much maintenance and upkeep in the local village as possible, and reusing and recycling – for instance, when re-covering their cushions, they asked the local tailor to use whatever material was still in good condition to make clothes for the orphans of Chembe Village.
Mwaleshi Camp, Zambia
A camp in Zambia’s remote North Luangwa National Park, Mwaleshi Camp is on the banks of the Mwaleshi River. Every year, the four thatched chalets are rebuilt for the season, which runs from 15 June until 31 October. The camp is made of polished mud and thatched palm, all put together by local teams, and whole operation is solar-powered. Walking safaris are the only activities available here, further adding to this seasonal camp’s eco credentials.