Holidays that make a difference

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Sun setting over the Spier Wine Estate vineyards – pic Spier Wine Estate ©

This is done by growing awareness about responsible tourism to travellers; assisting tourism businesses to operate more sustainably; and by facilitating a Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) certification programme across southern Africa. By selecting an FTT – certified business, travellers are not only assured that their holiday benefits local communities and economies, and that the business is operated ethically and in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, but they will also have a more fulfilling holiday experience.

The responsible tourism ethic at SPIER, a 5-Star hotel on Spier Wine Estate, is exemplary, which is probably why it was one of the very first businesses certified by FTT. It has a comprehensive strategy to achieve triple-bottom-line sustainability targets (including carbon emissions, water and waste management, energy use and poverty eradication) that are ambitiously addressed and then documented for public reference on their website. www.spier.co.za

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Outdoor experiences at Three Trees at Spionkop – pic Three Trees at Spionkop / FTT©

THREE TREES AT SPIONKOP, a lodge in the KZN battlefields, has comprehensive procedures and systems in place to reduce energy use (including a solar oven!) and to manage waste responsibly. To maximise the positive impact of their environmentally sensitive measures, all Three Tree staff receives sustainability induction training, raising awareness about lessons that can also be applied in their homes and communities. They also concentrate on maximising the benefits to the local area by purchasing most goods locally and being actively involved in community fundraising and training. www.threetreehill.co.za

MASHO

Authentic cultural experiences at Mashovhela Lodge – pic Mashovhela Lodge / FTT ©

MASHOVHELA LODGE is an eco-friendly lodge, located in the Morning Sun Nature Reserve. The beautiful Morning Sun Nature Reserve in Limpopo is a Natural Heritage Site and ideal for bush retreats in comfort. Tucked away in the malaria-free Soutpansberg Mountains, guests can see wildlife and explore this magnificent area which is rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage. This area is the home of the Venda people and has a fascinating history. Lodge guests can enjoy wonderful bush walks and 4×4 drives with a Venda guide, and discover the myths and legends surrounding the sacred forests and hidden lakes. The name of the lodge is taken from scenic Mashovhela rock pool, an ancient site and hallowed ground in Venda folk lore. www.mashovhela.com 

A hotel group under the global Accor brand, MERCURE HOTEL’s company-wide policy of “People, Planet, and Profit” reflects the triple-bottom-line of sustainability and is reinforced by their commitment to HIV/AIDS education and being a signatory to The Code of Conduct against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism. Comprehensive policies and practices are in place to minimise impacts related to water, energy and waste. Mercure Hotels are located in Johannesburg, Gauteng and Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. www.mercure.com 

JAN HARMSGAT COUNTRY HOUSE is a stunning CapeDutch country house in the hills of the Little Karoo / wine lands is very active in ensuring local staff are given every opportunity to develop their skills and advance to new roles within the business. The business supports other small local business and community projects to further advance its positive socio-economic impact.  www.jhghouse.com

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Watching (and being watched by) the Meercats at De Zeekoe Guest Farm – pic De Zeekoe Guest Farm / FTT ©

DE ZEEKOE GUEST FARM employs and gives housing to 20 families on the farm. They aim to positively raise the standard of living and uplift the local community on an on-going basis. Generations of employees and their children have been educated by Zeekoegat Primary. Zeekoegat Primary currently schools 120 primary children and 90 pre-primary children. Due to the bad conditions of the current school building (it has become unsafe and unstable), the Zeekoegat Primary School Trust is in the process of building a new school for the local community. www.dezeekoe.co.za

Travel with a conscience with the FAIR TRADE TRAVEL PASS.

It gives you the freedom of choice to visit the most beautiful and culturally diverse parts of South Africa knowing that the Community where you spend your money is going to see the benefit. Take the hassle out of trying to make the right choice and have a positive impact on local people and environs with this collection of leading Fair Trade in Tourism community lodges and activities. 

BUCCANEERS LODGE AND BACKPACKERS is a family-owned business known for its long-standing investment in the development of the local communities and for its good range of accommodation, designed to suit any type of traveller. Buccaneers is actively involved in a range of social contributions in the Chintsa area of the Eastern Cape, such as their extensive work at the Bulugha Farm School, built in the early 80’s and supported by ‘Bucc’s’ for the past 20+ years. With additional donations from guests, they were able to put in electricity, set up a computer room and run a feeding scheme at the school. The programme employs a cook and provides two cooked meals a day for almost 200 children. www.cintsa.com

Mdumbi offers simple & spacious accommodation – set in traditional style Xhosa huts. MDUMBI BACKPACKERS simultaneously operates a non-profit organisation called Transcape to address development priorities in the immediate area. Current projects range from health and education to job creation. The NGO also assists people affected by HIV/AIDS through awareness raising, support, home-based care and treatment programmes.

Mdumbi also demonstrates its respect for the environment by utilising a grey water filtration system, installing solar backup systems and solar water heating, monitoring of marine resources in collaboration with the local community and the University of Cape Town, production of organic fruit and vegetables and managing the recycling programme.  www.mdumbi.co.za

COFFEE SHACK BACKPACKERS is a 30% community-owned backpackers where activities in the local area and maximum employment opportunities for the local people result in secured “buy-in” from the residents of Coffee Bay. Operational goods are acquired from local suppliers, especially fresh produce, enhancing benefits to all involved. In addition, the business makes concerted efforts to invest in its staff, helping them to advance through ongoing training programmes and empowerment. www.coffeeshack.co.za 

BULUNGULA LODGE is a partly community-owned (Nqileni community) lodge on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape that prioritises authentic Xhosa experiences and linkages with local community businesses; actively committed to improving community health through the provision of drinking water and training on permaculture as well as organic farming to improve nutrition and create surpluses that can be sold to the lodge restaurant. www.bulungula.com

SANI LODGE BACKPACKERS invests in the local community located in the Southern Drakensberg as a developmental tool. Sani Lodge employs people from the local area and assists entrepreneurs by allowing them to provide products and services to their tours. This is exemplified in their Eastern Lesotho village tours, where over 60 families in the Matsieng district of Eastern Lesotho benefit directly from the tour by payments made to them for services rendered in the fields of accommodation and food, dancing and traditional culture, traditional healer and primary school visits as well as pony trekking. www.sanilodge.co.za

LEBO’S SOWETO BACKPACKERS is an emerging business in Soweto that offers accommodation and an authentic immersion into life in this historically significant township. Local guides conduct bicycle tours through the surrounding area, giving guests an opportunity to experience local activities and people in their day-to-day lives.  www.sowetobackpackers.com 

The BACKPACK is an award-winning hostel and is known as Cape Town’s original backpacker. Superbly situated, it has easy access to the city, TableMountain and the gorgeous beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay. The Backpack’s friendly Travel Desk staff help you plan your adventures. Diving with the sharks, jumping off a plane, an African safari, wine tasting, car rental, volunteer tours, sightseeing … whatever your fancy, The Backpack will point you in the right direction. The Backpack invests in people and communities, giving meaningful and relaxed travel experiences. www.backpackers.co.za

Whale watching and eco cruises in the Walker Bay area are just a start for DYER ISLAND CRUISES. Environmental education initiatives in the local community, conservation projects including lobbying public support for 2000 artificial penguin shelters on Dyer Island to house dwindling endangered penguin colonies there, coastal clean-ups and support for local women through the Nolwandle skills development and craft centre project are what drive this team. The positive impacts made in conservation and socio-economic impacts are tremendous! www.dyer-island-cruises.co.za

MARINE DYNAMICS SHARK TOURS provide White Shark cage diving activities that focus on the educational aspects of interacting with these apex predators and promoting the importance of ensuring their continued existence within the marine ecosystem. The business works in collaboration with other local businesses to enhance positive impacts of environment and community investment initiatives such as the Nolwandle skills development and craft centre project. www.sharkwatchsa.com 

VOLUNTEER AFRICA 32˚ SOUTH is a volunteer programme (WILD COAST COMMUNITY SCHOOLS PROGRAMME) that works with schools in the Chintsa area of the Eastern Cape. It facilitates computer literacy classes, playing a supporting role for teachers and complementing the existing curriculum, and it provides a vital resource for learners to gain hands-on computer skills that will prove invaluable as they progress through their education and eventually seek employment.

The schools involved are all part of the “Eco-schools” programme – initiated by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to give children access to environmental education via computer applications.  www.volunteerafrica.co.za

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