A look inside one of the luxury tents at eco-friendly Shawa Luangwa Camp
A look inside one of the luxury tents at eco-friendly Shawa Luangwa Camp

You wouldn’t be the only one rolling your eyes or letting out a groan when you come across the phrase ‘going green’. For many years, companies in all sectors, including travel and tourism, have used this and other similar phrases to signal a commitment to environmentally-friendly practices, without that commitment being turned into real action. This has made it difficult for eco-conscious people wanting to achieve two goals when traveling – having an experience of a lifetime, and not creating a huge carbon footprint. 

The tents at Ila Safari Lodge are designed to blend into their surroundings | Photo by Gerben van der Waals

The good news is that it is totally possible to achieve both of these goals. The great news is that by choosing a particular place to visit, you can contribute towards creating a clean and healthy natural environment for all those that live within it, people and wildlife alike. And it doesn’t have to take away from experiencing a more sumptuous, luxurious, marvelous sort of safari experience, and perhaps even life. In fact, your luxury safari experience can be heightened through eco decisions made by those companies you tour and stay with while in Africa.

Electricity for Chisa Busanga Camp and its electric vehicles comes from this solar farm | Photo by Gerben van der Waals

Operating out of some of the most pristine wilderness areas in Africa, Green Safaris knows the importance of caring for natural habitats, wildlife and communities. And having recently announced that it recovered over 100% of its operational carbon emissions last year, Green Safaris really knows how to turn commitment into real-life actions. Here are just four ways to prove that sustainability and luxury don’t have to be mutually exclusive in the travel world. This list will help guide you when planning your next safari holiday in Africa.

Nature therapy through eco-conscious architecture

One of the marks of a sustainable safari camp is that it is built so lightly that if it were to be removed, the ecosystem would happily take over the area where the building once sat. At Green Safaris properties, minimal impact on the environment is achieved by opting for canvas tents raised off the ground on wooden platforms, and when more solid walls are necessary, they are built from sandbags instead of cement.

The human-size Nest suites at Chisa Busanga Camp allow guests to connect with nature | Photo by Green Safaris

And, what’s good for nature is good for you too. This eco-friendly sandbag building also ensures better heat conductivity, and cleverly designed A-frame canvas tents maximize natural airflow, keeping you cool during your summer safari – no energy-sucking air-conditioner needed. But eco doesn’t mean no electricity, and the creature comforts that come with it. With all the glorious sunlight in Africa, operating off-grid just makes sense! Hot water, the ultimate creature comfort, is generated by solar water heaters.

View of the Busanga Plains from a Nest suite at Chisa Busanga Camp | Photo by Gerben van der Waals

Biophilic design works in parallel with sustainable building design. It connects you with nature through buildings that promote physical and mental well-being. The luxury Nest suites at Chisa Busanga Camp in northern Kafue National Park, Zambia live up to this. 

Sustainable farming and vegan-friendly menus 

From on-site gardens to community-run farms and reforestation projects, eating on safari can be healthy for you and the surrounding natural environment. It also creates sustainable jobs that help households put nutritious food on the table each day. Community-led reforestation projects can offset the carbon produced from transporting any food that can’t be grown or sourced locally. 

Healthy greens from the garden inspire the creation of healthy meals in the Tongabezi Lodge kitchen | Photo by Stepan Vrzala

And despite being surrounded by carnivores, you don’t have to become one while on safari! A colorful abundance of vegetables, fruits and protein-rich meat alternatives will keep any herbivore healthy and happy. Thoughtfully-designed menus prioritize local, seasonal produce, which means fresher foods and fewer preservatives, and no heavy carbon burden. 

A light, bright lunch by the Zambezi River at Tongabezi Lodge | Photo by Chase Björnson

The team of gardeners and kitchen staff at Tongabezi Lodge on the Zambezi River make sure you have a joyful culinary experience. You will be satisfied and have the energy to really make the most of your bush adventure in Zambia.

Luxury lodgings, minimal environmental footprint

When it comes to the environment, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ operations matter too. Luxury safari camps can provide bio-degradable cleaning products and luxurious guest amenities, replace single-use plastic bottles with reusable ones, ban cling-film and plastic straws, and use recycled paper and bags wherever possible. 

A look inside one of the luxury tents at eco-friendly Shawa Luangwa Camp
View of the South Luangwa from inside a luxury tent at Shawa Luangwa Camp | Photo by Green Safaris

Organic waste from the kitchen can be composted and, once ready, can be used to grow happy plants in the garden and then make delicious meals in the kitchen. There will always be some non-recyclable rubbish, but by sorting and storing it safely until it can be taken away for disposal, it doesn’t become a danger for wild animals. 

Water is finite, and conserving it wherever possible ensures that both local communities and nature don’t go thirsty. Grey water reticulation is one way of caring for this precious, shared resource; black water reticulation means no soakaways put pressure on the environment surrounding the camp. 

A bird’s eye view of Ila Safari Lodge and the solar-powered electric boat | Photo by Chase Björnson

As a pioneer sustainable safari property in Zambia, Ila Safari Lodge in Kafue National Park is one of the best examples of how luxury travel can also be eco travel. And even though it has been recognised for its eco credentials locally and internationally, the team are always investigating new ways to operate better so that you can travel better.

Solar-powered safari adventures

If you are a seasoned eco-traveller, a solar-powered lodge is probably a standard on your eco-travel checklist. Did you know that a Silent Safari experience takes this fabulous renewable energy into the wilderness beyond your camp? It’s made possible through clever green tech – think electric land rovers, boats and even mountain bikes. This means no air pollution, no fuel usage, no noise pollution, and minimal carbon emissions.

The mountain bikes at Chisa Busanga Camp are charged by the sun so guests have an easier ride | Photo by Gerben van der Waals

These solar-powered vehicles give you the chance to glide into VIP wildlife areas as though you belong in the heart of a pride of lions or sitting respectfully within a herd of wandering elephants. An electric vehicle also enables guests to hear the bird song, or the calls of the wild, and there is no diesel engine roaring back to life each time you move from one magical moment to the next.

Running on solar-powered instead of a diesel engine makes for quieter game drives in South Luangwa | Photo by Green Safaris

Shawa Luangwa Camp in South Luangwa became the first in this Zambian national park to run silent solar-powered safaris on land and water. So you can approach wildlife quietly as you meander the Luangwa River and cruise through the mopane forests.

Photos courtesy of Gerben van der Waals, Chase Björnson, Stepan Vrzala and Green Safaris.

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A complete word-nerd with a penchant for strong coffee and 90s playlists, Megan is happiest when writing beautiful content. After actually doing the traveling herself, writing about travel is pretty much her perfect job. At any point in the day, she’ll have travel plans, a Led Zeppelin song, and the opening line for a blog rattling around her head.