Marrying luxury and sustainability in South Africa


Luxury travellers are increasingly concerned with conservation. We explore how the concept is evolving in South Africa.


The word ‘ubuntu’ carries a deep and emotive meaning for many South Africans. It directly translates as ‘humanity’. But there’s more to it. Ubuntu refers to sharing, togetherness, compassion, courage, community spirit—and it’s a concept that The Red Carnation Hotel Collection strongly champions. A family-run business that’s dedicated to sustainability, we support worthwhile charities the world over and have developed our three deluxe hotels in South Africa with the country’s spectacular natural ecosystems in mind—as well as ubuntu, of course. Here, we look at how Bushmans Kloof, The Oyster Box and The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa combine luxurious experiences with ethical conduct, and what the future holds for sustainability in South Africa.

Sustainability In South Africa

Meeting the luxury traveller’s every requirement

Luxury jet setters are increasingly prioritising sustainability and philanthropy. Nowadays, clued-up travellers select hotels and tour operators with a reputation for responsible travel, be it limiting single-use plastics or protecting local wildlife. The thoughtful traveller values authentic exchanges that benefit everyone involved. They expect the staff servicing them to be given a generous wage and decent working conditions, and don’t want their experiences abroad to come at the cost of the environment. Green travel is thankfully no longer an afterthought—it’s now firmly established as an essential. Yet the vacation of a lifetime must tick every box besides the eco one, including exceptional facilities and premium service. This is where sustainable luxury comes into its own. Located across South Africa’s stunning natural landscapes, from the wilds of the Cederberg mountains to Umhlanga’s vivid coastline, each Red Carnation Hotel fuses luxury and environmentally friendly practices. Travellers to Cape Town can expect first-rate amenities and a wholehearted welcome at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, while those journeying to Durban discover prime coastal luxury at The Oyster Box. “Working with travellers, the hospitality industry can create a reality where the environment is in perfect harmony with travel dreams,” affirms Wayne Coetzer, General Manager at The Oyster Box.

Sustainability In South Africa

Protecting South Africa’s extraordinary heritage and helping local communities

Spearheading sustainability in South Africa, Bushmans Kloof champions an ethos of community development and is involved in myriad social initiatives. Set in the remote wilderness of the Cederberg, many of the retreat’s staff have lived in the area their entire lives. Giving aid to rural clinics and donating computers to the Wupperthal community has provided locals with access to life-altering technology and medicine. From humble beginnings to representing South Africa at the World Championships of the Performing Arts in 2015, Die Nuwe GrasKoue Trappers were elevated to success after Floris Smith, the then Executive Chef at Bushmans Kloof, discovered their colourful performances while on a visit to the group’s village. A ceremonial and cultural means of expression, traditional San and Khoi Riel fire dances have been practised by these indigenous communities for generations. Bushmans Kloof also supports the nearby Elizabethfontein Primary School. In addition to donating stationery and sponsoring an annual youth camp for aspiring young leaders, the Reserve holds a yearly open day offering the pupils from local schools the chance to experience the hospitality industry and learn about the importance of conservation.

Sustainability In South Africa

Preserving the region’s timeless beauty is at the heart of Bushmans Kloof’s sustainability pledge. Mankind’s oldest nation, nomadic tribes have lived in the outlying antediluvian mountains for 120,000 years. The hotel acts as a custodian for more than 130 of their historic cave art sites. Highly skilled and experienced guides are available to lead guests on informative walking tours or drives through the nature reserve to admire the incredible works. With Red Carnation Hotels’ help, these ancient murals will tell the stories of the land’s ancestors for centuries to come. Take in the African wilderness’ most dramatic landscapes, rich in cultural heritage and magnificent scenery. Sundowners and picnic experiences make for an unforgettable excursion, served at picturesque spots throughout the journey.

Sustainability In South Africa

A plethora of indigenous animals inhabit the Cape Floral Kingdom around Bushmans Kloof—including the elusive Cape leopard. Working with local livestock owners, the TreadRight Foundation, Cheetah Outreach and The Cape Leopard Trust, Bushmans Kloof has successfully trained seven Anatolian shepherd dogs to safeguard local communities from the leopard in a responsible way that ensures the rare predator is unharmed. As the human population in this region began to rise, encounters between locals and the big cat correspondingly increased, with the leopards sometimes attacking domestic livestock and the community taking lethal action to ward them off. Originating from the hills of central Turkey, and specially bred for their sharp eyesight, speed and natural sense of guardianship, the Anatolian shepherd dogs have made a real difference. “We at Bushmans Kloof feel an innate sense of responsibility not only for our guests and our staff, but for the communities with which we share this magnificent part of the Cape and South Africa,” says Rory du Plessis, General Manager at Bushmans Kloof. “Finding natural solutions to problems in nature is a must.” Bushmans Kloof protects one of the largest private herds of Cape mountain zebra in the world, too—a species that was once on the brink of extinction.

Sustainability In South Africa

Pairing best practice with paradisiacal experiences

From reducing its environmental footprint through innovative energy and design strategies, to encouraging guests to preserve the cleanliness of the surrounding beaches, The Oyster Box is taking both large and small steps to take care of the planet. Exchange a bucket of rubbish collected from the Umhlanga shoreline for a complimentary cocktail or milkshake on The Ocean Terrace. The buckets are handed out at reception and, once filled, can be redeemed for a refreshing drink at the bar, proving that luxury and sustainability can go hand-in-hand in South Africa.

Sustainability In South Africa

Forward-thinking luxury is the mantra at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town, too. Water-saving initiatives are particularly important here, as the region has suffered from shortages in the past. Guests are encouraged to practice water-wise tourism when staying at the elegantly appointed hotel, for instance taking shorter showers and reusing towels. With discreet signage to remind global wanderers to be mindful of their water use and a dedicated Water Team, the hotel’s consumption decreased by 42 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

Sustainability In South Africa

What does the future of sustainability in South Africa look like?

South Africa aims to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of zero hunger by 2030 and many organisations are fighting for food security to become a reality. FoodForward SA recently set out a foodbank model that could reach a million people within five years, incorporating more than 2,000 suppliers from across the country. Like all developed nations, South Africa produces surplus food. The challenge is to effectively distribute its excess produce and reduce waste. FoodForward SA recovered 4,220 tons of food from the supply chain last year and redirected it to community organisations servicing those in need. Examples include youth centres and orphanages, as well as care homes for women, the disabled and the elderly. The not-for-profit organisation relies heavily on public donations and aims to ensure that everyone in South Africa has access to sufficiently nutritious meals.

Sustainability In South Africa

The country celebrated its 25th annual Freedom Day earlier this year. The poignant national holiday commemorates the first post-apartheid elections, famously held on 27th April 1994. But the country still has a way to go. The Red Carnation Hotel Collection proudly supports Pack for a Purpose, a charity which encourages visitors to South Africa to spare some space in their suitcases for much-needed books, pens and calculators, sporting equipment, games and toys. Once donated, through The Twelve Apostles, Bushmans Kloof or The Oyster Box, these precious items are passed on to children and schools to improve the lives of many. The Amy Foundation is one beneficiary of this project. Launched in 1997, its mission is to prevent youth violence through meaningful development programmes in socio-economically disadvantaged communities in and around Cape Town. The Foundation strives to develop and empower underprivileged youths aged between six and 18, and The Twelve Apostles organises a special project or excursion with the foundation’s children once a year.

Sustainability In South Africa

As the country moves towards a brighter future, electricity is another resource which must become available to all. Load-shedding, in which entire regions are cut off from the main electricity grid during scheduled periods, has had the most hard-hitting impact on small businesses and those with lower incomes, and has been a reality in South Africa since 2008. One recent solution has been to incentivise residential, commercial and industrial sites to place solar panels on their roofs and share the surplus power generated from these with the national grid. The Green Climate Fund and the Development Bank of South Africa each donated $100 million at the start of 2019 to this initiative, known as the Embedded Generation Investment Programme. As it becomes clear that alternative energy sources are needed to forward sustainability in South Africa, renewable energy projects are increasingly gaining traction. The Twelve Apostles efficiently monitors and manages its energy needs and implements new technologies to reduce the demand for energy wherever possible. It was the first hotel in Cape Town to install energy-saving LED lights in all public areas, while its kitchen’s fully customised air-extraction system prevents it from releasing any grease or ozone-damaging toxins into the atmosphere. Elsewhere, The Oyster Box warms its swimming pools with heat expelled from its air-conditioning system and powers The Spa using solar panels. Rainwater is collected in tanks to water the hotel’s on-site gardens, while grey water from the showers, baths and basins is rerouted to flush the toilets.

Sustainability In South Africa

Understanding their social responsibility to conserve historical homelands and natural resources for generations to come, visitors to South Africa and the dynamic enterprises servicing them are increasingly looking to make a difference. The Red Carnation Hotel Collection ensures sustainability is at the forefront of all its properties in South Africa, continually fostering innovations to provide local communities with vital support. The Collection’s latest addition, Xigera Safari Lodge, is currently being built in the water-rich plains of the Okavango Delta. We intend to deliver the same levels of sustainability and philanthropy at this outstanding new offering in Botswana, to be unveiled in 2020.

Enjoy unparalleled facilities and generous hospitality when staying at Red Carnation Hotels’ environmentally conscious hotels in South Africa.

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