The green heart of Cape Town

International Responsible Travel Week took place from 11 to 17 February in the form of a friendly "unconference", attended virtually by thousands of individuals from the tourism industry.

The assignment from organisers is to be inspired, and inspirational, in sharing our favourite responsible travel stories with the world and would-be travellers, and to compliment the companies that these stories are about.

The main themes of this year’s event were accessibility (transport), food (drinking water) and biodiversity (parks and protected areas). After receiving several submissions from our members, we curated a collection of our favourite responsible travel stories.

Reclaim Camissa

Camissa, which means "the place of sweet waters", is the ancient Khoi name for Cape Town but it is also the name of an underground river that used to connect Table Mountain to the Atlantic Ocean. Water was the reason why a settlement was established in Cape Town in the 17th century. The Reclaim Camissa Trust sets out to re-establish this underground ecosystem link from the mountain to the sea, to meet performance criteria for sustainability and biodiversity.

Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN) and AWOL Tours

BEN offers township tours with a difference: rather than touring in an air-conditioned bus tourists travel by bike, increasing their interaction with the local community. This socially responsible bicycle tour in Masiphumelele is a new take on township tours, providing guests with the opportunity to meet and interact with the local community from a bicycle seat. In addition, AWOL Tours, in conjunction with BEN, assists members of the local community to start their own businesses.

Southern Line Tourism Route

The City of Cape Town, in partnership with PRASA and Cape Town Tourism, have created a tourism rail route from the Cape Town Central Business District (CBD) to Simon’s Town. A hop on, hop off ticket was developed to ensure easier access along the route. There are seven stations en route, offering various tourist attractions within walking distance of each station. Each station displays maps of local tourist attractions and services. Read more

All photos by Cape Town Tourism.

Dongola Guesthouse

The first guesthouse to receive a Gold Classification on the Greenline programme of the Heritage Environmental Management Company, Dongola sets an example for other guesthouses with impressive numbers. They reduced their water consumption by 19% in 2012; they landscaped with indigenous plants, set geysers at 55°C, installed daylight switches to reduce energy consumption on exterior lights, feed their worms approximately three kilograms of waste per week and donated 500 kilograms of recyclable waste to “Friends of the Constantia Greenbelt”.  They also partner with urban greening organisation Greenpop.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, established in 1913, was the first botanical garden in the world dedicated to conserving a country’s indigenous flora. Kirstenbosch forms part of the Cape Floristic Region Protected Area, proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The Threatened Species Programme is aimed at cultivating threatened species in the garden, as well as conserving threatened habitats outside of the garden. Kirstenbosch’s history of environmental education stretches back to the 1920s, with the opening of the Gold Fields Environmental Education Centre in 1996 a highlight.

The Green Cab

The Green Cab, South Africa’s first carbon-neutral transport service, is based in Cape Town. The company’s fleet of taxis has been modified to run on a blend of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and biodiesel. In comparison with petrol, LPG renders 75% less carbon monoxide, 85% less hydrocarbon, 40% less oxide and nitrogen, and about 10% less carbon dioxide. Biodiesel can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50%. The Green Cab is launching a Green Pass project, comprising a daily shuttle service from Cape Town centre to Cape Point. 

The Vineyard Hotel & Spa

The Vineyard Hotel, located in six acres of landscaped parkland in Newlands, boasts a set of responsible tourism accolades, including best single resource management programme: waste management at the 2012 Imvelo Awards, the 2006 Imvelo Award for best economic impact, and was a finalist in the best social responsibility programme category in 2006. In 2012, they managed to recycle 92% of their waste and The Vineyard Hotel & Spa Conference Centre has been operating on Green Electricity since 2009.

Two Oceans Aquarium

The Two Oceans Aquarium is committed to raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting the conservation of our underwater world. Their sustainable management practices include minimising waste, recycling and reuse, providing ongoing training to employees to meet environmental objectives, monitoring and recording their environmental impacts, and having their performance independently audited against the environmental management system. They initiated the multi-level Save Our Seas Foundation: M-Sea Programme that strives for shark conservation, as well as working with seals and rehabilitating stranded loggerhead turtle hatchlings.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company

As custodians of a high-use area like Table Mountain, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) is passionate about conserving the area’s biodiversity. The TMACC environmental policy dictates that all waste is brought down from the summit, recycled where possible, and that water consumption is minimised. Chemical toilets were introduced in 1997 and the Table Mountain Café saved one million litres of water in their first year of implementing water-wise operations. TMACC management works in partnership with Table Mountain National Park and other conservation authorities.

Vergelegen Estate

Vergelegen Estate was the first Biodiversity Wine Initiative ( champion and initiated a 10-year alien clearing project in 2004. Their objective was to restore 2 000 hectares of farmland to the natural flora and fauna of the Cape, with a budget of R14-million allocated to the project to combat alien vegetation and return animal and birdlife to the land. Key components of the project are employee training, job creation, research and education. Visitors to the estate can go on an enviro walkabout with resident conservationist Gerald Wright.

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