Cape Town’s natural assets drive sustainability

Known around the globe as a place of beauty, Cape Town has exceptional diversity in a small geographic area, making it a destination with remarkable potential to be a leader in sustainable, responsible tourism.

The sheer economic value of Cape Town’s natural heritage is driven largely by its importance to tourism. Table Mountain National Park is particularly significant, running as it does through the centre of the city (and indeed the greater peninsula). Table Mountain itself stands alongside Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Robben Island, Cape Point, the V&A Waterfront and the Constantia Vineyards as one of Cape Town’s Big Six tourist attractions.

The city also offers exceptional beaches (many of which have Blue Flag status), architectural and archaeological heritage, cultural attractions like the Bo-Kaap and the Cape Flats, museums, shops and art galleries, and a layout that is easily and quickly traversed, taking you within minutes from sea to mountain to city.

The Cape Floral Kingdom has approximately 9 600 species of indigenous plants, of which 70% are endemic and 1 406 are listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. It is also one of Conservation International’s Biodiversity Hotspots. There is little doubt of the international responsibility on our shoulders to ensure its conservation.

Cape Town Tourism works closely with the City of Cape Town and other stakeholders to prioritise sustainability as a guiding principle of growth in all aspects of tourism. In 2002, the Cape Town Declaration was developed by these role-players as the foundation for a responsible tourism charter. In 2009, this charter was realised with the Responsible Tourism Policy for the City of Cape Town.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold explains, “From creating a realistic pricing strategy to fast-tracking green tourism goals, it is vital that sustainable practice governs our actions going forward. The gradual recovery from the economic downturn presents an opportunity to do things differently. Cape Town is proud to have just signed the Responsible Tourism Charter, which ensures that ‘green progress’ is prioritised and tracked.”

Voluntourism, part holiday adventure, part meaningful social transformation, is a stream that is steadily growing and contributing to the overall sustainability of tourism in Cape Town. This worldwide trend sees travellers choosing to spend their holiday or gap year in the service of a foreign community or project.

Cape Town’s complex history has certainly left its mark on the socio-economic dynamic of the city; poverty stalks many communities and opportunity has been slow to spread in a post-apartheid reality. Volunteers from across the globe come to Cape Town to assist in a diversity of community projects, whether focussing on people, animals or plant life.

A 2008 Condé Nast survey explored this emerging trend in voluntourism. Some 1 600 people took part, with approximately 20% of respondents saying they had already taken at least one volunteer vacation. Out of those who hadn’t yet taken one, 62% said that they were very likely to embark on a volunteer holiday in the near future. Alongside this rise in actual voluntourism, the general feeling of responsibility and willingness to help where possible was clearly on the rise. Around 80% of people interviewed were interested in giving back to local communities when travelling, according to the survey.

The recent FIFA World Cup™ also drove the city’s agenda to becoming a benchmark sustainable, responsible destination. The Green Goals were a series of measures taken by the City of Cape Town to ensure that the impact of the 2010 visitor influx was correctly managed. To this end, a large street waste recycling project with separated bins was implemented and continues today. Low carbon emission in public transport, green spaces and low energy solutions are all being given top priority by the city and its tourism and business stakeholders.

If Cape Town is to grow its tourism sector and drive job creation and skills development successfully, it must protect the very thing that has created tourism demand: the environment.

For more information about Cape Town Tourism’s Responsible Tourism Guidelines and some useful links, please visit:

To see the Responsible Tourism Charter and the city’s Responsible Tourism Policy, please visit

For information on just some of the Voluntourism Programmes available in Cape Town, please see below:

Volunteers are always welcome!

There are literally thousands of NGOs in and around Cape Town that are working at providing services to impoverished communities and conserving the natural environment. Positions are available at a wide range of organisations running literacy campaigns, HIV/AIDS clinics, orphanages, public health education programmes, schools for street children, homes for seniors, as well as programmes that aim to conserve the natural environment, working with and researching endangered plant and animal species.

Abang Africa Tours, Cape Town

Abang Africa Trust is a non-profit organisation that has been set up to coordinate visits and volunteering work, and provide support to and handle donations for tourism-related projects in Southern Africa. Travellers may choose their desired project depending on their interest. Be inspired and uplifted after visiting an orphanage or HIV/AIDS project. Participate in the upgrading of a ghost mine town. Support a local soccer team. The choice is yours.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 426 1330/1334

AVIVA South Africa, Table View

AVIVA is as an established volunteering company based in Cape Town that is offers sustainable community, wildlife and conservation volunteer projects. Projects available include the African School Feeding Scheme, Endangered Wildlife Monitoring, and African Penguin Conservation. AVIVA volunteers leave their mark in South Africa, not only by dedicating their time and energy to their chosen project, but also through the positive contribution they make in supporting local businesses, tourism operators and craftsmen and women during their time in the country.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 557 4312

Bicycle Empowerment Network, Masiphumelele

The Bicycle Empowerment Network offers township tours with a difference – rather than travelling in an air-conditioned bus through the township of Masiphumelele, tourists travel by bike, increasing their interaction with the local community. The Bicycling Empowerment Network, in conjunction with AWOL Tours, helps members of the local community start their own businesses.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 713 3634

Christine Revell Children’s Home, Athlone

The Christine Revell Children’s Home is based in Athlone and provides full-time care to up to 49 babies and children from birth to five years of age. These children are referred by social workers and placed by order of a children’s court. The children have been either abandoned, abused, neglected or orphaned and are accepted at the home irrespective of HIV status, race or gender. Christine Revell strives to create a warm, friendly and homely environment and, if possible, re-unites children with their parents or extended family should circumstances permit.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 697 1748

Dreamcatcher Foundation South Africa, Crawford

The mission of the Dreamcatcher Foundation is to help people help themselves out of the poverty trap and to bring lasting dignity, skills and knowledge transfer and access to opportunities to impoverished communities. Specific emphasis is placed on the role women play in rebuilding, not only in their own lives but also in the communities in which the live. Children also form a larger part of the foundation’s focus, and are involved in many initiatives throughout the year.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 696 6004

Habitat for Humanity South Africa, Newlands

Habitat for Humanity South Africa (HFHSA) has been actively building housing in South Africa since 1996 and has served over 2 200 families to date. As a community development organisation, HFHSA engages with local communities in the greater Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg areas and has an active volunteer programme that see thousands working on sites in thirty-four communities across South Africa. There are many ways in which individuals and groups can support the development work of HFHSA: Building opportunities are available for corporate, church and school groups as well as individuals, and specific volunteer opportunities in fundraising, administration, training and capacity building become available from time to time.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 657 5640

Lofdal Community Projects, Kraaifontein

• Nutritional feeding projects
Lofdal currently feeds close to 100 000 people a month in six impoverished areas: Bloekombos, Wallacedene, Strydenburg, Parow, Maitland and De Novo.

• Eagles Rest Hospice and Palliative Care Centre
Eagles Rest Hospice is a palliative care facility for terminally ill cancer and AIDS patients. Operating out of Northern Panorama, the facility provides for the immediate needs of patients and helps families cope with the illness of a loved one.

• House of safety and orphanage
Lofdal has successfully remodelled a building and established a house of safety where orphans and children at risk can feel safe and loved.

• Lofdal Christian Academy
Lofdal Christian Academy, an independent mission school registered with the Department of Education, opened its doors for the first time in 1998 with an initial intake of 50 pupils. There are now over 300 students ranging from Grade R to Grade 4 and new wooden classrooms to accommodate the ever-increasing demand.

• Community projects, Klein Akker, Ruyterwacht, Pomfret
These projects focus on the restoration of hope and humanity in the impoverished communities of Klein Akker, Ruyterwacht and Pomfret, helping uplift people and current living conditions. Lofdal plans to start a job creation project to equip these communities with basic skills and to help develop a sustainable local lifestyle.

• Agricultural development
Lofdal International has started various agricultural development projects in the Pomfret community in the North West province in order to address and meet the rapidly increasing needs of feeding projects in the community.

• Hadassah Boutique Hotel and Function Venue
The Boutique Hotel is a venture launched under Lofdal Community Projects, in which an old hotel was revamped, refurbished and made into a perfect wedding, conference or special meeting venue. Hadassah Boutique Hotel is the proud benefactor of some of the Lofdal Community Projects.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 988 9935

School of Hope, ThembaCare, Athlone

The ThembaCare Centre, a subsidiary project of the Thembalitsha Foundation, in Bridgetown, Athlone, offers 24-hour specialised palliative care to terminal AIDS children, and support to their families. The School of Hope, an independent special needs school registered with the Western Cape Department of Education, provides education to vulnerable youth.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 637 5143

Shark Watch SA, Gansbaai

Shark populations worldwide are increasingly threatened and research is still necessary to fully understand and interpret shark behaviour. It is with this in mind that Marine Dynamics Volunteer Programme includes shark education as a prominent part of its work. Volunteers get to see sharks in their natural environment, either from a boat or from a cage, and learn about coastal ecosystems in the region and about what conservation work is currently happening and needed. Dyer Island Cruises and sister company Marine Dynamics are the only marine wildlife companies in the Walker Bay area that have fair trade labels for their tourism products. All bookings contribute toward funding marine scientists and saving endangered species.

Telephone: +27 (0)28 384 0406

The Backpack and Africa Travel Centre, Cape Town City Centre

• The Cape Town Project:
This initiative requires people with maturity and initiative, as the programme often requires flexibility. Here, volunteers assist teachers in the library at Woodlands Primary School, reading to children, or on the field, assisting with rope skipping and soccer in the afternoon. 

• The Volunteer Africa 32° South, Cape Town City Centre:
The Volunteer Africa 32° South (VA32) project is based in Chintsa, on the Wild Coast of South Africa. Since 2004, VA32 has been helping support and develop rural communities through education and conservation initiatives, with a focus on strengthening social and environmental awareness. At four local schools, VA32 has developed networked computer labs and provides computer classes to students from Grade R to Grade 7, with intermittent support provided to two high schools based on their need.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 423 4530

For more information on Cape Town volunteer programmes or volunteer coordination, please contact Cape Town Tourism on +27 (0)21 487 6800 or email


For further information about Cape Town, please contact Cape Town Tourism’s PR and Communication Manager Skye Grove, at or +27 (0)21 487 6800 or see

Released for Cape Town Tourism by
Rabbit in a Hat Communications
Tammy White
+27 (0)21 448 9705
+27 (0)73 202 5041

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