Interview with Antbear Lodge on sustainability with Nandor Batha from Eco Lodges Everywhere

Sustainable tourism - Happy chickens

Name of the Eco Lodge

Antbear Lodge

Short description of the Eco Lodge.

Antbear Lodge is situated in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa. What makes this lodge so special is that we are offering accommodation in a luxury cave. Glass doors open onto a wooden deck with hammock chairs and an uninterrupted view of the Drakensberg Mountains. We also offer accommodation in mountain view suites and garden view suites. This is an upmarket Eco experience. Andrew and Conny are the business owners and started the lodge in 2000 looking for a slower pace of life and a more rural self sufficient way of living. We have realized our dream of a sustainable lifestyle which has resulted in the development of the dream. We have created some very interesting concepts like straw bale buildings and a luxury cave. We have learned new skills like woodworking and weaving and have even learned to thatch our own buildings from grass we cut on the property. Our vision at Antbear Lodge is based on responsible tourism including fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice, and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.

How sustainable is the eco-lodge?

Please describe your area

Antbear Lodge is situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains of Kwazulu Natal near to Giants Castle in South Africa. This is a rural and economically depressed area. The Drakensberg region has been declared a world heritage site both naturally and culturally in 2000 and the mountains are the major catchment area of water for the province.

Drakensberg snow
The view

Please describe the materials used and the impact of construction

The first step resulted in the construction of a straw bale building, an alternative building method that uses local resources with low impact on the world. Even the thatch for the roof was cut on the farm and the main costs of this construction type are labour keeping our money in the local economy. Since then we have built from sun dried bricks, rammed earth, cob and locally sourced stone from the farm. From there we have move to creating a reed bed filter to clean grey water before returning it to the environment. The lodge also aesthetically designed to blend in with its environment.

garden view suite exterior in Drakensberg
Building made from straw bales

Please describe your actions in respect to energy efficiency

Getting on to using renewable energy is a work in progress for us. We have already replaced the bulk of electrical geysers with gas / solar geysers in preparation for this change. Water is already pumped using solar. Led bulbs and the low energy appliances are also in progress. Once the energy reduction phase is completed the next will be to move off the grid completely

Please describe your actions in respect to responsible water managements.

We manage water in by measuring consumption. We get our water from a natural spring and are 100% self reliant. We store our water in an underground cistern. We process back water through septic tanks and us a reed bed filter to clean the grey water before returning it t the environment. In our case very little of the water we use is wasted due to the closed circle. While we do have flow restricting shower heads this is mainly in place to save energy.

Please describe your actions in respect to recycling

We try not to buy product with soft plastic or polystyrene. However it is sometimes unavoidable. We recycle and separate everything. Food waste is fed to animals on the farm. what cannot be used there is then shared between earthworms and compost using EM (essential microbes). Metal, hard plastic and glass are dropped of at the recycle center and which we get paid for. soft plastic and polystyrene are burned where we are unable to find a recycle point. due to our rural nature we are denied access to the municipal dump although if we we to dump it there we would just be passing our problem to a 3rd party..

Please describe your actions in respect to single use plastic

We try where possible to not purchase plastic in any form. This is often however not possible.

Please describe your actions in respect to chemical-free operation (in areas like cleaning, washing, gardening)

We use biodegradable products where ever we can. Our garden is organic too.

What locally sourced or grown organic food do you use

We do offer vegan and vegetarian options. We have our own chickens for eggs, cows for milk and an organic vegetable garden. Additionally we bake our own artisanal bread and even make our own yogurt and cheese. Additional products are sourced from as local as possible and finally from the local supermarket. We do not support any of the existing commercial catering logistic services at all.

Do you actively participate in local nature conservation

We make an effort in conservation too and take our responsibility as stewards looking after this farm seriously. Removal of alien invader species like wattle, hawthorn and american bramble are an ongoing battle. We keep poaching to a minimum and that is mostly due to our relationship with our community. Our latest project in partnership with a neighbor farm is establishing a vulture restaurant together with a vulture hide. The hope is that the vulture hide will be taken on by tourists wanting to photograph vultures and the funding can be put back into new vulture conservation efforts.

Do you actively support and promote local culture

We like to support all local culture through tourism. This includes rock art tours, home stays and a star gazing hammock camp where a local villager tells Africa folktales of the stars. Through this monetization these cultural aspects have the best chance of survival. we also educate guests to respect and not destroy these cultural attractions.

Please add here any other ecological aspects you’d like to feature.

We also try to educate the local community to also implement these permaculture and alternative building practices.

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