South Africa Sustainable Tourism Guide 2023

South Africa is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. It’s a biodiversity hotspot known for its bountiful scenery and wildlife, as well as popular attractions like Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and uShaka Marine World. There are also numerous activities that travellers can enjoy, such as surfing on its many beaches and riding the Blue Train—a luxury train connecting Cape Town to Pretoria that offers fine dining experiences and butler service.

Apart from these, another reason to visit South Africa is because it’s a sustainable travel destination. While we previously shared how you can sustainably travel through Belize, keep reading below to travel sustainably in South Africa.

south africa sustainable tourism kruger national park

What makes South Africa a sustainable tourist destination?

South Africa has always been a famous tourist destination thanks to its unique locations and activities. To handle the volume of visitors entering the country, it formed community-based conservation initiatives, including Kruger National Park, to provide safe spaces for wildlife to roam and grow while allowing the local community livelihoods from ecotourism. As such, residents, wildlife, and tourists benefit from such attractions without causing harm to the environment.

south africa sustainable tourism kruger national park (1)

Although the early days of the effects of Kruger National Park were not straightforward, as this left sustainable tourism regions ring-fenced by communities, unable to graze herds, hunt, or forage for building materials and food. As human developments grew, problems were exacerbated. 

However, in 1996, South Africa became the first in the world to adopt responsible tourism as an official policy.

Another reason why this country is sustainable for travel is that it prioritises cultural heritage protection and preservation. South Africa’s culture is a mix of African, European, and Asian influences, making it unique and diverse. This is why the government works together with private organisations to preserve this culture and history for future generations and visitors. One resulting initiative from these collaborations is the Robben Island Museum, dedicated to informing people about apartheid in the country.

What are the natural attractions where you can go on a tour in South Africa?

Apart from the efforts discussed above, South Africa has many natural attractions that enable travellers to appreciate the region’s beauty and promote sustainable tourism:


south africa sustainable tourism fynbos (1)Fynbos is a floral kingdom in Cape Town with over 9000 plant species. The Travel labels it amongst the top natural attractions in the country, as 70% of the plants in the area are endemic—meaning they can only be found in that location. This helps travellers acknowledge the importance of conserving such destinations due to the unique species of vegetation that need to be protected.

Cango Caves

Cango Caves sustainable tourism south africa

Located in the Western Cape Province, this cave system consists of several hidden chambers cutting through a thick limestone rock layer. It’s reportedly been inhabited since the Early Stone Age, providing shelter for early humans. What makes this location unique is that its cave formations are generally not formed in the area, nor were they a result of faulting. The Cango Caves have also made a push to be a more sustainable tourist destination by recently reducing potable water demand by 60%.

How to sustainably travel to and through South Africa

Take a cruise

South Africa is one of the biggest countries in the world, and so you may be tempted to fly from one city to another to explore. However, frequent flying isn’t sustainable due to the carbon emissions it emits. Instead, consider embarking on a luxury cruise to the country. This option isn’t just more indulgent than a regular cruise—it’s more sustainable, too.

Modern luxury cruises use liquefied natural gas for fuel rather than burning fossil fuels and employ waste management systems that protect marine ecosystems. Explora Journeys takes this a step further by having their ships RINA DOLPHIN certified, which ensures they don’t disturb sea life with noise.

south africa sustainable travel

Explora Journeys also only partners with sustainable companies for its African and Indian Ocean itineraries, so you can rest assured that your luxury experience is a sustainable and ethical one.

If you plan to traverse South Africa’s rivers instead, look to providers like AMA Waterways. To reduce energy consumption, their cruises recycle river water in the showers and taps, which is then heated using a solar heating system.

Use eco-friendly land transportation

For travelling to and through inland cities and locations, consider walking and taking eco-friendly land transportation, such as electric vehicles. These don’t use fuel produced by burning fossils, making them more sustainable.

GoMetro is an electric minibus taxi company offering rides in some of South Africa’s major cities, including Cape Town. The company spent years collecting data and testing vehicles that would suit the locations they’ll operate in, ensuring that the electric vehicles they choose will suit its needs and be durable enough to handle frequent use, especially in tourist-heavy areas.

These electric vehicle companies are sustainable because they consider the long-term future of the towns and cities they plan to serve by making sure that their vehicles will last for years. That said while they are considered very green they still have some environmental effects.


This article was contributed by William A. Wade.