Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens LEEDs the way in green design

July 8, 2021 by  
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“Imagine the beauty of humanity living in harmony with nature .” This is the goal behind the ongoing work to raise the bar of sustainability in architecture at The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) and other projects at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The conservatory offers a closed-circle campus that, over the course of a year, produces more energy than it consumes through a combination of geothermal and wind systems along with solar panels . In fact, it ranks as the most energy-efficient conservatory in the world. It achieves this title through effective use of natural lighting , venting, earth tubes and fogging systems to cool and light the space without reliance on energy. Related: An off-grid home in South Africa features a conservatory for fully enjoying nature In addition to generating excessive energy, the project treats all water onsite for both human and landscaping needs. It collects rainwater as well as filtering water captured through natural landscaping, a lagoon system and permeable paving.  Throughout the process of updating the campus, the goal has been to set an example of what is possible in innovative, passive design . As a result, the project meets qualifications for six of the most desired certifications in green design. These include the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, First SITES™ Platinum and First WELL Building Platinum as well as the achievement of the first certified BREEAM Outstanding In-Use Building in the United States award. The conservatory has also earned a Fitwel three-star rating. The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens invites visitors to wander through the campus, taking in the rain gardens, lagoon and atrium with lush greenery and native plants throughout. In fact, the conservatory has an obligation to promote green building practices with a central focus on merging human activities and nature in a sustainable way. According to a conservatory officials, “As Phipps’ education, research and administration facility, the CSL is an integral part of the Phipps visitor experience as a ‘living museum,’ focusing attention on the important intersection between the built and natural environments, and demonstrating that human and environmental health are inextricably connected.” + Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Images via Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens LEEDs the way in green design

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens LEEDs the way in green design

July 8, 2021 by  
Filed under Green

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“Imagine the beauty of humanity living in harmony with nature .” This is the goal behind the ongoing work to raise the bar of sustainability in architecture at The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) and other projects at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The conservatory offers a closed-circle campus that, over the course of a year, produces more energy than it consumes through a combination of geothermal and wind systems along with solar panels . In fact, it ranks as the most energy-efficient conservatory in the world. It achieves this title through effective use of natural lighting , venting, earth tubes and fogging systems to cool and light the space without reliance on energy. Related: An off-grid home in South Africa features a conservatory for fully enjoying nature In addition to generating excessive energy, the project treats all water onsite for both human and landscaping needs. It collects rainwater as well as filtering water captured through natural landscaping, a lagoon system and permeable paving.  Throughout the process of updating the campus, the goal has been to set an example of what is possible in innovative, passive design . As a result, the project meets qualifications for six of the most desired certifications in green design. These include the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, First SITES™ Platinum and First WELL Building Platinum as well as the achievement of the first certified BREEAM Outstanding In-Use Building in the United States award. The conservatory has also earned a Fitwel three-star rating. The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens invites visitors to wander through the campus, taking in the rain gardens, lagoon and atrium with lush greenery and native plants throughout. In fact, the conservatory has an obligation to promote green building practices with a central focus on merging human activities and nature in a sustainable way. According to a conservatory officials, “As Phipps’ education, research and administration facility, the CSL is an integral part of the Phipps visitor experience as a ‘living museum,’ focusing attention on the important intersection between the built and natural environments, and demonstrating that human and environmental health are inextricably connected.” + Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Images via Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens LEEDs the way in green design

You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

November 3, 2017 by  
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Have you ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela , track cheetahs on foot , or stroll with elephants — and other exotic creatures — in South Africa ? Well, here’s your chance. Thanks to the efforts of over 200 volunteers, now you can use Google Maps to explore 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves, and many other sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in South Africa. More than 200 nature-loving South Africans volunteered to map out parts of the country they call home. Many of the helpers were rangers and guides with SANParks , CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife . Others were just good Samaritans, tech enthusiasts and avid hikers who want to make a difference. Over the span of twelve months, the volunteers trekked over 50,000km to establish 232 points of interest. Said Magdalena Filak, Program Manager for Google, “The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan program.” The Google Street View Camera Loan program encourages anyone to borrow the 360-degree camera technology to help the planet . Reportedly, this is the first time Google has partnered with a third-party for the program. Drive South Africa played a big role in coordinating the volunteers . Andre Van Kets, an outdoor enthusiast and the founder of the Cape Town -based company, explained the technology: “The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board technology plots the camera’s exact location on the trail. While recording, the camera takes a 360-degree photo every two-seconds. It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.” Kets added that he saw “potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe” when he applied. Related: Thousands of plastic bottles transformed into an inspiring tower of hope in South Africa In addition to mapping over two hundred points of interest, volunteers mapped eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Users can also see Mapungubwe Hill , which is home to an ancient African civilization, the Richtersveld that is known for its incredible moonscapes, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park , South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site which serves as a critical habitat for many species . The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Dennis Wood of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said, “As the proud conservation authority for KwaZulu-Natal, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are excited to be partnered with Google’ new initiative in exposing our trails on this global platform that we believe will engage our prospective guests to “Take time to Discover” our province’s rich natural beauty and conservation wildlife heritage.” + Google Street View Loan Program Images via Google Maps

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You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

November 3, 2017 by  
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Have you ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela , track cheetahs on foot , or stroll with elephants — and other exotic creatures — in South Africa ? Well, here’s your chance. Thanks to the efforts of over 200 volunteers, now you can use Google Maps to explore 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves, and many other sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in South Africa. More than 200 nature-loving South Africans volunteered to map out parts of the country they call home. Many of the helpers were rangers and guides with SANParks , CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife . Others were just good Samaritans, tech enthusiasts and avid hikers who want to make a difference. Over the span of twelve months, the volunteers trekked over 50,000km to establish 232 points of interest. Said Magdalena Filak, Program Manager for Google, “The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan program.” The Google Street View Camera Loan program encourages anyone to borrow the 360-degree camera technology to help the planet . Reportedly, this is the first time Google has partnered with a third-party for the program. Drive South Africa played a big role in coordinating the volunteers . Andre Van Kets, an outdoor enthusiast and the founder of the Cape Town -based company, explained the technology: “The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board technology plots the camera’s exact location on the trail. While recording, the camera takes a 360-degree photo every two-seconds. It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.” Kets added that he saw “potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe” when he applied. Related: Thousands of plastic bottles transformed into an inspiring tower of hope in South Africa In addition to mapping over two hundred points of interest, volunteers mapped eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Users can also see Mapungubwe Hill , which is home to an ancient African civilization, the Richtersveld that is known for its incredible moonscapes, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park , South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site which serves as a critical habitat for many species . The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Dennis Wood of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said, “As the proud conservation authority for KwaZulu-Natal, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are excited to be partnered with Google’ new initiative in exposing our trails on this global platform that we believe will engage our prospective guests to “Take time to Discover” our province’s rich natural beauty and conservation wildlife heritage.” + Google Street View Loan Program Images via Google Maps

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You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

Ericsson’s new mixed-reality platform envisions urban design in "real life"

September 21, 2017 by  
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Ericsson has created a new mixed-reality platform that allows users to envision urban design projects in “real life”. Teaming up with UN-Habitat, Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and WITS University as part of a community project called Building the Public City Through Public Space , the Swedish telecommunications company recently tested their prototype in Braamfontein, South Africa during the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival . Albeit still very much in its early development phase, the technology gave the community a sense of what their own Minecraft public space design proposal would look like if it were actually built. Marcus Nyberg, a senior researcher with Ericsson’s Strategic Design unit, says they developed the mixed-reality platform as part of a larger initiative to engage partners outside of Ericsson in participatory planning, sustainable urbanism and future technology. JDA and WITS university chose a public space in need of improvement at the intersection of Stiemens and Bertha Street and invited passersby (and students) to use Minecraft to design a safe, welcoming space that caters to their specific needs. This is part of UN-Habitat’s broader Block by Block initiative that uses this relatively simple design program to engage underserved communities in their own urban planning. Related: Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa Klaas Tswai, an urban design postgraduate student from WITS, coalesced the results of various proposals into one feasible, cohesive design that Ericsson then plugged into their new platform that uses “special smartphones enabled with sensors and 3D-sensing technology,” writes Joakim Formo . He continues, “For the technically inclined, the devices we used for this test were Tango-enabled smartphones/phablets that has parts of the on-board SLAM functionality disabled, instead using our own pre-loaded 3D mesh based on a Lidar-scanned point cloud which we used for occlusion-masking, ray-tracing shadows etc.” In addition to seating areas and other details, the community envisioned building a bridge over a busy street. Once the design was plugged into Ericsson’s new platform, participating community members could walk around with the smartphone and see what that bridge would look like as though it were right there in front of them. Their reactions exceeded Nyberg’s expectations. He said they did not expect people to be “so amazed” by the results. Albeit still quite elementary (I personally felt like I was walking around in Legoland), the prototypical technology clearly has immense potential. Imagine: instead of spending a pile of money and resources to design buildings or benches or whatever it is – and then finding it’s not really suitable for that particular space – this mixed-reality platform would give users an opportunity to test drive it for a while. Not only that, but getting the community involved gives them a greater sense of ownership and belonging. + Ericsson + UN-Habitat + Building the Public City Through Public Space Images via Joakim Formo, Ericsson

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Ericsson’s new mixed-reality platform envisions urban design in "real life"

Luxury tree house lets owners hide away in a Cape Town forest

June 20, 2017 by  
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Not all tree houses are rustic backyard projects—some, like the stunning House Paarman in Cape Town, take the typology to luxurious new heights. Designed by South African studio Malan Vorster , this one-bedroom getaway is a modern interpretation of the forest and blends in with its surroundings. The compact cabin is elevated off the ground and immerses guests into the tree canopy with views overlooking the forest and a quartet of square reflection pools. The freestanding House Paarman is an abstraction of the forest and comprises four cylindrical units that symbolize trees, each with a tree trunk-like steel pillar with branch-like beams and circular rings that provide support to the floors above. The four cylindrical units are arranged in a pinwheel layout around a square base. The columns, arms and rings are constructed from laser-cut and folded Corten steel plate. Western red cedar wraps the building and is left untreated so as to develop a patina over time. The architects write: “Inspiration was drawn from the timber cabins of Horace Gifford and Kengo Kuma’s notions of working with the void or in-between space, while Louis Kahn’s mastery of pure form and the detailing ethic of Carlo Scarpa informed a process of geometric restraint and handcrafted manufacturing.” Related: Dreamy treehouse hidden in Woodstock offers magnificent Catskills views This masterful attention to detail can be seen everywhere in the compact cabin , which was designed with ample glazing to give it a sense of lightness. Connections between the mostly vertical steel elements and the horizontal timber elements are joined with hand-turned brass components. Furnishings, such as the bed and cabinetry, were custom-made from solid oak. In addition to floor-height glazing, natural materials and a subdued color palette reinforce connection with nature. The House Paarman features a living space on the first floor, a bedroom on the second, and roof deck on the third. A sculptural staircase connects the floors. A plant room is tucked below the building on the ground floor. The half-round bays created by the cylindrical shapes include a patio, dining alcove, bathroom, and built-in seat. + Malan Vorster Images by Adam Letch and Mickey Hoyle

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7 eco-friendly and conservation-minded safari lodges across Africa

June 14, 2017 by  
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Gallivanting across Africa in search of majestic and fascinating wild animals is at the top of many people’s bucket lists, and thankfully, there are more ways than ever to safari with an eco-friendly and socially conscious mindset. We found seven safari lodges that were created with heavy consideration for conservation and community: the only heavy footprint left is that of a gentle, gigantic elephant as he passes by. Chem Chem Safari Lodge This Tanzanian lodge , located within the Burunge Wildlife Management Area, prides itself on a “slow safari” ethos, with options including wilderness picnics, walking safaris with a private guide, and lessons in identifying wildlife tracks, as well as meetings with the lodge’s anti-poaching team . The tent-style suites and main house toe the line between rustic and glamorous and were crafted to bring to mind vintage safari lodges. A pool, spa , gourmet restaurant, and viewing tower make returning after a day of flamingo watching and safari-going a little easier. Greystoke Mahale Operated by Nomad Tanzania , one of East Africa’s original safari companies, Greystoke Mahale will make visitors feel as if they have ventured to a magical place where beaches, forests, and mountains exist in harmony. The native chimps are the main attraction here, but with the beach of Lake Tanganyika at your feet and Mahale Mountains behind you, it’s an ideal location for exploring waterfalls, swimming, and having kayaking adventures. Image © Exploring Tourism Zimbabwe Pamushana Lodge Pamushana Lodge , part of the conservation-focused Singita resorts family, has won multiple Leading Safari Lodge awards, and this Zimbabwe retreat gives back in a major way. As the ecotourism arm for a 130,000-acre reserve, Singita manages the lodge on behalf of an environmental trust: all proceeds from the lodge benefit conservation and community partnership efforts. The local culture is honored in small ways, such as the beaded and adorned throw pillows , as well are more dramatic ways, including the preservation of a diversity of habitats from grasslands to broad-leaf forests. Related|Solar-powered safari lodge is a gorgeous green retreat in Botswana Grootbos Private Nature Reserve Not that you could ever get tired of seeing the usual suspects (giraffes, elephants, rhinos, lions, etc.) in real life, but the Grootbos Nature Reserve in South Africa offers alternate experiences including a marine safari to see the marine Big 5, a botanical 4 x 4 tour, or shark cage diving. The land is home to 791 plant species , including 100 endangered plant species, and milkwood forests that are over 1000 years old. Duba Plains Part of the Great Plains Conservation Camps, Duba Plains opened in March 2017, but it is already gaining a following for both its conservation and environmental stewardship as well as its proximity to plentiful wildlife (lions and buffalo are common sights). The rooms at the camp, located in Botswana ’s Okavango Delta, were built on recycled railway sleeper decking to provide prime and varied animal viewing access. Campi Ya Kanzi The only safari lodge on a 283,000 Maasai -owned reserve, Camp Ya Kanzi (aka Camp of the Hidden Treasure) shouldn’t remain hidden to you or your fellow safari adventurers: the expansive view of Kilimanjaro is reason enough to plan your visit. Stay in a tented cottage or tented suites or rent an entire private villa with a swimming pool supplied by rainwater . Image © SteppesTravel UK Camp Nomade Camp Nomade , located in Zakouma National Park in Chad , is exclusive in more ways than one: it’s only available from mid-December to mid-April each year when the park dries up, and can only host a maximum of eight visitors per week. With 360-degree views and the feeling of being plopped down in the middle of all the safari action, lucky visitors can look for buffalo, elephants , lions, leopards, baboons, and more. Lead image via Camp Nomade

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7 eco-friendly and conservation-minded safari lodges across Africa

Trump may gut the Endangered Species Act

January 31, 2017 by  
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The former head of Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, has called for the Endangered Species Act to be drastically overhauled, with many of the key provisions completely scrapped. The 1973 act was created to prevent the extinction of hundreds of species – however Ebell insists the act is a “political weapon” that does little to protect wildlife. While he’s not a current member of Trump’s team, his words should worry anyone who cares about conservation, because they seem to be in line with GOP lawmakers set on repealing the law . In a speech in London , Ebell stated, “The endangered species act doesn’t do much for protecting endangered wildlife, but it does a huge amount to control private property land use, and it is enforced very selectively, so that some landowners are not affected but people with exactly the same habitat, their use is limited or eliminated. It is a political weapon and I am very interested in reforming, and I don’t know if we will see that any time in the next decade, but I hope so.” Related: Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West Some researchers suggest an alternate approach: privatizing the protection of wildlife . George Wilson, an adjunct professor at Australian National University, has proposed giving landowners authority over the endangered species on their own land. This may sound strange to many in the US, but it’s an approach that’s been used in countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa in years past. Essentially, landowners would take the lead in regulating hunting, eco-tourism , and conservation programs, instead of the government. The logic behind the proposal is this: when the government takes on the duty of protecting a “public good” like wildlife , humans don’t have an incentive to help and may resent the regulations created. If those landowners are given control and offered ways to profit off tourism or hunting, they may be interested in helping those animal populations grow and thrive. Related: This could be the United States’ first endangered bee species Of course, the downside is that privatization can simply result in the wealthy hoarding wildlife, creating hunting grounds full of captive animals. On the other hand, South Africa has used these policies successfully to maintain and even grow wildlife populations in the past century. It’s certainly no substitute for the protections offered by the Endangered Species Act, but it could provide a lifeline for vulnerable species if the landmark legislation is repealed. Via The Independent and Markets Insider Images via Wikimedia Commons and USFWS Endangered Species

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Cape Town has just 100 days of water left

January 20, 2017 by  
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Cape Town, South Africa has been struck by severe drought – and now residents have just 100 days of water left. The local government is asking citizens to conserve, while fire fighters are using sea water to battle two nearby wildfires. According to University of Cape Town Environmental and Geographical Sciences lecturer Kevin Winter, “We can’t see any rain on the horizon,” Winter notes. “ And right now, in terms of dam storage levels, we’re probably approaching the ‘100 days left of storage.’” Eyewitness News reports that dams around Cape Town are sitting at just 42.5 percent full, but they could drop to as little as 20 percent full in the next few months if the city doesn’t take drastic water conservation measures. Xanthea Limberg of the City of Cape Town adds that reaching the 20 percent storage mark represents a pretty risky situation. “This is a very low margin of safety because it becomes very difficult to extract the last 10 percent,” she explains. “We’re really encouraging residents to help us ensure that we can save water.” Thousands of liters of the remaining water is being used every day to battle two large, raging wildfires that recently sprung up nearby. In response to the situation, fire fighters are resorting to the “extreme measure” of using sea water to fight the fires. Via Eyewitness News Images via AerialcamSA and magemu , Wikimedia Commons

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5 exotic, eco-friendly Homestay locations to satisfy your wanderlust

September 8, 2016 by  
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Traveling the world and keeping a sensible budget may seem like contradictory missions, but new options in the hospitality sharing industry make global exploration much more practical. Homestay is one site which allows travelers to live with hosts in their unique corners of the world. As they say, you can live like, and with, a local in one of their 50,000 featured homestays, spanning 150 different countries and sporting surprisingly eco-friendly details. Spending your vacation at an eco-lodge in South Africa or a “peace home” in Nepal without breaking the bank is entirely possible, thanks to growing home-sharing networks. Here are some environmentally-conscious options to consider during your next spell of wanderlust. 18th Century rural house in Florence, Italy Hostess Francesca invites guests into her rural, but renovated, home in the hills just 27 kilometers from Florence. Visitors have free range of her extensive organic garden and ample kitchen space in each of her four available apartments to cook a delicious meal. Restaurants and chianti tastings abound in the nearby towns and a hot tub is available for sunset soaks amongst the grunts of wild boars, songs of crickets, and glittering starlight. Francesca invites people to “Bring with you the people you love, is there anything better that is worth living for?” Chilekatessen house built on the hills of Valparaíso, Chile Set in the hills of Valparaíso lies Chilekatessen house, a six bedroom abode with a gorgeous view of the bay and close proximity to public transportation and all the luxuries of city life. Hostess Maria Teresa shares her home and her passion for gardening and cooking with guests, as well as with her young son, Uwe. Private terraces, gardens, and ample daylight brighten the unassuming rooms. Maria Teresa says eco-tourism is her forte, after having traveled and lived across Europe, making this homestay perfect for the conscientious traveler. Charming bungalow in Jatiluwih, Bali Staying at Adiana’s eco-lodge in Bali drops you right in the middle of paradise. Visitors will find themselves mesmerized by the location on the slope of Mount Batukaru, the second highest mountain in Bali. This bungalow home is just minutes away from the Pura Luhur Batukaru Temple, a space for reverence, meditation, and blessings. Each of the four available rooms carry their own flair; some provide views of lush, tropical gardens and spring water ponds, while others face a spellbinding nearby rice terrace. “Peace home” eco-resort in Chitwan, Nepal The Shanta Ghar “peace home” is found in the grasslands of Madi, in the Chitwan District of Nepal. Surrounded by lush jungle, visitors can opt to lounge in the garden with the mango and lemon trees or venture into the wild on birdwatching tours or jungle camp excursions. The eco-resort is proudly constructed from local Sal wood, using traditional Nepali carpentry. Guests can choose between rooms in the main house, deluxe suites with private balconies, or round rooms in the “stone house.” A shared living room allows for mingling while you chow down on vegetarian fare made during Nepalese cooking courses. Swell Eco-Lodge on Wild Coast, South Africa The Wild Coast region of South Africa ’s Eastern Cape offers beauty, relaxation, and adventure. Hostess Lee-Ann invites families visiting her Swell Eco-Lodge to share in the view of rolling hills and the sounds of the sea. Wildlife aficionados will enjoy the sights of whales jumping, others the sight of cattle roaming a landscape steeped in history. The lodge features modern Rondavel structures with bright and artistic interior decorating. Both sea-facing and garden-facing rooms offer a place to relax in between outdoor adventures and enjoying a “green way of life.” + Homestay.com Images via Homestay.com

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5 exotic, eco-friendly Homestay locations to satisfy your wanderlust

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