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

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

16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels

August 10, 2016 by  
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In the midst of South Africa’s worst drought in recorded history, one Johannesburg schoolgirl has created a super absorbent polymer that could change the way crops are grown. The polymer is created from simple, readily available recycled materials – orange peel and avocado skin – and it’s capable of storing hundreds of times its own weight in water. Kiara Nirghin’s project ” No More Thirsty Crops ” won the Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwRmICCVY_Q Considering that South Africa’s agricultural union has been pleading with the government for subsidies to help weather the recent water crisis , Nirghin’s project could offer much-needed relief. Her super absorbent material could be used to create reservoirs that farmers could use to maintain their crops at minimal cost. Nirghin knew that other super absorbent polymers rely on chain molecule polysaccharides to give them their power, and her project sprang to life when she learned that orange peel is composed from 64% polysaccharide . It also contains pectin, which is used as a gelling agent in numerous applications. When combined with oily avocado peel and left in the sun, the mixture undergoes a reaction and forms a polymer compound. Related: South Africa is relaxing restrictions on GMOs to fight drought-related food crisis As a Google Science Fair winner, Nirghin has been assigned a mentor from the company to help her develop her idea further, including potential tests on the field. Soon, she’ll learn if she’s one of the sixteen finalists in the global competition – but even if she doesn’t make it to the final round, it sounds like she has a promising career ahead of her. + Google Science Fair Via CNN

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16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels

8-year-old’s fossil discovery reveals how turtles got their shells

July 20, 2016 by  
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If you ask most people to guess why turtles first developed shells, you’ll usually get one answer: the hard shells protect them from predators. That’s the theory scientists have been working with for decades, however a new study suggests everything we know about the evolution of the turtle is probably wrong — and it’s all thanks to a fossil discovered by one 8-year-old boy from South Africa. The study examines the remains of 47 different ancient proto-turtles from a species called Eunotosaurus africanus which had developed partial shells. One fossil in particular helped crack the case: a 6-inch-long specimen uncovered by 8-year-old Kobus Snyman. Compared to the other fossils in the collection, this 260-million-year-old specimen was remarkably complete, containing almost all of the skeleton, as well as the hands and feet of the ancient reptile. After discovering the fossil, the boy immediately turned it over to his local museum in Prince Albert, South Africa. It was this discovery that allowed scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to finally understand the purpose of the proto-turtle’s broadened ribs and stiffened torso. It wasn’t for protection, as first thought: rather, these reptiles developed partial shells in order to more easily burrow underground. The modified ribcage gave these creatures a more stable base when digging. Related: Amphibious Ichthyosaur Fossil Found in China Fills Evolutionary “Missing Link” This explains one of the most enduring questions that’s puzzled researchers for decades: why would turtles evolve shells in the first place? While it’s true they offer protection, they also make the turtle much slower and make it more difficult for the animals to breathe. Most other species on the planet have maintained narrower, more flexible ribs for exactly these reasons. Now that scientists know the early versions of shells served a very specific purpose, the adaptation makes more sense. The full finding have been published in the journal Current Biology . + Denver Museum of Nature and Science Via LiveScience Images via the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

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SunFire fights energy poverty in Africa with parabolic solar kits

July 6, 2016 by  
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The main element of the new Clean Energy Kits is the SunFire12 parabolic cooker . Measuring nearly four feet wide, the cooker concentrates sunlight onto a focal point, where black pots or pans best suited to absorb heat are placed. SunFire says it takes 12 minutes to boil 0.3 gallons (or one liter) of water. This might seem like a lot of time to westerners accustomed to easy energy access, but the additional time spent cooking comes with the benefit of being free and clean. One cooker can easily provide a meal for up to six people, according to the company, requires no maintenance, and boasts a 10-year lifespan. In communities the SunFire folks have visited, local people have told them, “the trees are running away from us”. They’re alluding to deforestation sweeping across Africa as demand for cooking fuel increases alongside population growth. Addressing this, the SunFire Rocket converts “small amounts of food into large pots of food.” Using 50 percent less fuel than a standard wood-burning device and “virtually smokeless,” the Rocket is said to be South Africa’s most efficient wood-burning stove. It is included in the kit for use on days when the sun doesn’t shine. Related: Solar Sister empowers women to bring solar energy to rural Africa Completing their Clean Energy Kits are insulated SunBags, or heat retained bags, which can be used to complete the food-cooking process without using fuel, thereby conserving resources. SunFire says their bags save time for other activities and money, retain nutrients and flavor, and act as “bush fridges” in places that lack electricity to keep food cool. Menzies told Inhabitat, “SunFire believes the best way to make Solar Cookers more accessible is by inspiring entrepreneurs to create small Solar Cooker businesses in their own communities.” This would make a difference at the grassroots level and create new jobs in rural areas. “It still seems incredible to me that there are 3 billion people or just over half the world’s population forced to use firewood to cook when Solar Cookers can easily do the job,” he said. “I aim to spend my life making the tech more readily available where it’s most needed and created SunFire to change the world one meal at a time.” + SunFire Solutions

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SunFire fights energy poverty in Africa with parabolic solar kits

U.S. gives South Africa millions of dollars to combat wildlife poaching

December 24, 2015 by  
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South Africa is home to 80 percent of the world’s rhinoceros population, yet poaching practices are devastating the species. The first eight months of this year saw 749 killings of wild rhinos – up from 719 last year. South Africa’s recent decision to remove a ban on domestic trading of rhinoceros horns is now leaving many worried those numbers will continue to climb. The United States is taking action against poaching in this region, dedicating millions of dollars to research and training local officials to protect endangered species. Considering the U.S. has become the second largest market for illegal wildlife products and is key in smuggling poached contraband across the Pacific ocean, it is only right that officials take the matter seriously. The U.S.’ concern is not only for the wild animals needing protection, but also for national security. The same gangs that deal in poached animal parts are also known to smuggle guns, people, and drugs. Delaware Senator Chris Coons (D), who introduced legislation for strategy development based on individual countries, says, “The impacts of this rapidly growing crisis are spreading around the world, now even threatening our national security.” Some U.S. funding is going to the Endangered Wildlife Trust , who are training officials – normally only used to dealing with street crime and murders – to secure poaching crime scenes and collect evidence for prosecutors. The U.S. Department of Justice also just received $100,000 to train southern African judges and prosecutors to fight illegal plant and animal sales. Related: Can cameras embedded in rhino horns catch poachers? Luckily, it has been observed how effective these trainings and supports have been. In Kruger National Park, a prime spot for poachers, officials nearly doubled their arrests over the last few years, catching 138 criminals versus last year’s 81. The funding for night vision goggles, boots, and tents will allow local officials to ramp up their presence and abilities to interrupt even more poaching behaviors in the area. With continued attention from multiple governmental entities, the future of the rhinoceros and other African wildlife may be taking a promising turn for the better. Via The New York Times Images via Shutterstock ( 1 , 2 )

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U.S. gives South Africa millions of dollars to combat wildlife poaching

Extinct Galapagos tortoises to be bred back to life

December 24, 2015 by  
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Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island saddleback tortoises, died in 2012 after living for over one hundred years. Though George is gone, his species may not suffer the same tragic fate. Scientists are hard at work reviving the Pinta Island saddleback, also known as Abingdon Island tortoise, through selective breeding of related species found on nearby  Galapagos islands . Read the rest of Extinct Galapagos tortoises to be bred back to life

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