Earthworms, celebrities and luxury hotels make strange bedfellows, but not at The Mount Nelson, the grande dame of Cape Town, South Africa, hotels. Just as some of the biggest names in fashion, film and sport — including Charlize Theron, Robin Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tiger Woods, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iman and Kate Moss — have enjoyed the stylish accommodation and lavish personalized service the "Nellie" is famous for, so do earthworms.
The hotel's worm farm, known as the Mount Nelson Vermiculture Project, was established in 2006, the brainchild of environmental activists Mary Murphy and Roger Jacques.
According to a spokesman for the hotel, earthworms are unique little creatures. Despite spending their time in the dirt, worms do not harbor any bacteria or viruses harmful to humans, and are completely free of parasites. They eat harmful organisms and excrete beneficial ones in their droppings. According to the spokesman, all leftover scraps and organic matter from Mount Nelson's breakfast buffets, afternoon tea spread and dinners are eaten and processed by the earthworm family, turning it into a top-notch soil conditioner. This end product, known as "worm tea," is extremely rich in nutrients and is used to fertilize the grounds surrounding the hotel.
The earthworms are housed in their very own "hotel," a custom-built structure with room for 120,000 worms. Expansion may soon be in the works, as the hotel projects that its worm family will grow to 240,000 in the next six months.
Other hotels are wriggling into the act as well. The Mount Nelson's sister hotel, The Westcliff in Johannesburg, is launching its own Vermiculture Project.