Eco-Luxe Hotels : The best picks for low-impact luxury travel

Travel is good for the soul and broadens the mind but it can also leave a deep carbon footprint behind.

Reputable carbon offsetting companies such as are available to offset the carbon emissions from international flights quickly and easily, but harder to manage is the local impact of your stay. Whist we all yearn to explore jungles, climb challenging mountains and meet remote tribes,  there is an increasing awareness amongst travellers that these destinations are fragile and that tourism can sometimes upset their natural balance, ruining destinations for ever.

So, how can the discerning traveller enjoy a luxury break without feeling that they are being ecologically or socially irresponsible? The answer is to stay at an ‘eco-luxe’ hotel, of which there is a growing number worldwide. We’ve hand-picked our top-6 favourite eco-luxe hotels that have successfully combined the highest standards of hospitality with the greenest credentials.

1.    Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

With its lavish air-conditioned suites, Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe may not strictly be ‘green’ in the environmental sense, but in a region which is blighted by poverty, it has found a way that its wealthy guests can have a profoundly positive impact in the local community. Situated in the private Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in a remote corner of the country, this small ultra-luxurious lodge funds a rural health centre and a vital crop irrigation project. It’s crowning achievement is a feeding programme which provides a cooked meal for an incredible 27,000 pre-school children from the villages around the reserve every single day.

2.    Grootbos, South Africa

Grootbos is a luxury eco-reserve near the southern tip of South Africa, close to sea, mountains and forest. Amongst the 2500 hectares of wilderness grow 800 species of plant and milkwood forests over a thousand years old. Hike, horse-ride, bird watch or go shark cage diving if you dare. Similarly to Singita Pamushana, Grootbos uses revenue to fund The Grootbos Foundation, which supports the local community and conservation in numerous ways: from bee-keeping to computer training and from animal husbandry to soccer coaching.

3.    Lapa Rios Lodge, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country which already puts the environment at the forefront of its economy. Last year it managed to produce an incredible 98% of its electricity without oil (though the country’s demand for oil and cars is rising). Eco-tourism is wildly popular here, and the Lapa Rios Lodge in the Osa Peninsula is one of the best eco lodges in the land. Seventeen private bungalows made from local materials nestle amidst the rainforest, 350 feet higher than the Pacific Ocean they overlook. Their mission statement is ‘A forest left standing is more valuable than one cut down’ and visitors can immerse themselves in this 1000 acre private reserve, which teems with monkeys, macaws and countless other creatures. This is a multiple award-winning National Geographic Unique Lodge which also has access to several quiet sandy beaches and has especially warm and helpful staff. As founder Karen Lewis reflects that ‘People who treat the earth well, treat people well’.

4.    Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada

In British Columbia, Canada, lies the Great Bear Rainforest. Here you can escape to one of the world’s first eco-lodges, the Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort. You can only get here by floatplane or helicopter – it really is the ultimate secret hideaway. Stay in one of nine two bedroom wooden cabins, six of which are tidal. Optional excursions range from paddle-boarding to bear and whale watching, or taking a helicopter to fish or fly over the glacier. Soak in a cedar wood hot tub at the foot of the 5000 foot waterfall on your return, then feast on salmon and oysters washed down with local beer and wine. The food and drinks are from local sustainable providers, whilst their Forever Futures Fund supports three environmental initiatives. They have installed a water-powered electricity system and are part of Canada’s first sustainable tourism collective. All in one of the most stunning spots on the planet.

5.    Longitude 131°, Australia

Longitude 131° is a luxury tented camp overlooking one of the most famous sights on earth – Uluru, in the hot red centre of Australia. The stilted tents sit atop a sand dune with magnificent views of Uluru. Sensitive, expert guided tours and walks are included and the food makes use of as much outback produce as possible.  The lodge has been designed to leave no trace in the desert – every tent can be entirely dismantled and removed. Hot water is provided exclusively by solar panels.

6.   Soneva Jani, Maldives

Soneva Jani is probably the cream of the eco-luxe crop, and so much fun, too! At this spectacular new private island resort in the Maldives it’s possible to enjoy an exclusive ‘castaway’ experience smug in the knowledge that pretty much everything possible has been done to keep the impact of your stay as low as possible.

Located within a lagoon around the island of Medhufaru, it comprises 25 water villas, each with a private pool – all constructed from the highest quality sustainable materials. Yes, that is a slide into the sea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Electricity is generated by solar power and all waste water is collected and treated on site. There is even a herb and vegetable garden, grown to organic principles, using compost produced locally. In addition, Soneva bottles its own drinking water and donates a significant proportion of the revenue generated to support clean water projects around the world.

Soneva takes its environmental responsibilities so seriously that it applies its own carbon calculator. While most companies measure their carbon footprint by energy use, Soneva’s calculator also includes all travel, food, waste, paper and water consumption. According to the company’s website, its total CO2 emissions for 2015-16 were 33,714 tonnes, for which 68% was guest air travel. To offset this, it applies a 2% environmental levy to each guest’s stay, which is then invested in sustainable projects.

Finding your green paradise
With more and more luxury hoteliers taking green practices on board, it is becoming easier to visit far flung places without worrying about your carbon footprint. If this is important to you, at Temple World we can offer advice about hotels that have the best sustainable practices – as well as luxurious accommodation – in your chosen destination.

Contact Temple World on 020 8940 4114 to speak to an expert and start planning your trip today.

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