Picture the scene. You’re stretched out on a lounger by the pool. Your suntan lotion is glistening in the hot midday sun. The pool water is crystal clear and sapphire blue. And beads of ice-cold condensation are trickling down from your chilled cocktail glass to the paved tiles below. There’s nowhere else in the world you’d rather be. Then a thought pops into your head: what impact does this kind of indulgence have on the environment?
Suddenly, your conscience-free luxury holiday is transformed into a guilt-ridden, Mother Nature-maiming nightmare! But fear not, because shrewd, green-minded businessmen and women have come up with the answer: luxury eco-lodge retreats.
These days, whether we’re consuming cars or holidays, more and more people are going green – and ecotourism is big business. In light of this, we list 10 of the most incredible luxury eco lodges from around the world.
10. White Elephant Safari Lodge – Pongola, South Africa
The White Elephant Safari Lodge is an eco-friendly retreat in Pongola, South Africa. Heinz Kohrs, the son of a South African-German cattle farmer and conservationist, founded the lodge in 1999. Surrounded by the beautiful Pongola Game Reserve, White Elephant offers all sorts of experiences for the conscientious safari-adventurer.
Activities here include boat cruises, behind-the-scenes conservation operations, walking tours, fishing, birdwatching, cultural trips, and first-hand lectures on the challenges faced by some of the world’s most magnificent animals.
The lodge operates in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to protect elephants and white and black rhinos. And White Elephant also uses low-voltage lighting, composts organic wastes for its vegetable garden, and boasts a long list of other sustainable and green practices.
9. Lapa Rios Ecolodge – Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
The Lapa Rios Ecolodge, located near Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce inlet, touts itself as a “deluxe wilderness adventure.” What’s more, instead of eliminating bugs with air conditioning, Lapa Rios embraces nature in all forms. In addition to its larger sustainability goals, the lodge pays attention to small details like not using insecticides and herbicides.
Guests are encouraged to use biodegradable soaps and shampoos to protect the fragile ecosystem and can enjoy guided tours through virgin and primary rainforest. The tours involve learning about different species of birds and traditional medicinal uses for plants as well as informative looks at the nocturnal rainforest wildlife.
Other activities include a sustainability tour around the lodge, a dolphin tour, canopy zip-line rides, waterfall rappelling, and splashing along the Carbonera River.
8. Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa – Patagonia, Chile
Situated deep in an all-but uninhabited corner of Chilean Patagonia, the Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa is only accessible by boat. And as you’d expect, the remote, magical-seeming location offers miles and miles of untouched wilderness – which is also home to porpoises and sea lions.
The area has been called “a powerful, fascinating, and mysterious land where time seems to have stopped.” Gorgeous waterfalls, incredible glaciers, fjords, and views of the eternally snow-capped and seemingly endless Andes Mountains make this resort a spot in which to slow down and reconnect with the natural world.
The lodge was built by businessman Eberhard Kossmann, who dreamed of a place that combined “modernity and comfort within the wilderness of Chilean Patagonia.” Activities on offer include hikes to the enchanted forest and hanging glaciers, sea kayaking, and fly-fishing.
7. Silky Oaks Lodge – Mossman, Australia
The Silky Oaks Lodge is situated on Australia’s breathtaking Mossman River, just downstream from the Mossman Gorge. Originally built on a cleared plot of farmland, over the past 25 years the lodge has reforested the area such that it has now been restored to its original rainforest habitat.
The lodge’s philosophy is to have no long-term impact on the surroundings, and in view of this, it has an eco-friendly sewage treatment plant and water-filtering system. Silky Oaks also uses organic cleaning supplies and only buys locally sourced products – such as food and artwork. The lodge aims to meticulously reduce the carbon footprint of each guest. What’s more, some of the proceeds of the establishment go to Rainforest Rescue, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the future of the natural environment.
On top of all this, fun activities to get involved with include habitat tours, tandem skydiving, snorkeling, kayaking, and even hot air balloon rides.
6. 4 Rivers Floating Lodge – Tatai, Cambodia
The fascinating 4 Rivers Floating Lodge is located in Tatai, Cambodia, and like the Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa, it’s only accessible by water. In this case, it takes a ten-minute speedboat ride or a 25-minute cruising boat trip before you can rest your weary head in the lap of luxury. We’re sure the journey is worth it, though!
The lodge’s tented villas are furnished with double and twin beds, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, minibars, and idyllic sun-lounger balconies. Still, the main attraction is probably the retreat’s pristine natural setting. The Cardamom Mountains, which surround the lodge, sound like a fantastical far-off world where endangered species roam free. Barking deer, clouded leopards, Malaysian sun bears, Asian elephants, Indochinese tigers and Javan rhinoceroses all call the area home. Even Siamese crocodiles, once thought to be extinct, have been spotted in the surrounding rivers. And with 553 resident species, the trees practically teem with birdlife.
Activities here include learning how to fish like the locals, kayaking through the mangroves, “hydro-massages” under the Tatai Waterfalls, and trekking tours into the jungle.
5. Feynan Ecolodge – Dana, Jordan
Elegant lines and dust-colored architecture make Feynan a perfect match for the Bedouin beauty that surrounds it. At first glance, the lodge might look a little rustic, but don’t let its sandy exterior fool you. Feynan is the epitome of humble native luxury.
Located on the western edge of the mountain-filled Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan, Feynan offers a unique ecotourism experience. Besides being remotely located, the reserve is also home to sand cats, Syrian wolves, spiny-tailed lizards, and over 800 species of plants.
All staff members are from the local community, and the lodge uses solar-generated power, composting, and recycled materials. At night, it is lit up with hundreds of candles, which adds to the magical, romantic atmosphere.
Daytime activities for the adventurous include hikes, mountain biking, and cultural-insight walks with a Bedouin tour guide. And most importantly, money raised by the lodge goes towards “the betterment of local communities through ecotourism initiatives.”
4. EcoCamp Patagonia – Patagonia, Chile
EcoCamp Patagonia lies at the southern tip of the Andes Mountain range in Chile and is surrounded by the stunning beauty of Torres del Paine National Park. Glaciers, fjords, snow-capped mountains and ancient forests all make this a perfect destination for nature lovers and hiking fanatics.
The lodge’s most intense trekking experience, the Torres del Paine Circuit, lasts for over a week, with up to 12 hours of walking a day! And different activity packages range from exploring the capital city of Santiago to skiing in Valle Nevado.
EcoCamp consists of a string of geodesic domes built to replicate the ancient abodes of the Chilean nomadic and seafaring tribe, the Kaweskar. The domes are connected by wooden walkways and boast natural lighting, renewable energy and heating sources, and “sophisticated composting bathrooms.” The camp also allows visitors to enjoy the scenery in comfort from private porches or to stargaze through the roofs of the domes.
3. Gayana Eco Resort – Borneo, Malaysia
Combining luxury with an ecological “state of mind,” the Gayana Eco Resort is surrounded by lush jungle at the edge of a coral reef island. Situated off the coast of Borneo, the resort consists of 44 lavish tropical-water villas and boasts pristine aqua-blue horizons and arresting views of Mt. Kinabalu.
The main eco-focus of the Gayana resort is preserving marine life in the area. Guests are encouraged to visit the resort’s research center, which propagates giant clams, replants coral in areas devastated by fish bombing and cyanide poisoning, and rehabilitates sea creatures rescued from fishing nets.
Guests can participate in a range of activities, including snorkeling, canoeing, jungle trekking, island hopping, underwater fish feeding, and local cultural tours.
2. Costa Rica Tree House Lodge – Limón, Costa Rica
The Costa Rica Tree House Lodge is so ecologically legit, it was built using fallen hardwood trees that were cut into pieces and dragged out of the jungle by oxen. Meanwhile, the roofs of the houses that make up the complex are made from recycled materials. What’s more, they’re solar-powered and -heated and painted with natural, oil based-paints.
Besides being eco-friendly and integrated with nature, this lodge also boasts an awesome location. It sits right at the edge of one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and famous beaches, Punta Uva, in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve.
Lovely turquoise water, luscious rainforest and brilliantly colored coral reefs make this tranquil paradise a don’t-miss destination for any eco-minded nature lover, adventurer or romantic. Activities in which to partake include surfing, whitewater rafting, hiking, visits to the nearby town of Puerto Viejo, and an iguana conservation tour.
1. Whitepod Eco Resort – Valais, Switzerland
The White Pod Eco-luxury Hotel and Alpine Experience takes green business and eco hotels to a whole new level. This incredible lodge is only accessible by foot or snow-bike and offers stunning views of Lake Geneva. And as if an alpine experience above a picturesque Swiss village weren’t enough of a draw, the lodge also offers over four miles of private skiing.
The resort limits its electricity and water consumption, reduces waste, and makes an effort to use renewable resources. But the best feature, and one of the defining attributes of the resort, is its low-impact accommodation: the white pods.
These spacious geodesic structures are anchored to wooden platforms and are furnished with organic and antique items from the region. Warm carpets, wood-burning stoves, and warm, spring water-fed bathrooms all combine, creating a luxuriant and cozy effect. Eco-conscious mountain luxury never looked nor felt so good.