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The most glamorous eco-hotels in the world

Song Saa, Cambodia

Song Saa

Founders Rory and Melita Hunter’s beautiful Cambodian private-island escape is all about the local community. The resort itself is a dream of strokable wood and thatch, and their Song Saa Foundation strives to protect the archipelago and provides a doctor’s boat service for the islanders. There are also educational programmes covering nutrition and healthcare – and dreamy, breezy sea-facing villas to slouch around in while feeling good about yourself.

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

Mashpi Lodge

Michael Kleinberg

Run by the lively ex-mayor of Quito, Roque Sevilla, Mashpi Lodge is a labour of love hidden high in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. The 3,200-acre reserve is part of the Chocó biodiversity hotspot, so it’s a big one for nature nuts and twitchers. And for those who get off on hanging out with scientists, there is an on-site laboratory and a big naturalist team who will take you romping about the jungle looking for capuchin monkeys and leaping into waterfalls. Those employed by the lodge include ex-loggers, and profits are poured back into local conservation and community engagement.

Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia

Nihi Sumba Island

It’s a schlepp to get to but Nihi Sumba Island, owned by Chris Burch (Tory’s ex), is a ravishing resort on the wave-lashed surfing Mecca of Sumba – totally worth it, in other words. Off-the-scale rustic-chic villas and a remarkable spa, but the best bit is that it collaborates with (and funds) the Sumba Foundation, which guests are encouraged to visit. Working hand in hand with local villages, it has created 100 clean-water projects, four health clinics, refurbished 16 schools and provides training to tackle Malaria. Clap clap clap.

Fogo Island Inn, Canada

Fogo Island Inn

The brainchild of local gal turned tech entrepreneur turned hotel visionary Zita Cobb, Fogo is sensational for all sorts of reasons. First, there is the design, a startling white structure high up on stilts that straddle the rocks of this remote Newfoundland landscape. Then there are the rooms – cosy, Scandi-chic, with enormous windows looking out over the ocean and all filled with custom-made furniture created by re-employed fishing-boat builders. Then there is the social enterprise: the inn is essentially a blueprint for how a lodge should/could be run, working entirely to benefit the wider community and pouring 100 per cent of the profits back into its Shorefast Foundation. The whole package: stylish, wild and a true adventure.

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Owner Michael Lutzeyer is a force to be reckoned with. His Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in the Western Cape has gorgeous rooms, two stonking villas, brilliant food and the most divine nature guides to take you hiking up into the protected fynbos-covered hills, or whale-watching or shark-diving. But what it also has is a clever way of funnelling money (about £3 a night on top of the room rate) to preserve the fragile ecosystem and help the local community. There’s a horticultural and life skills college for disadvantaged youths, a sports programme that trains and supports thousands of local township kids, an organic farm and, of course, the green credentials (no plastic bottles, full recycling, the works) are off the scale. And it’s pretty much all down to the vision of Michael. Just don’t ask him about what he’s planning next… you’ll never get away.

Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

Gili Lankanfushi

This ludicrously beautiful barefoot paradise is one of the original eco-players, so recycling, no plastic, water filtration and so on are a given. It also has staggering over-water villas, only accessible via your own little boat, plus brilliant new family activities inspired by Robinson Crusoe – most apt. They are also a shining light when it comes to marine conservation, work closely with the local community on the neighbouring island, and the whole place is a no plastic zone.

Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley, Australia

Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

Australia’s best-known conservation resort is a stunner. Set within 7,000 acres, on the cusp of the Wollemi National Park, and within the World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains, it’s the first hotel in the world to be internationally accredited carbon-neutral. The cosy glass-and-wooden villas might offer jaw-dropping views (their verandas are the perfect spot for a nightcap) – but they’re also heated by solar water systems. The restaurant serves vegetables straight from the organic gardens, the spa offers treatments using local Australian brand Sodashi – and even excursions are conservation-focused (such as wildlife safaris, horse riding and hikes to the nearby Wolgan River).

SUJÁN, India & Kenya


This fabulously smart Indian brand owns three Rajasthani wildlife lodges, one funked-up palace and a lodge in Kenya. They are all about the experiences – going out on misty, early-morning tiger safaris, say, or bumping through the wilderness looking for leopards. And then, back at base, there are enormous colonial-chic tents with beds you’ll struggle to leave, as well as sumptuous Relais & Châteaux food – AND they pour a huge amount back into the surrounding communities. Guests are charged a small fee on top of the room rate, which is funnelled back into local conservation, as well as local education and healthcare initiatives. Plus they are partnering with anti-poaching programmes.


Inkaterra Machu Picchu

These Peruvian hotels are big on training up locals, have set up ‘corridors’ of land that can’t be logged and have stylish lodges in awesome locations. Oh, and they protect spectacled bears. That’s Paddington. WE KNOW.

Borgo Pignano, Tuscany

Borgo Pignano

This 18th-century villa (and former summer residence of the Incontri family) is wonderfully self-sufficient. Produce is grown in the biodynamic gardens, honey comes straight from the hives and the whole hotel is heated by the burning of wood chips made from trees sustainably grown in their own forestry. But it’s also beautiful – all original frescos, eau de nil velvet drapes and the prettiest terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills (they’ve planted their own organic vineyards – the first batch should be ready in two years). Don’t miss the cool, stone spa: the facials and massages, using Pignano’s handmade lavender oil, are a revelation.

Journeys by Design

Ruaha, Tanzania

The ones to call for proper off-the-chart adventures in Africa. They cover 16 destinations, offering tailor-made super-exclusive, super-adventurous ‘frontier’ travel (yes, you’ll basically feel like an explorer), with an enviable address book and access to all sorts of things most operators don’t even know about. And then, on the side, they also run Wild Philanthropy, a charity that links up tourism with conservation – using the funds from posh adventures to fund worthwhile programmes and enable the hosting communities to conserve the wildlife and ecoystems that draw visitors in the first place. Clever stuff.

1 Hotels

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Top of our wish list for a stylish urban bolthole? Calm, cool rooms, a great restaurant and a rocking rooftop bar with a view. 1 Hotels deliver all of the above, AND they’re eco as heck: they use reclaimed materials, electric cars and tap triple-filtered water direct into rooms, so you can go effortlessly plastic-free. How nice.



The original Six Senses founder and brainiac behind Soneva, Sonu Shivdasani, isn’t resting on his laurels. Yes, the Old Etonian and Oxford graduate owns two of the most sensational – and sustainable – resorts in the Maldives. Yes, his resorts eliminate plastic waste, bottle their own water and are carbon-neutral (also carbon-offsetting all guests’ flights). But now he has a new idea: a zero-carbon, small-footprint lodge that can be dismantled and moved, for example to marine reserves, generating income for isolated areas. First up, the Maldives…

Six Senses

Six Senses Zil Payson

The gorgeous brand has a history of being all warm and cuddly. Many of their resorts – including the beautiful Zil Pasyon in the Seychelles – are solar-powered, are eliminating plastic and grow most produce on site rather than jet it in. And an industry first worth shouting about: they’ve pledged to go entirely plastic-free by 2020.

Wilderness Safaris

Mombo Camp

Crookes and Jackson

These safari pros have jaw- dropping lodges in some of Africa’s most remote pockets and are fierce about protecting resources – both natural and cultural. They fund all sorts of brilliant programmes, and lodges have a low-carbon footprint (many are 100 per cent solar-powered).

Alila Hotels

Alila Ubud

You know this group are good news because most of their hotels are certified by Earth Check (we won’t bore you with the details, but they know their stuff), and their properties in Bali have committed to a new zero-waste policy, aiming for no landfill, composting, recycling and reusing everything. Gold star for them.

Resplendent Ceylon, Sri Lanka

Wild Coast Tented Lodge

The latest from eco-champs Resplendent Ceylon is the most sustainable (and glamorous) yet. Wild Coast Tented Lodge, wedged between Yala National Park and a wild stretch of beach, is a design marvel, with space-age tents angled around natural watering holes, and they’re about to open the world’s first Sri Lankan leopard conservation station. Then there’s all that clever stuff like recycling of grey water, solar power (40 per cent) and no single-use plastic, plus 10 per cent of all profits go towards the philanthropic MJF Charitable Foundation.

The Explorations Company

Great Plains in Botswana

Beverley Joubert and Great Plains

These adventurous, super-high-end safari operators have included an element of philanthropy in all their trips from the start, 28 years ago. They cleverly add a charge of £100 per person per booking, which is then matched by the tour operator, to be fed back into projects that benefit the communities and environments in their destinations. Every itinerary is tailor-made and brilliantly adventurous, without scrimping on style. And their latest initiative, Philanthropy Plus, donates a minimum of 5 per cent of the cost a trip to a cause that’s particularly close to the client’s heart. Win-win.

Wild Frontiers

The wild card of tour operators, hot on the likes of Iran and Central Asia, have hearts of gold. They use local everything, automatically carbon-offset your flights, fund schools and provide clients with nifty LifeStraw bottles that filter water taps, pools, even puddles.


Singita Ebony Lodge, South Africa

The lovely thing about Singita founder Luke Bailes (other than his Robert Redford looks) is his positivity. Do his guests care about sustainability? ‘Yes!’ Do they want to give back? ‘Yes!’ The philanthropic side of the business raises several million a year to be pumped back into education, training and local enterprise.

Steppes Travel

Eco Camp Patagonia

For starters, for every booking they donate £5 to a British charity and £10 to an international one. Then there are their campaigns, like the anti-plastic #refusetouse, and strong links to conservationists including Saba Douglas-Hamilton. They make travel about the experience, when you get ‘that magical connection between clients and people’, as MD Justin Wateridge puts it.

Fashion Designer Jewelry • April 24, 2018

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