Ethical travel is a growing trend whereby hoteliers and travellers alike are keen to make a difference, give back to local communities and take care of the environment. But is it possible to travel both responsibly and in style? Luxury Travel Expert Jessica Hudson has tried and tested some of the world’s most unique and exclusive eco retreats, and hand-picked the following hotels which are setting a new standard in environmentally-sensitive, luxurious accommodation. These are places where guests get more out of the experience than a clear conscience: they get to connect with the land and the people.
Everyone is responsible for the future of the planet. By working together and supporting hotels such as these, we can help to make the world a better place, now and for generations to come.
Luxury safari lodge SaSaab, located near Samburu National Park in Northern Kenya, is heavily engaged in supporting the local Samburu people, conserving the wildlife and preserving the environment. Owners Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley aim to increase the positive impact of tourism on the social and physical environment through a number of projects. By staying at SaSaab guests are contributing to these too.
An Eco-rated Gold Award holder, SaSaab use solar energy to produce their power, and guests are given stainless steel bottles to use and refill in order to reduce the harmful effects of using plastic bottles. SaSaab’s work with the Samburu community includes projects to educate the villagers in order for them to gain an understanding of the benefits of protecting the surrounding wildlife, health projects, women’s projects and supporting a school food program. SaSaab currently supports 150 children. Just $10 USD will feed one child a nutritious meal for every day of the school term.
A visit to these local tribal villages is a humbling and life-changing experience, where you see how tough daily life is in rural Africa but also how happy the children are without the need for toys and possessions. It puts things into perspective in our consumer driven world
Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco
Bought by Sir Richard Branson in 1998 during one of his famous ballooning expeditions, Kasbah Tamadot is a beautiful boutique hotel set at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains near Marrakech, with breathtaking views and wonderful Moroccan hospitality.
Their community effort is passionately led by the charismatic Eve Branson, Sir Richard Branson’s mother, who is dedicated to improving the lives of women and young girls in the rural mountain villages through education and vocational training to help them become economically self-sufficient. The Eve Branson Foundation aims to help the local Berber people in the long term by setting up sustainable enterprises, which so far have included a carpet workshop and a craft house run and managed by local women. Their handmade items are sold in the Kasbah Tamadot gift shop and at the craft house, which give these women an income to support themselves and their families. Guests of Kasbah Tamadot can support The Eve Branson Foundation by visiting their projects where they can experience typical Berber life and share a traditional Moroccan tea with the young women.
To raise much-needed funds to continue to support these Berber communities, The Eve Branson Foundation British Polo Day is being held in Marrakech on 19th April 2014 at the Jnan Amar Polo Club. For tickets and more information, visit www.britishpoloday.com/morocco
Song Saa, Cambodia
Song Saa is a private island hideaway in Cambodia’s untouched Koh Rong Archipelago, with 27 luxury pool villas set in lush rainforest and perched over the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand. It is a diver’s paradise, surrounded by a pristine marine reserve covering one million square meters, where you can swim with dugongs, seahorses and thousands of exotic species of tropical fish.
With a strapline ‘luxury that treads lightly,’ the owners passionately believe that, with the right mindset, tourism is good for communities and for the environment. Their Song Saa Foundation is dedicated to conserving the natural surroundings and indigenous wildlife, protecting the marine reserve’s coral life and fish, while also meeting the needs of local communities in order to ensure a sustainable future for the island. Their new ‘Boat of Hope,’ the first ever floating education center, aims to help the foundation reach out to all of the communities in the lower Mekong region with their sustainability message and to teach the local community courses in ecotourism and organic farming methods.
Heritage Resorts, Mauritius
Heritage Resorts in the tropical Domaine de Bel Ombre on the unspoilt south coast of Mauritius is not just a stylish five star golf and spa resort, but also a Mauritian-owned hotel with a heart. Surrounded by the Frederica Nature Reserve where guests can enjoy walks, mountain biking, horse riding and quad biking through the unique flora and fauna of the island, the hotel group supports a number of important environmental projects including the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation for the protection of endemic endangered species and the Reef Conservation NGO, which is active in protecting the Mauritian lagoons for which Mauritius is famous for.
They also work closely with the Bel Ombre Foundation to support the rural community in the south of Mauritius through literacy and education programs, and to employ and train local villagers to improve their standards of living and future prospects. Guests can enjoy the turquoise lagoons, pristine white beaches, delicious Mauritian cuisine and warm Mauritian service while knowing that their stay is also making a difference to conserving and protecting the island and its people.