Dream Green: Eight Eco-Chic Destinations
by Rachel Read and Kate Farr.
In this age of easy global travel, exploring the world while maintaining an eco-conscience can feel like a near-impossibility; after all, everyone deserves a little luxury from time to time, but indulging while "leaving only footprints" can often feel like a contradiction in terms. Happily, five-star luxury travel is increasingly being served up with a side order of environmental awareness, and so – whether you choose to wander Asia or venture further afield – there's bound to be an eco-luxe resort to suit you.
Thailand: Soneva Kiri
Hidden on the little-known island of Koh Kood, Soneva Kiri is a hideaway destination that's as stylish as it is sustainable. This pioneering company lead the way in eco-transparency, publishing a full annual report detailing the chain's environmental efforts. Profits go towards the Soneva Foundation, which provides funding for ecological, infrastructure and education projects worldwide.
On-site, guests luxuriate in some of the world's largest resort villas, complete with infinity pools and outdoor bathrooms, accessible by electric golf buggy. When it comes to Soneva's food, sustainably sourced ingredients are perfectly complemented by memorable surroundings, including a treetop pod for the ultimate in private dining.
Borneo: Gayana Eco Resort
Situated just off the coast of Borneo, within the protective boundaries of a marine ecology research centre, Gayana Eco Resort is working hard to conserve the surrounding sea life. Guests are invited to participate in the restoration of damaged coral reefs, encouraging a vivid and diverse marine population into the surrounding area, making it a diver's paradise.
The lavish tropical villas – many of which make the most of their location with large over-water terraces – marry traditional Bornean materials and building methods with thoroughly modern comforts such as Frette bed linen, air-conditioning and luxurious bathrooms to create a memorable getaway.
Thailand: Four Seasons Tented Camp
Unleash the spirit of adventure at Four Seasons Tented Camp in Asia's historic Golden Triangle region, located between Thailand, Burma and Laos. This is luxury camping taken to a whole new level (think private tents with their own air-conditioning, bathrooms and beds) but with a passion for doing things right. Not only will you experience incredible elephant treks through the bamboo jungles, but you'll also learn how to care, feed and respect these gentle giants as part of the Four Season's partnership with the Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation, which rehabilitates rescued elephants.
Make the most of your day on spectacular mountain trails and breathtaking riverboat excursions before unwinding with a traditional Mahout recovery treatment to ease those weary limbs, a quick dip in the riverside freeform pool or an intimate dinner a deux at the camp's private wine cellar. Truly unforgettable.
Vietnam: Six Senses Con Dao
An island hideaway with a conscience, Six Senses Con Dao is fully committed to the eco cause – even their golf balls are biodegradable! This luxury resort takes its role in protecting this unspoilt archipelago seriously, with initiatives to reduce waste, promote sustainability and protect the area's wildlife, whilst sales of their mineral water go towards building a clean water supply for the local school.
Located in the brilliant natural beauty of Con Dao's national park, this is one tropical paradise you'll never want to leave. Your own private villa, your own private pool and your own private butler – not to mention optional diving trips, island escapes and rainforest hikes – make this is the ultimate retreat from everyday life.
Sri Lanka: Leopard Safaris
A game drive with a difference, Leopard Safaris is fully committed to preserving Sri Lanka's national parks and their unique indigenous wildlife. Leopard's diverse range of sustainability initiatives includes adopting solar power at their safari camps, leading tree-planting programmes and working alongside the Sri Lankan government to combat illegal wildlife poaching.
This is no ordinary camping holiday; Leopard's extraordinary tented camps sit at the edge of Yala and Wilpattu's national parks, offering private bathroom facilities with hot water, minibars and luxurious beds. Meanwhile, chill-out areas, electronic charging stations and a full jungle bar will ensure you return home fully relaxed from your animal adventure.
South Africa: Marataba Trails Lodge
Family-owned More Hotels are committed to developing environmental and ethical practices throughout their unique range of boutique properties. Supporting educational initiatives in partnership with local schools and employing staff from within the community, the company also minimises its eco-impact at this off-grid, fully solar-powered lodge.
With a number of hiking trails to explore within this private, malaria-free reserve, you're guaranteed an up-close-and-personal view of South Africa's most iconic wildlife. The ultimate in private safari experiences, Marataba sleeps a maximum of just eight guests in five luxurious eco-suites inspired by the breathtaking beauty of their natural surroundings, creating a genuinely once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Maldives: Gili Lankanfushi
Going green never looked as good as it does at Gili Lankanfushi – its stunning villas-on-stilts are constructed from sustainable materials, its restaurants use fresh ingredients from their organic garden and the whole resort is committed to reducing its carbon footprint via numerous energy-efficient initiatives.
Guests can get in on the action too, with island eco-tours, coral planting expeditions, dolphin cruises and night snorkelling adventures that showcase the wondrous beauty of the Maldives – and just how it should be protected for generations to come. With your own "Mr Friday" butler on-hand to arrange all the above and more, you can concentrate on soaking up every glorious moment of this extraordinary destination.
Antarctica: White Desert
Become one of the few people to explore the edge of the earth with a life-changing stay at Antarctica's White Desert. Their ingenious CarbonNeutral-certified campsites operate under a strict "zero impact" policy, running mostly on renewable solar and wind power but without stinting on life's little luxuries either – like in-tent heating, bathroom facilities and cuisine from South Africa's top chefs.
Get ready to discover landscapes you thought only existed on film, with endless snow deserts, towering cliffs and sweeping glaciers to discover. There's also the chance to come face-to-face with crowds of emperor penguins, get your adrenaline pumping with exhilarating abseiling and kite-skiing opportunities or simply immerse yourself in Antarctica's majestic scenery from the comfort of your state-of-the-art tent. Journeys don't come much more magical than this.