From educational eco-forest walks in Bali, to dining on nutritious organic cuisine grown in New Zealand, Paul Joseph, co-founder of wellness holiday specialists Health and Fitness Travel, picks five healthy eco-friendly holidays to make you feel more connected to yourself and nature…
These luxurious wellness retreats boast superb eco-design and green-friendly awards, meaning you can travel abroad happy in the knowledge that these retreats actively support sustainable tourism.
Situated on the shores of magical Lake Garda, this eco-friendly holiday destination values the connection between personal and environmental wellness. From the heat insulation and local natural materials used in the eco-designed architecture, to the use of renewable alternative energies, Lefay actively promotes eco-sustainability. Begin your holiday boosting your health and fitness by personalising your stay with activities from personal training to Pilates and Tai Qi. Ideal for a singles holiday, make the most of complimentary group fitness classes from yoga to circuit training, before unwinding with a relaxing spa massage.
Encircled by New Zealand’s stunning Southern Alps, luxury wellness retreat Aro Ha fuses eco-friendly accommodation with self-sufficient cuisine, using locally produced organic ingredients from their on-site garden. Enhance the connection between yourself and the environment around you with sub-alpine hiking and kayaking across the lake to the natural bird sanctuary of Pigeon Island. Complement TRX, yoga and meditation sessions with daily therapeutic spa massages and unlimited use of the water therapy suites, to ensure you return home in optimal wellness from this breath-taking eco-friendly holiday destination.
Escape to this luxury holistic and eco-friendly wellness holiday destination in Bali, surrounded by pristine tropical gardens. This green retreat offers a range of healthy cuisine, using only the freshest ingredients, with fish caught in the nearby sea and fresh fruit and vegetables grown at the on-site farm. Get closer to nature with a sunrise dolphin sail, rice field trekking and educational eco-forest walks to learn more about local wildlife, flora and fauna. Escape the stress of everyday life with sunrise yoga, sunset mediation and holistic spa treatments.
Working with environmental and wildlife professionals to restore the region to its natural splendour, the surrounding eco-system of the eco-friendly Karkloof Safari Spa in South Africa, is happily once again home to a diverse range of indigenous fauna, flora, wildlife and birdlife. The perfect destination for a luxury spa holiday, enjoy indulging with unlimited spa treatments using natural ingredients, from a Maldivian black pepper scrub to a coconut body polish. Explore your natural surroundings by hiking, fishing, mountain biking and spotting local wildlife with private guided safaris.
Make a healthy getaway to the white sandy beaches of northern Greece where this eco-friendly holiday destination boasts Blue Flag beaches and respected awards such as the Green Key Eco Label. Using natural ingredients for relaxing therapies, such as mud and clay treatments, pamper yourself at a choice of two luxury spa centres. Ideal for a fun-filled activity holiday, relish in the variety of sports and activities you can enjoy from tennis to windsurfing and meditation. Take advantage of complimentary group fitness classes, including yoga and aerobics, to improve your fitness levels and leave you feeling renewed and revitalised.
About the author: Paul Joseph is co-founder (with Adam Heathcote) of Health and Fitness Travel, the leading experts in tailormade healthy holidays worldwide. He searches for the rare and hidden gems around the world and puts together exclusive and trend-setting holidays for those who would like to improve or maintain their health and fitness whilst on holiday. As well as a love of all things travel, Paul’s other love is exercise, cycling and yoga. Paul also contributes to the travel pages of various high-profile newspapers and magazines where he offers his expert advice on wellness holidays.
This forest hideaway is a real eco paradise for campers in the mountains of Italy…
750m up and nestled high amongst the trees of Italy’s Parco della Fessa natural forest, the Forest Camp campsite is ready to share its love of eco-responsible culture through outdoor activities and experiences.
Everything on the farm-based site is geared towards living a more sustainable lifestyle with campers offered the chance to take part in some great workshops and excursions such as hiking, mountain biking and donkey trekking (no motorised transport here!). A nearby lake also offers the chance to hire kayaks or pedaloes.
This small, friendly and peaceful campsite has room for regular tents, caravans and campervans, and also offers the chance to stay in a Native American-style tipi. The tipis are equipped with beds and bedding, plus basic gas and electricity supplies, and the use of a shower.
With a farmers’ market nearby and barbecues allowed on site, there’s no excuse not to prepare at least one meal of locally-sourced food to enjoy al fresco!
The surrounding area
This beautiful protected area is ideally located for exploring Monti Sibillini, Ascoli Piceno, Macerata, and many medieval villages. The campsite is around 40 minutes from the sea.
Recommended for… Those who love a bit of wild camping (but with some basic amenities thrown in!)
Be aware that… The site is small and peaceful and not for those who want lots of bars, shops and restuarants on their doorstep
Emphasis on eco-friendly and sustainable living
Eco-friendly workshops and activities offered
Located in a protected natural area, home to a wealth of wildlife
Ever wanted to spend the night in a lighthouse in New York state? A treehouse in Laos? Or a cave hotel in Turkey? These are just three of the 10 most extraordinary places to stay in the world – according to travel experts Lonely Planet.
To accompany the launch of their first ever collection of world’s best hotels, Lonely Planet has revealed its top 10 list of unusual accommodation choices. We reported the Lonely Planet ‘eco accommodation’ list last week and now pick out some of the Goodtrippers-friendly options on the ‘extraordinary’ list: here are our picks…
Second in Lonely Planet’s list, this funky lodge is a must if you’re visiting Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. You can choose to stay in a traditional mud hut (en-suite and adorned with art made with the natural pigments found in the many termite mounds in the area), or a traditional grass hut (en-suite and constructed using the same methods as the original bushmen of Botswana). If you fancy it, camping facilities are also on offer. Walkways wind through the baobabs (which are lit up at night) to a pool and bar-restaurant. Spot meerkats and elephants while you sip your sundowner…
No. 5 in the Lonely Planet list, this eco-friendly lodge is located on the edge of the spectacular World Heritage site Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Cabins are nestled privately in the bushland, with wallabies bounding past the windows and wombats shuffling amid the trees. Locally sourced game, wine, cheeses and honey permeate the restaurant’s menu, one of Tasmania’s best. The view from the spa is a dense thicket of King Billy pine trees. Guests can choose from couples’ or family cabins, right up to suites with private outdoor tubs and fuel-efficient fireplaces.
Treehouses for grown-ups! These fantastic handmade orbs, suspended among the tall trees of west coast rainforest, are kitted out like cosy boat cabins inside (mod cons including iPod docks all present and correct) and are accessed by rope walkways and spiral ladders. You’re encouraged spend time in your swaying sphere to immerse yourself in the local wildlife – the chattering birds and squirrels, now on your eye-level. The site also has showers, a sauna, kitchen and barbecue.
This luxury resort by the beach is environmentally-friendly and remote – it’s one of few such lodges within the 328,000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its spacious huts are scattered through dune forest, some with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. Whales frequently pass by, and Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles nest on the nearby beaches. Take a nature trek with a local expert, a deep sea dive, or simply relax in the spa or indulge in the lodge’s fresh seafood and salads.
Completing the Lonely Planet top 10 is this outstanding experience in Laos. Imagine waking to the sonorous call of the endangered black-crested gibbon, stretching in your bed a hundred feet up in the triple canopy, and nursing a coffee on your balcony as you watch the dawn mist crowd in over the jungle valley below. The tree houses, erected by conservation group Animo, are a thing of wonder straddling the giant trunks of strangler fig trees. You have to take a zip wire to ‘fly’ into your night’s accommodation! Dinner is delivered fresh from the nearby campfire, and music is the ambient sound of cicadas as fireflies dance in the night air.
La Francesca is situated in the La Spezia area of Italy and is the natural doorway to the Cinque Terre National Park. Perched on the Ligurian Eastern Rivervia in Italy, near Bonassola and Levanto, the owners of this 50-year old resort are making the most of the beautiful natural surroundings. Visitors are lured with the promise of wild, rugged coastlines, beaches, woodland, medieval villages, olive groves, farms and an abundance of flowers in the Spring/Summer months. The resort clings to the steep coastline and leads down to a bay – the surrounding marine area is protected (whales and dolphins often pass by).
Accommodation: La Francesca consists of 55 villas and apartments – which all face the sea – dotted around 15 hectares of protected area rich in pine trees and Mediterranean plants. Choose from one bedroom apartments or family cottages – all have bedrooms, living areas and basic kitchenettes.
Food: The on-site restaurant offers magnificent sea views from the terrace, plus a menu based on Mediterranean and Ligurian traditions and food and wines from the region. There’s also a bar on site.
Activities: The resort itself has all the usual sports facilities (swimming pool, tennis courts, bowling, table tennis etc) but surely most enjoyment comes from exploring the surrounding area with a number of treks (easy and slightly harder) available straight from La Francesca. There are plenty of outdoor activites for nature lovers and adventure seekers available through the nearby National Parks including cave and wreck diving; snorkeling; surfing; horse-riding; cycling; hiking; plus tightropes and zipwires at ‘Tree Adventures’ (Parco Avventura Val di Vara). As a family-friendly resort, a 10,000 sqm play area is a dream for children. There is also a small mini-market on site.
The National Parks: Alongside Cinque Terre you will also find –
Regional Natural Park of Portovenere, which besides Portus Veneris, the ancient port of Roman triremes, includes the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. The park still keeps traces of the prehistoric people who inhabited the Grotta dei Colombi.
Regional Natural Park of Montemarcello-Magra, an area of 4,320 hectares. Not only a set of wonderful landscapes, but also home to organisations such as the Centro Regionale Fauna Minore and the Orto Botanico of Montemarcello.
Regional Natural Park of Portofino, situated on Portofino headland, 1,800 hectares and 13 kms of coasts. The headland summit is accessibile only through the paths network.
Recommended for… Those who love nature and outdoor activities. Also very family-friendly.
Be aware that… This is not a self-catering holiday to escape from it all: the basic kitchen facilities mean you will have to eat in the (albeit lovely) resort restaurant or drive further afield.
La Francesca has installed solar panels and uses solar-generated power whenver possible
Management of the site is respectful of the natural surroundings and encourages guests to consume less power
Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and next to several protected areas and National Parks
The owners promote traditional Ligurian culture, food and history (through cookery courses, wine tasting and more)
Wildlife specialist Naturetrek’s new 2013 brochure contains 14 new tours, including four new UK options.
Those 14 new offerings (see factsheet below for details) include a spring birdwatching trip to Sicily, a ‘Killer Whales & Northern Lights’ tour of Iceland, puma-watching in Chile, a visit to India’s little-known Satpura National Park and an exploration of Baffin Island in Canada.
Wildlife watching around the world
Elsewhere, the vast array of existing trips includes butterfly-viewing trips to Hungary and Greece; birding tours from Sri Lanka to Florida; jaguar-watching tours in Brazil; flora-themed visits to Kazakhstan, Norway and Ecuador; whale-watching in West Greenland and Monterey Bay; tours observing bears in Spain and Finland; and other itineraries themed around snakes, snow leopards, wolves, dragonflies, red pandas and much more.
In total, Naturetrek now offers around 350 tours to nearly every corner of the world. That includes the ever-expanding range of UK trips, which takes in the Shetland Isles, the Scillies and the famous Somerset Levels starling murmurations.
Most tours are open to enthusiasts of all levels, although some will suit a more experienced and knowledgeable traveller. New for 2013, Naturetrek is launching a range of Beginners’ Birdwatching Tours, aimed at those who are keen to go birding, but fear looking foolish amid seasoned veterans sporting well-used binoculars!
Small groups and solo travellers
The majority of Naturetrek trips operate in small groups (average 10-12 people; maximum 16); because these groups include many solo travellers, there’s usually a room-sharing option for those who don’t wish to pay a single supplement. Each group is guided by a leading, experienced ornithologist or botanist (often both), and each tour departs at a carefully-chosen time when the widlife-viewing experience will be at its most rewarding. Nearly all trips are also available (at a different cost) on a tailormade basis too, for clients who cannot make the set departure dates, or who prefer to travel privately.
For more information on any of Naturetrek’s wildlife itineraries or to request a copy of the new 2013 brochure, call them on 01962 733051 or visit www.naturetrek.co.uk. (If you’re in the UK, they’re based in rural Hampshire in a beautiful converted mill with a Site of Special Scientific Interest nearby!).
Run by wildlife enthusiasts with 25 years’ of experience – the founders are naturalists and conservationists turned tour operators
A commitment to sustainable tourism has been at the company’s heart since its inception
Tours involve small groups using local accommodation and facilities to help support the local communities
Naturetrek develops partnerships with local communities and naturalists, such as financing the regeneration of land in Nepal to create two ecotourism camps – Koshi and Suklaphanta
Some tours include charity donations to organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, International Animal Rescue and the Environmental Investigation Agency
They are currently developing other conservation and sustainable tourism projects around the world
They are expanding their range of UK-based (flightless) tours
NEW tours for 2013
Islay & Mull… In Style!: Your first stop is a four-night stay on Islay, popular with birdwatchers due to its numerous species of visiting Arctic wildfowl. Then there are two days spent on the smaller island of Mull, with its mountains, moorlands and vast sea-lochs, home to otters, birds of prey, rutting red deer and much more. Accommodation is on each island’s best hotel; that includes Mull’s wonderful Tiroran House Hotel.
Departing 31 October & 1 November; prices from £1,195 pp**
Wild Flowers of Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula: Enjoy coastal and inland walks during this three-night break in search of Cornwall’s botanical wonders. The Lizard Peninsula is one of the UK’s top sites for plant-life thanks to its diverse landscapes and geology. The trip includes Gew Graze Valley, known for unique outcrops of mineral-rich serpentine rock.
Departing 31 May; prices from £395 pp** The Yorkshire Coast & Moors
This long-weekend birdwatching holiday starts at the chalk cliffs of Flamborough and Bempton, home to over 200,000 seabirds. Then follows a stop at Filey Dams Nature Reserve, a botanical hub for well known British birds such as the tree sparrow, before time on those classic North Yorkshire Moors.
Departing 25 & 28 June and 2 July; prices from £450 pp**
The Wild Flowers of Upper Teesdale Upper Teesdale sits in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This four-day expedition covers a variety of environments, from low-lying hay meadows to rough grazing pastures and summit heaths on high fells. Discover which species make up the ‘Teesdale Assemblage’ while admiring the breeding birds of these remote moors.
Departing 21 June; prices from £450 pp**
Iceland – Killer Whales & Northern Lights: This five-day break centres on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula where, in winter, killer whale pods and seabirds congregate as large shoals of herring pass by. Watch the spectacle on land and out at sea, and then, after dark, look skywards to (hopefully) see the Northern Lights.
Departing 3 & 18 February; prices from £1,295 pp*
Lesbos in Autumn: Lesbos lies just a few kilometres from the coast of Turkey, and has a magnificent coastline that supports a diverse bird population. From a secluded-village base, this eight-day trip offers an opportunity to explore the island’s many migratory hotspots whilst enjoying some Aegean sunshine.
Departing 28& 29 September; prices from £1,295 pp*
Fjords, Arctic Birds & Northern Lights!… A Norwegian Coastal Voyage: Including a three-night cruise during which the Northern Lights will hopefully be seen, this six-day trip to the Arctic Circle observes the seabirds which occupy this most extreme – and scenic – region.
Departing 26 February; prices from £1,795 pp*
Spring Birding in Sicily: Within the beautiful setting of eastern Sicily, this seven-day adventure focuses on the spring migration of native birds such as the nightjar and hoopoe. From the 800-year-old converted farmhouse base, daily excursions are made to watch the birds amid the spectacular Sicilian landscape.
Departing 1 May; prices from £1,295 pp*
Inuit Adventure: Narwhals & Other Wildlife of Baffin Island: On a ten-day trip around Canada’s largest island, expert guides will lead daily expeditions on Inuit sleds to discover the Arctic’s most elusive wildlife. Baffin Island is the only place in the world consistently inhabited by the Narwhal, with its distinctive long, narrow tusk, while other sightings regularly include polar bears.
Departing 2 June; prices from £8,995 pp*
Eastern Canada – Whales, Bears & Fall Migration: Ranking among Canada’s most stunning landscapes, Quebec is home to large populations of wildlife such as beluga whales and black bears. This 12-day holiday features walks and cruises through the beautiful creeks and forests where these creatures are regularly seen.
Departing 9 September; prices from £4,395 pp*
Chile – Just Pumas!: This 11-day trip starts off in the Chilean capital, Santiago, before heading into the heart of the Andes. The route passes flamingo-lined lakes to reach Torres del Paine National Park and its glaciers and mountains – which provide a perfect habitat for the puma. Days will be spent devoted to exploring, and seeking out this iconic cat.
Departing 14 March & 4 April; prices from £3,995 pp*
Peru – Mountain Lodges Trek to Machu Picchu: The classic landmark of Machu Picchu is appreciated fully on this 12-day trip, with six days allocated to trekking slowly towards it across the Peruvian Andes. The route offers unique insight into the landscape and wildlife of the area while plotting a slightly different course to the classic Inca Trail.
Departing 10 November; prices from £3,695 pp*
Not Just Tigers! Satpura – Best of Central India: This is a ten-day exploration of one of India’s most scenic – and least-known – tiger reserves. While tigers are shy in Satpura National Park and thus rarely-seen, there’s a good chance of encountering other iconic animals, such as leopard, sloth bear, gaur and Asian wild dog, in the 1,500km² grounds. The park’s equally empty of tourists, despite its beauty and sheer remoteness being so stunning.
Departing 9 November, 21 December, 8 February, 15 March & 5 April; prices from £2,395 pp*
Wild Sri Lanka… In Style!: This 14-day holiday provides the chance to encounter Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife – blue whales, leopards, crocodiles, wild boar, warblers and parrots included. You’ll also get to stay in luxury accommodation and admire some of the tropical country’s most impressive archaeological sites, including ancient Polonnaruwa.
Departing 19 November & 14 January; prices from £3,595*
* Prices include flights (London), transport, comfortable accommodation with all or most meals and guiding from an expert naturalist.
** Price includes transport whilst on tour, comfortable accommodation with meals (breakfast and evening meals as a minimum) and guiding from an expert naturalist.