Six of the best romantic eco retreats

What could be more romantic than seclusion, tranquility and being close to nature? Luckily, those qualities are often in abundance when it comes to eco accommodation. From luxury eco resorts to cosy lodges for two, here are six of the best retreats for romantic getaways…

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, FijiJean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji

Frequently named as one of the best eco resorts in the world, this Fijian gem is luxurious to the hilt. Dedicated to sustainability, the resort owners respect the beautiful natural surroundings and take advantage of sensitve and traditional Fijian farming principles in its organic garden and surrounding land. Alongside the expected recycling, composting, solar power and water preservation, the resort runs a conservation programme looking after the reef on the edge of the resort, a designated marine reserve.

Romance factor: 25 individual bures (Fijian bungalows) are set in 17 acres of old coconut plantation – and each offer lots of South Pacific style. Go for the Honeymoon Point Reef Bure with its private hot tub overlooking the ocean. If you want to really ramp up the romance factor, you can book a day’s stay on the resort’s private island – packed off with a champagne picnic it’s the ultimate paradise for two!

Visit: www.fijiresort.com

Ecopod Boutique Retreat, Scotland

Ecopod, ScotlandThe first of its kind in the UK, the new Ecopod Boutique Retreat is luxury self-catering in a modern geodesic dome, and a fantastic piece of low-carbon living. The pod, built with sustainable timber and minimal concrete, blends into the surrounding birch trees in this beautiful part of west Scotland. Heating is provided by a highly-efficient wood pellet stove; fresh water comes from a hill stream filtering through the forest; waste water is treated with the Biorock system; and the pod is equipped with energy-efficient appliances and locally-sourced produce and toiletries. Guests are offered a 10% discount if they arrive by train or bicycle.

Romance factor: The light-filled dome offers spectacular views of Castle Stalker (which appeared in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail!) and Loch Linnhe. The interiors are uber-stylish (think 1970s Eames chairs and other durable design classics); and the wood burner adds extra cosiness.

Visit: www.domesweetdome.co.uk

Boroka Downs, Australia

Boroka Downs offers secluded luxury in the majestic Grampians. As a nature based retreat it has been designed, built and is operated with environmental sustainability at its heart. The modern individual residences are low carbon – double-glazed, fully insulated, run on solar power, and each with their own rain water tank. Recycling takes place throughout and free range chickens take care of food scraps. Around 15,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted on the site in the past five years.

Romance factor: They promise seclusion and discretion throughout your stay… The bungalows are kitted out with all the latest mod cons plus sleek and stylish handmade furniture. You can relax in your private spa while enjoying the view through your glass walls. For serious romantics, Boroka Downs also offer ‘Elopement Packages’!

Visit: www.borokadowns.com.au

Golden Buddha Beach Resort, Thailandsunset on Koh Phra Thong, Thailand

Arriving by long boat you’re bound to be greeted by smiles from the friendly staff of Golden Buddha Beach Resort. Everyone will make you feel welcome on this island, but you’ll have plenty of opportunities for time alone. The luxury beach bungalows, all with a sea view, were built using sustainable materials with sensitive land management and minimal energy usage in place throughout the resort.

Romance factor: You can fall asleep to the sounds of the local wildlife and nearby waves if you keep your bedroom wall open (but still enjoy privacy as each bungalow is placed well away from neighbours). Excellent, freshly prepared local food can be enjoyed in the candle-lit restaurant every night.

Visit: www.goldenbuddharesort.com or read our full review here

Kanopi House, Jamaica

The resort owners know how to marry laid-back Jamaican style with environmentally-friendly tourism. Eco-friendly, low impact, organic, and green: Kanopi House treads gently upon the earth. The resort operates a ‘grey water’ system, processed along a lined reed bed, and uses sustainable, regionally sourced hardwoods.  Furnishings, decor and artworks are produced from renewable Jamaican materials, and designed and handcrafted by local artisans.

Romance factor: You can gaze at the Caribbean sea from your chic tree house, before taking a stroll through a jungle of Banyan trees and flowering ginger lily down to a secluded, white sand cove. The resort’s private shoreline and coral reef is a haven for purple manta rays.

Visit: www.kanopihouse.com

Hotelito Desconocido, MexicoHotelido Desconodio

The rooms, restaurants and facilities of this paradise getaway are surrounded by more than 60km of white sandy beaches, a lagoon, crystal clear waterways, gardens, palm trees and fruit trees. In this magical setting, declared by UNESCO aquifer paradise for birds, live pelicans, herons, frigates and hundreds of species of animals that the resort is helping to preserve.

Romance factor: Enjoy delicious organic food in the restaurant, relax with specialised treatments in the spa, sunbathe on the beach, or take a boat for two out onto the lagoon to spot local wildlife. They also specialise in those fantasy-style beach weddings…

 

 

 

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Gecko Villa – a secluded eco stay in Thailand

Gecko Villa, Um Chan, Prachak Sinlapakom, Udon Thani, NE Thailand

T: (from outside Thailand) 6681-9180500; (within Thailand) 081-9180500 / www.geckovilla.com

Guest blogger Charn Cole reviews a secluded eco villa in northeast Thailand

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Gecko Villa is well and truly hidden among the rice paddies, between traditional farming villages approximately 30 minutes out of Udon Thani in northeast Thailand. It is a fully catered holiday villa with a private swimming pool and an emphasis on authentic Thai food. We returned for a second stay here, not only because it is a unique place to relax amongst friends away from the chaos of Bangkok, but also because we appreciate the way the project is of direct benefit to the locals.

Accommodation: Gecko Villa has three air-conditioned bedrooms. The large master bedroom has an adjoining bathroom that leads out into an outdoor shower garden. Each bedroom has a kingsize bed and hardwood floors.

Food: Meals are cooked freshly by the team – they turn up at the villa to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner – all included in the rates. Their Khao Tom is superb for breakfast (together with freshly brewed coffee), and they are happy to adjust spice levels depending on your preferences. Do try their excellent curries and the local northeastern dishes such as spicy beef with fresh herbs, green papaya salad, and marinated BBQ chicken with a dark chili sauce dip. Those interested in cooking can visit local wet markets and be shown how to make any of the dishes served.

Do try: The villa is on a working rice farm and offers a selection of unusual and fun activities. Try your hand at planting rice seedlings or help out with the harvest, learn to control a samlor or a water buffalo and plough, go insect or field mouse hunting and more. The traditional Thai massage offered is excellent. Don’t miss a boat trip on the local pink lotus lake, or a trip to the UNESCO Ban Chiang World Heritage Site.

Recommended for… The large private pool, tranquility and authenticity as well as the great food – but what really makes a stay is the friendly and helpful welcome from the team there.  Perfect for those who like to go local, get off the beaten track and try new things.

Be aware that… English is hardly spoken in the surrounding villages, so take a phrase book and take the useful local map given to you by the villa if you decide to explore by yourselves. If you get lost, the locals generally assume you are staying at Gecko Villa, as you will in all likelihood be the only foreigners in the area.

Good credentials:

  • The property strongly supports the principles of sustainable, responsible tourism in a small-scale, locally owned initiative
  • Creation of local employment: the entire team is comprised of local villagers. Local service providers (such as those performing traditional Thai massage, lotus lake boatsmen etc) are used.
  • Food is either grown directly on the property (rice, organic herbs, vegetables and fruit) or purchased locally
  • Reforestation: the villa actively promotes reforestation and the protection of indigenous eco-systems
  • Giving back: both the villa itself and many of its guests have made direct donations to the local village schools
  • Water saving: rainwater is harvested and water-saving fixtures used
  • Local interaction: guests are encouraged to meet the locals and experience authentic ways of Thai village life
  • Recycling: waste is sorted and recycled by local “saleng” who ensure recycling is supported wherever possible

 

Date of visit: January 2012

About the Author: Charn Cole has lived in Thailand and SE Asia for over 20 years where he has travelled – and eaten – widely. He enjoys finding unusual places to stay and is a strong supporter of responsible travel. He runs an online guide to holiday rentals in Thailand detailing places he has stayed in both Thailand and Bali.  Visit www.thailandholidayhouse.com

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Mkulumadzi lodge, Majete, Malawi

Mkulumadzi (by Robin Pope Safaris), Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi

E: info@mkulumadzi.com / T: +265 (0) 179 4491 / 5483

www.mkulumadzi.com

Opened in 2011 in Malawi’s rejuvenated Majete Wildlife Reserve, Mkulumadzi is Robin Pope Safaris’ second camp in the country, after Pumulani (www.pumulani.com), a beach lodge set beside Lake Malawi.  A stay at Mkulumadzi brings you into a reserve that has successfully re-introduced mammals including the critically endangered black rhino – ongoing projects ensure the local community has a stake in the success of the area.

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Accommodation: Mkulumadzi consists of eight luxury chalets set in 7,000 hectares of private consession. The lodge boasts eight chalets (doubles, families and ‘honeymoon’ available) set on the banks of the Shire River, shaded by giant leadwood trees and wild mangos. Each chalet has a spacious bedroom and lounge, ensuite bathroom (with a large sunken bath overlooking the river), large outdoor ‘rain’ shower and private viewing deck where guests can sit back and enjoys the relaxing sounds of the river. The bush chalets are luxurious and spacious with contemporary furnishings, some crafted from locally-sourced materials. They are flooded with natural light, giving you the sense of being in the forest without compromising your comfort and privacy.

Each chalet has a sloping vegetated roof planted with indigenous species such as succulents, aloes, shrubs and grasses. This minimises their impact on the environment and keeps them cool in the hot season. The whole lodge is solar powered with a back-up generator.

Facilities: The lodge has a restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining, a lounge and terrace, a bar, shop, swimming pool, viewing deck and a lapa for evening campfires. Afternoon tea is served on the terrace, and on most nights dinner is served beneath the stars.

Activities: Game drives are available with longer excursions exploring the far reaches of Majete. Walking safaris are highly recommended – routes that follow the Mkulumadzi and Shire River are especially scenic with an abundance of birdlife and large mammals. Early mornings are the best – and coolest – times for walking. There are also escorted hikes to the top of Majete hill. Boating safaris on the Shire River offer another great way to view wildlife – the banks are popular with elephant and buffalo; you’ll also spot hippo, crocodile and an abundance of birdlife. Viewing hides are set overlooking a waterhole with a range of regular visitors (buffalo, elephant, black rhino, sable antelope, eland) offering plenty of wildlife spotting and photo opportunities. Guests can also choose to visit the nearby village and community centre giving you the chance to experience Malawi outside Majete, its local culture and people.

‘Good credentials:

  • Mkulumadzi supports a number of community projects in Majete and the surrounding area
  • Employs local people providing a steady income for the community
  • Robin Pope Safaris supports the school, health clinic and pottery workshop built by African Parks
  • Stays at Mkulumadzi help support a sustainable wildlife reserve and encourages further conservation projects
  • Chalets are built with ‘green roofs’; solar power is used throughout the lodge

 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Eco Stays

(This article was originally published in Ethics Girls magazine)

A decade ago, the concept of eco-friendly travel was, in many people’s minds, limited only to camping – roughing it under canvas whilst chopping your own firewood, communing with nature and truly ‘getting away from it all’. That will never lose its appeal for many, but 21st century ‘eco accommodation’ comes in many more guises.

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From glampsites to luxury resorts, we are now spoilt for choice when it comes to eco (or green/sustainable/responsible – call it what you will!) places to stay on holiday. Here’s the Goodtrippers guide to selecting the right eco stay for you…

The Luxury Eco Resort: For those who love some indulgence on holiday… Usually found somewhere exotic like Thailand or Australia, luxury eco resorts offer beautiful rooms plus high-end facilities and services (massages, spas, room service) but are run on renewable energy, built from sustainable materials, and employ local people on good wages. Try Longitude 131 an award-winning eco-sensitive resort in the Australian outback near Ayres Rock run entirely on solar energy; or Golden Buddha Beach Resort on the Andaman Coast of Thailand which is built from sustainable materials, minimises power usage and provides good jobs for local people.

The Eco ‘Lodge’: Without the ‘bling’ of a luxury eco resort, the eco lodge is no less special. Often more rustic, an eco lodge could consist of a collection of separate ‘bungalows’ or huts in a style unique to its location – whether that be jungle, snowy mountain range, beach or lakeside. For outdoors enthusiasts, eco-conscious Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in British Columbia, Canada, offers six cosy cabins situated lakeside; or Our Jungle House in Thailand is an eco-friendly cluster of romantic treehouses.

The Ethical Hotel: Many hotels around the world boast environmental standards (reducing, recycling and reusing where possible) but some are going the extra mile to do something above and beyond what the average person would do at home. Bardessono is a LEED platinum-certified hotel in California’s Napa Valley, with a tonne of energy-saving technology, sustainable materials and recycling plans for a high-tech green stay; or try the 4-star Lancaster Hotel in London with its strong environmental and community policies, and its own Rooftop Honey Farm!

The Sustainable B&B: Cosier and more down-to-earth than your grand hotel, a sustainable ‘bed and breakfast’ will often keep it local with its own kitchen garden produce, handmade organic toiletries and low energy usage. One of only four officially certified organic B&Bs in the UK, the Orchard Farmhouse Organic B&B in the Dorset countryside offers an exclusively organic breakfast amongst the peace, quiet and picturesque views; for a chic city B&B The Zetter Townhouse in London sources water from its own borehole and uses eco-friendly paint throughout.

The Glampsite: If you can’t bear to be without home comforts, a ‘glampsite’ (glamorous camping site) is a million miles away from a leaky tent. Whether it be sleeping under the stars in a glass pod near the Arctic or snoozing under canvas on the African plains, these more unusual choices are hard to beat. Eco-conscious Campi Ya Kanzi in Kenya is a safari dream that is solar-powered and works in partnership with the local Maasai community; the cluster of geodesic domes of EcoCamp in Patagonia is packed with green technology allowing you to fall asleep under the stars; or try the Barefoot Yurts in East Sussex, UK, which are 90% built from reclaimed materials with solar lighting and a composting loo.

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Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge, Morocco

Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge

Tighanimine El Baz, BP 5323 QI, Agadir, Morocco

T: +212661488504

www.atlaskasbah.com

(Review by Amal Benaissa)

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Located a few kilometres outside Agadir, Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge appears from a distance perched high on a hill overlooking a beautiful green landscape. Nestled within the Argan Biosphere, it is the first eco lodge in this area of Morocco. The Argan Biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage site bordered by the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas Mountains, and open to the Atlantic in the West. Both the hospitality of owners Helene and Hassan and the commitment to sustainability make this place very special.

Accommodation: There are a total of eight rooms and three suites (55 m² in size) that mix Berber and European décor harmoniously. Spacious and clean, each room has an en-suite bathroom (note: there is no TV).

Restaurant: All delicious meals are served in the restaurant of the Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge; the terrace of the restaurant offers breath-taking views of the mountains and adjacent plains. Pre-selected menus offer a sample of Moroccan cuisine; you can also request a vegetarian option. Foodies can take lessons with the chef in the kitchen of the Kasbah. My favourite bit about the food was the traditional Berber bread, made in front you in the outdoor stone oven by a local Berber woman.

Facilities and activities: Guests can also enjoy the swimming pool, massage room and Hammam (Moroccan steam bath). There are many activities on offer upon request (and dependent on the number of participants) including an astronomy night to watch the stars with professors from Agadir, bird watching, native language classes, Moroccan pottery classes, yoga and meditation, hikes, donkey-rides, surf classes, mountain bike rental, day trips and more!

Recommended for… Those who love outdoor activities! While the ecolodge is great for rest and rejuvenation, the range of activities on offer which make the most of the incredible location, are second to none.

Be aware that… The remote location (it’s a 20 minute drive from the city) means there is little or no wifi and weak phone reception (but then isn’t that for the best…?!)

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge was granted the prestigious Responsible Tourism Award from the Ministry of Tourism of Morocco and the International Green Key Eco Label from King Mohamed VI Foundation for the Environment
  • Water conservation: the lodge uses mixer taps, double flush toilets, intelligent irrigation for the garden, and uses biodegradeable cleaning and bathroom products
  • Energy conservation: 80% of the electricity and all water heating comes from photovoltaic panels, they use low consumption light bulbs, and maximise the use of natural lighting and ventilation
  • Waste management: observe the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle), and leftover vegetables are used as animal feed
  • Organic fertiliser is used in the garden where local and endemic plants are grown
  • Emphasis on seasonal produce and local/non-pollutant products
  • The lodge showcases local, traditional architecture with interior and exterior walls made entirely of natural materials (mud brick walls and tradelakt)

 

About the author:

Amal Benaïssa

Amal Benaissa is a Doctoral Researcher at LSE with an international spirit and a love for discovery

Follow on Amal on Twitter: @EvolvingSun

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