3 of the best luxury eco retreats in the Maldives

With the Maldives introducing a new ‘green tax’ to fund conservation efforts, here’s our pick of three of the best sustainable and eco-friendly hotels and resorts in the region…

Soneva Fushi

This resort lives by the ‘S.L.O.W. L.I.F.E’ philosophy (Sustainable Local Organic Wellness, Learning Inspiring Fun Experiences). With a carbon offset programme, its own organic food production and facilities for on-island bottled water production, this beautiful resort pairs great eco credentials with ‘intelligent’ luxury. Secluded chic beach villas and a ‘Mr Friday’ butler service are available for guests, and wildlife fans will appreciate the stretches of undeveloped shoreline that have been left to encourage turtles to continue nesting on the beach.

Soneva fushi
Soneva fushi

Coco Palm, Dhuni Kolhu

This resort is ideal for those passionate about marine wildlife. A ‘Manta Ray Day’ is held every Wednesday, where guests are led by Coco Palm’s resident marine biologist into the shallows to observe the island’s beautiful creatures. As well as manta rays, the house reef provides excellent snorkelling opportunities with chances to spot whale sharks and dolphins too. Coco Palm is also located in the Baa Atoll, a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve whose resorts work together to conserve the area.

Coco Palm resort
Coco Palm resort

Kuramathi Island Resort

There’s a long list of green initiatives being undertaken  by Kuramathi, one of the biggest islands in the Maldives. There is an education eco-centre, filters and ozonators to save water in the modern Jacuzzis, water recycling system, energy saving air-con in the newer villas and a hydroponics garden where fresh salads and herbs are grown for the resorts kitchens.

Eco Kuramathi
Eco-friendly Kuramathi

A closer look at the Indian Ocean, like you’ve never seen before…

The many islands of the Indian Ocean are famous for their white sand beaches and beautiful turquoise waters. Although gorgeous to look at, these paradise beach images can give the impression that the Indian Ocean islands are all very similar to each other. In fact, when you take a closer look, the Maldives, Mauritius and other destinations are all very different from each other.

Maldives close-up
Maldives close-up

In November, luxury travel experts Kuoni launched their collection of microscopic sand photographs taken from their seven resorts in the Indian Ocean. The initiative behind the project is to show travellers that when you take a closer look at the smaller details, the islands of the Indian Ocean are all completely unique from one another.

The different sand grains reflect the geology of each island, giving clues as to what kind of activities you can enjoy there. For example, the sands from La Reunion (an island just west of Mauritius) have yellow lava crystals and black grains made from volcanic basalt. These point to the volcanic origins of the island and travellers here can indeed trek through the forests to see amazing craters and live volcanoes. On the other hand, the grains from the Maldives show six tiny snail shells and a rod spine from a sea urchin, pointing to the amazing snorkelling and diving opportunities to be found in the coral reefs of the Maldives.

Seychelles close-up
Seychelles close-up



Out of this world! Stargazing at The Varsity Hotel, Cambridge

There is one benefit to winter – the longer nights lend themselves to some ‘out of this world’ experiences such as gazing up at the stars from the rooftop of The Varsity Hotel & Spa in Cambridge.

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The eco-conscious boutique hotel will hold an astronomy masterclass on Tuesday 25th February. Guests will explore the cosmos through telescopes from the hotel’s beautiful rooftop garden and find out more about the mysteries of the stars, planets, moons and galaxies above us. The masterclass will be led by Paul Fellows, Chairman of the esteemed Cambridge Astronomical Society and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The stargazing session is followed by a delicious two-course dinner from Head Chef Angus Martin’s hearty winter menu.

Tickets cost £49 and include a glass of bubbly on arrival, the astronomy masterclass and the two-course meal. Guests should arrive at 6:45pm for a 7pm start. To book call 01223 306030 or visit www.thevarsityhotel.co.uk.

The independently-owned Varsity Hotel & Spa is located in one of the most attractive spots in Cambridge backing onto the River Cam. The top two floors of the hotel are made entirely from glass allowing guests breath-taking views of the surrounding area including St John’s College spires, Midsummer Common and the punts gliding down the river.

The boutique hotel is committed to being eco-friendly (which has also meant the removal of energy-sapping mini bars in the rooms!).

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Enjoy US southern charm at North Carolina’s Proximity Hotel

Guest blogger Andrew Lisa reviews North Carolina’s eco-friendly Proximity Hotel – the first to be awarded LEED Platinum Hotel status in the USA.Proximity Hotel, lobby

I love North Carolina. I got married there. From the beautiful beaches in the east to the Great Smoky Mountains in the west, there is no state in the USA that offers such a perfect blend of cultural character and aesthetic beauty.

In the city of Greensboro, you’ll find the Proximity Hotel which is a perfect marriage of old-world Southern charm and the cutting edge of the modern green movement. Whether you see them or not, there are dozens of systems – from the lift which generates its own electricity, to the solar-panelled roof – that makes the hotel run on 40 per cent less energy than others in its class.


Speaking of class, every single one of the hotel’s 147 rooms exudes luxury. Complete with custom-designed furniture and commissioned art, every corner of the hotel is a statement to the fact that no expense was spared in making Proximity a top-tier destination hotel. Rooms vary from loft kings, to suites, to studios. There is something for everyone, and every room is beautifully furnished, lit and decorated.


Dining options include the hotel’s sister business, the award-winning Print Works Bistro, which offers a brilliant wine selection, including many by the glass. Three walls of windows set the atmosphere, and if you’re just in the mood for drinks, there’s an old-school bar.

Proximity Hotel City SuiteFacilities

After you hit the fitness studio, which is next to the pool, check out the spa or book yourself an in-room massage. Hang out in the cavernous yet exquisite social lobby – wifi is complimentary there, as it is throughout the hotel.


Take advantage of the complimentary transportation to local shopping or dining. Not in the mood to drive? Enjoy the garden or get up and go on the Greenway, the local biking and hiking trail right outside of the hotel.

Recommended for… Business travellers – called the “best small city for business travel” by Entrepreneur Magazine, the Proximity just might be the best hotel into which a business person could land.

Be aware that… There have been reports of harassment of tourists in certain parts of Greensboro. The area surrounding the hotel is safe, but as with any city, do some research before exploring the town.

‘Good’ credentials:Proximity Hotel, reception

  • High-efficiency Kohler plumbing fixtures saved two million gallons of water in the first year alone
  • Over 1,500 pounds of debris were diverted from landfills by recycling 87 per cent of construction waste
  • Cutting-edge technology and construction allows the building to operate using 39.2 per cent less energy than a conventional hotel/restaurant
  • Large, energy-efficient ‘operable’ windows provide natural sunlight to 97 per cent of regularly occupied areas

For more information about the Proximity Hotel visit www.proximityhotel.com.

About the author: Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about travel and destination providers such as Bluegreen Resorts.

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Soria Moria Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, Wat Bo Road, Salakamrouk, Siem Reap, Cambodia

T: +855 (0) 63 964 768 | E: booking@thesoriamoria.com


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This contemporary boutique hotel in the heart of Siem Reap (your base for the Angkor temple complex) boasts a real commitment to responsible travel – environmental practices help reduce energy consumption and waste, but it’s the hotel’s positive impact on the local community (including its staff – through the employee partnership scheme it’s Cambodia’s only employee-owned hotel!) that makes Soria Moria so ‘Good’. The hotel partners several local projects and makes it easy for guests to get involved. It’s surprisingly peaceful considering its location – you’re never more than a 5-10min walk from the restaurants, markets, bars and other attractions of Siem Reap.

Accommodation: Rooms are spacious, sleek and modern with all the mod-cons (large western-style en-suite bathrooms, satellite TV, mini-bar etc). Rates range from approx. US$40-60 per night including breakfast and pick-up service.

Food and drink: The fusion restaurant is very good (we enjoyed the breakfast buffet and one evening meal during our stay) but the dishes are (perhaps) a little on the small side (we were probably getting too used to large and cheap street snacks!). The small and friendly Rooftop Bar was fantastic for inexpensive cocktails – the list is extensive and there are regular promotions running (including a $1 Night with all food and drinks at that price – really!). Sipping a cosmopolitan while watching the sunset and enjoying the panoramic views from the rooftop are some very happy memories that have stuck in the mind…

Facilities: While you wait for your tuk-tuk, you can relax in the light and airy hotel lobby where a small shop sells Fair Trade and charity project hand-crafted souvenirs. The hotel also offers traditional Khmer massage and spa treatments, and a ‘fitness room’ (we didn’t visit but I believe it’s like a very small gym if you’re desperate for that sort of thing while on holiday). And for a bit of Vegas-style indulgence you could try the Rooftop Bar’s jacuzzi!

Recommended for… Those who want a peaceful stay (with all the mod-cons) within the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap

Be aware that… The feel is quite European (the founder is Norwegian) so maybe not for you if you’re looking for a real Cambodian experience

‘Good’ credentials:

  • An Employee Ownership Scheme allows local employees to own shares in the business (currently a 51% stake with plans to increase in the future); locals are paid a decent wage and benefits package
  • A training programme in partnership with three local NGOs (Anjali House, Sangkheum Centre for Children, NEDO) allows young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to work and train within the hospitality industry
  • The Soria Moria Higher Education Programme sponsors currently support 12 students
  • Soria Moria supports a number of local organisations and NGOs, promoting them to guests and selling local Fair Trade and NGO products in the hotel’s shop
  • They encourage guests to donate clothing and other items (especially if you need to make room in your suitcase!) in their collection boxes. Items are then distributed to poor families in the community.
  • Electricity and water consumption are reduced wherever possible
  • Bottles, cans and cardboard are recycled (juice cartons are crafted into wallets!)
  • The kitchen’s cooking oil is recycled and given to Angkor Children’s Hospital to be used for Bio diesel for their generator
  • Food waste is given to local pig farmers
  • Soria Moria sells Love Cards and rents White Bicycles on a non-commission basis with all proceeds going towards education projects


(Date of visit: January, 2011)

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