Luxurious relaxation can be compatible with environmental protection and sustainability: Particularly in the luxury segment, the tourism industry has identified a high demand and increasingly comes up with attractive offers. I had a closer look at the ecological virtues of five international luxury destinations. Here they are:
TURTLE ISLAND, FIJI
Do you remember the romantic box office hit “The Blue Lagoon” which had audiences under its spell in 1980? The secret star was not, in fact, Brooke Shields, but Turtle Island. It is part of the Yasawa islands and impressed the cinema audience with opulent tropical vegetation, white beaches, lagoons filled with coral reef, and deep blue water. The best thing about it: You can relax on that South Sea island, too. Admittedly, this excursion with a good conscience is not particularly cheap but it makes up for it by being exclusive and unique. The eco luxury resort costs 300,000 dollars a week. For a more affordable 1,600 dollars including meals, a private beach for two, day trips, and full service provided by a personal “house mama”, at least one night on the island is possible.
As early as the beginning of the 1970s, Richard Evanson bought the uninhabited Fiji island which is now considered the world’s oldest eco resort. If you don’t need the entire island to yourself, 13 additional couples can relax there at the same time. More guests than that are not permitted, in order to protect the ecological balance of the island. Each of the 14 luxurious bures (the traditional huts of the Fiji islands) has their own stretch of beach and a whirlpool, and are placed at least 500 metres apart.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, and spices are not imported from the mainland but are harvested in local gardens. Over the past 30 years, Evanson has planted 500,000 trees, 100,000 of which are mahogany. He is also an ardent protector of the island’s turtle population. In addition to his interest in the well-being of flora and fauna, the island’s owner doesn’t forget the needs of the locals either: Every year he donates 100,000 US dollars for the education of the young islanders. A great role model!
BANYAN TREE, PHUKET, THAILAND
Located at a shimmering salt-water lagoon, 5-star resort Banyan Tree on the Thai island of Phuket offers ideal conditions for your perfect holiday. This oasis of calm was erected on the area of a former tin mine, which in the past was considered a polluted wasteland. Today, the eyes of the luxury tourist see the exact opposite: Banyan Tree is embedded in Phuket’s lagoon and enchants visitors with a fairy-tale like tropical world. Palms and other trees lace the streets and adorn the fields. The resort is considered one of the best eco hotels in Thailand and has repeatedly been designated the best spa hotel in the world – so, what are you waiting for?
Today, the resort is an ecological showcase project and has the status of a nature sanctuary. With an immense financial effort, the area was renaturated, while care was taken to choose only plants and trees which are useful to the local animals. In addition, wastewater is treated in the resort’s own water-processing unit. For each night at the resort, every guest donates two dollars to the Green Imperative Fund; the Banyan Tree contributes the same amount. A variety of projects are supported by this: The education of children in the region and of course the protection of turtles. A positive effect on Phuket’s employment rate is guaranteed through the resort’s policy to prefer local employees. Food ingredients are also purchased exclusively from local sources.
AL MAHA, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Located only one hour by car from Dubai City and one and a half hours from Abu Dhabi, the 6-star Luxury Collection Resort Al Maha awaits you. It lies within a 225 km² desert biotope and sees the protection of the environment as its mission. 94% of the used water is treated and re-used. A part of the resort’s profits regularly goes to a charity, and thus the maintenance and the growth of the desert biotope is financed.
The complex with its big tent roofs is equipped with elegant suites, which impress with their hand-crafted furniture, a private pool, and butler service. The suites offer sophisticated facilities, have additional bedrooms, a courtyard and rooms for private staff. Environmentally-friendly solar energy heats the water in the staff rooms, whereby CO2 emissions are reduced. Protection of animals is also an important priority in the desert resort: An artificial watering place was installed on the grounds of the Al Maha. Specimens of the rare Oryx antilopes – only about 1,000 of this species still exist worldwide – can be encountered there. These animals were actually flown in from the US to enlarge the local Oryx population.
CLAYOQUOT WILDERNESS RESORT, TOFINO, CANADA
If you like it cooler, wilder, but calmer, you will certainly prefer the 5-star deluxe camp Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in Tofino. On the west coast of Vancouver Island, located in the middle of a biosphere reserve, the luxury tent resort can only be reached via boat or seaplane, and is only opened seasonally. The safari tents exude a Victorian atmosphere, have electricity, and are equipped with opulent carpets, antique furniture and comfortable wooden beds. Private composting toilets are next to each tent. Those who prefer more comfort should go for the luxury tents with upscale design, equipped with their own bathroom as well as an outdoor and an indoor shower.
In the camp there is no need to refrain from gourmet food and choice alcoholic beverages. The same goes for the adventure gear that is included in the price per night and can be put to good use at the nearby national parks Stathcona Provincial and Pacific Rim. The impressive camp works entirely sustainably and is economically independent. Efficient recycling systems and wood heating contribute to that. In order to conserve the extraordinary animal diversity, the camp supports projects for eagle and bear protection.
NIHIWATU, SUMBA, INDONESIA
Another luxury resort with a first-class social and environmental record is the 4-star resort Nihiwatu on the Indonesian island of Sumba, one hour from Bali by plane. The Nihiwatu, meaning roughly “At the edge of wilderness”, is located amidst a 175 hectare area, containing rainforest, grassland, rice terraces, and sand beaches at the dramatic and beautiful shoreline of the island. The resort impresses with an exotic combination of remoteness and discreet hedonism. The complex consists of seven bungalows and three villas, which were built by local craftsmen from natural materials.
For food, as well, transport by plane or ship is reduced to a minimum: Vegetables are harvested in the resort’s own organic garden, meat comes from its chicken farm, and fish straight from the sea. Also not self-explanatory: The garbage produced in the resort is recycled and the generators run with organic diesel. To maintain the healthy and bio-diverse environment on the island, the resort’s Nihiwatu foundation supports local ecological projects.
Local sustainability aside, remember that your journey to these exquisite eco resorts is usually made by flying climate killers. In case you want to travel entirely free of a bad conscience, only luxury eco destinations in Germany or Europe remain, which are not to be neglected either…