By Debra Bokur
Tread lightly on the magnificent Earth by‚ choosing resorts and hotels that share your environmental values
Distant lands and ports of call have always exerted an intoxicating pull on the human imagination, and travel is one of the more powerful ways we can engage in the amazing beauty and diversity of our planet. By selecting hotels, lodges, and resorts that take steps to protect the Earth through sustainable operating practices, we can help to safeguard the planet for future generations of dreamers and explorers. Some countries, such as the Commonwealth of Dominica, have adopted green tourism certification programs that encourage economic development through ecotourism, helping bring this important topic further into the public eye. Other resorts have embraced policies that encourage the use of renewable energy, organic and locally produced sources of food, indigenous products, reclaimed and recycled building materials, and educational programs that teach guests about the ecosystem they’ve chosen to visit, and its vital importance within a much larger, interdependent environment. Here, we showcase properties that offer spa and wellness facilities, while also making an effort to create a greener world.
Conservation & Learning
Becoming educated about the many environmental issues and challenges around the world is a huge step toward helping find viable solutions. Some lodges are located near “or even within “ecologically sensitive regions. While this may seem contradictory to an environmental preservation mission, allowing controlled access to such areas helps create awareness and a sense of stewardship through personal experience.
Costa Rica’s Samasati Nature Retreat offers guests opportunities to learn about the surrounding environment as well as how it fits into a larger ecosystem. The property is surrounded by 250 acres of rainforest, and daily guided excursions are offered into Samasati Biological Reserve, Cahuita National Park, Black Beach Botanical Garden, and Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve. On the African continent, the rare Cape Mountain Zebra, elegant eland, and Black Wildebeest once again roam the veldts and plains around Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Retreat, thanks to the resort’s Rebirth Program. Nearer to home at Papoose Creek Lodge in Montana, guests are able to trek with ecologists knowledgeable about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the inseparable relationship between such diverse species as wolves, willow trees, beavers, and bears. Located at the base of Costa Rica’s dramatic Arenal Volcano, Tabacon Hot Springs Resort & Spa is adjacent to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. Guests can take guided tours through the tropical rainforest canopy while learning about the diverse species that dwell here. Programs at Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa in Australia include bird watching excursions to view the 430 species of birds within the Daintree rainforest, including the rare Wompoo Fruit Dove that are attracted to the ylang ylang trees native to this region. Clayoquot Sound Biosphere surrounding Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts & the Healing Grounds Spa in British Columbia, Canada, boasts the largest temperate rainforest on the planet. Guests are invited to participate in the many conservation programs, which range from bear mapping and whale migration studies, to salmon habitat restoration and raptor rehabilitation and release “all part of the resort’s Environmental Legacy Program.
Problems relating to food supply, ranging from added hormones and pesticide use to the presence of genetically modified organisms, have prompted responsible lodge operators to explore healthy sources of sustainably produced and organically grown foods. Besides ensuring purity, such practices support small family farms and local economies.
At Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Colorado, organic and locally produced fruits, meats, and vegetables are transformed into gourmet dishes inspired by the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape. The extensive organic gardens at Arizona’s Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center supply the property with pure foods and also provide a setting for classes in spiritual gardening and conscious eating. Likewise, organic food gardens are an important feature at Rainforest Edge & Spa in Sri Lanka, where menus celebrate traditional Sri Lankan recipes. Cape heritage cooking is featured at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, where organically grown farm produce comes fresh-picked from the property’s walled vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens. Organically produced local foods are served overlooking a natural volcanic rock pool at Jungle Bay Resort & Spa in Dominica. All meals at EcoTulum’s Amilik & Maya Spa in Patagonia are prepared using fresh fruits and vegetables from onsite organic gardens and greenhouses, and the property is home to chickens and other animals that produce the resort’s eggs and dairy products. At Papoose Creek Lodge, chef Jeff Miller makes it a policy to serve locally grown and sustainably produced foods.
Community Service & Economic Development
Two essential principles of ecotourism include promoting awareness of and building respect for local and cultural traditions, while providing economic benefits to local populations. Support of local schools and businesses is integral to a healthy, self-sufficient society, and further serves to create goodwill, feelings of empowerment, and a strong sense of community.
Developed by two former Peace Corps volunteers, Lapa Rios Ecolodge funds area projects and employs local people, while supporting and sponsoring the local Carbonera School in educating native children who live in this remote area of Costa Rica. Built by local farmers, Jungle Bay Resort & Spa exclusively employs people from surrounding communities and buys goods and services from local farmers and craftspeople “helping to create an autonomous island economy. Very recently, Jungle Bay paid all tuition fees for high school students in the Carib Territory, which is home to the Caribbean’s remaining indigenous Carib Indian peoples. The Aboriginal guides employed by Daintree Ecolodge & Spa share insight and wisdom about native flora and fauna, and teach art and cultural workshops to visitors. Rainforest Edge & Spa purchases local goods and commodities for use throughout the property, and 90 percent of the employees here are local people.