According to ATTA‘s Adventure Travel Trends report, more and more travellers are less interested in ticking off well-known photo ops and more interested in unique experiences that are intentionally and carefully designed to be environmentally sustainable and mindful of the impact on the places and people they visit. If this sounds like you, we’ve got some goodies today.
Apart from sharing our unique experience when travelling deep into the Amazon a few years ago, we have asked some of our travel blogging colleagues for their recommendations of unique, eco-friendly getaways around the globe. Here is our shortlist of those unique places that not only allow you to get away from it all but take a sustainable approach to do so.
Could one of these be your next getaway?
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Americas: Otorongo Amazon Lodge in Peru
Have you ever stayed at an accommodation that is off-grid, has no roads leading to it and no internet? Where wild animals roam around your hut, and the skies are so clear you want to gaze at the Milky Way all night? We’ve been to such a place: Otorongo Expeditions’ Amazon Lodge, 2.5 hours downriver from Iquitos.
Apart from the Main Lodge with 12 spacious rooms, you can stay in the Family House (sleeping up to 8), and the Private House (perfect for singles or couples).
The lodge though is only one part of the experience. The whole Otorongo Expeditions team go out of their way to ensure you have an amazing time:
- It all starts with the owners: Ivonne Braga and Anthony Giardenelli. The Peruvian/American couple met in 2004, and their love (for each other and the Amazon) led to the creation of Otorongo Expeditions. Both are incredibly knowledgeable, and their passion and love for the wildlife and the people of the Amazon are infectious.
- Whether you come during the dry or rainy season, with the help of bilingual naturalist guides, you get to experience the Amazon at its best: from the excursions to see river dolphins, sleuths and monkeys or fish for Piranha, to the night walks to observe caimans and visiting remote villages and learning about their way of life…
- But that’s still not all: The kitchen staff at the lodge prepare three exceptional meals each day, with fresh ingredients from the Amazon, including juice from fruit many of us have never heard of.
The lodge uses a septic system, recycling and composting to manage its waste, and low emission engines on its boats. Otorongo Expeditions employs local guides, and receiving payments for welcoming guests means native communities don’t need to sell land to loggers or prospectors.
Europe: La Vimea Biotique Hotel in Italy
The rooms all have lovely views of the Val Venosta Valley, which offers plenty to be active. Hiking is the most popular option, and there are walks of all difficulty levels leading you past old chapels, farms and orchards with views of the valley below. If the sun doesn’t shine during your visit, you can also stay inside and take part in one of the complimentary daily mindful activities, such as different types of yoga and meditation.
A five-course dinner is included every night and the freshest ingredients are used to highlight both the area and the season. The dishes are elegantly served and as colourful as they are tasty. The breakfast buffet is also something to look forward to, with a wide variety of healthy and delicious choices suiting all tastes – vegan or not.
By the way, it’s not only the food that is plant-based, organic and locally sourced. The furniture, duvets, toiletries and the rest of the hotel are eco-friendly, too. LA VIMEA gets its wood from the local area and sources it sustainably. The hotel uses as little plastic as possible and relies on green energy including solar power.
Spending a weekend (or longer) at LA VIMEA in Italy is soothing for both body and soul.
Contributed by Alex and Victoria of North Abroad
Africa: Porini Safari Camps in Kenya
As declining wildlife populations and mass tourism have become more problematic within Kenya’s famed Maasai Mara National Reserve, Maasai-owned conservancies bordering the National Reserve have become increasingly vital: around 60 to 70% of Kenya’s wildlife is found here.
Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps founder Jake Grieves-Cook (a Kenya native who once served as Chairman of the Ecotourism Society of Kenya and the Kenya Tourism Board) was a pioneer of the country’s community conservancy concept back in the 1990s.
An eco-tourism venture must benefit both the ecology and the economy of the destination in order to be truly sustainable. | Bret Love
The company signed its first agreement with the Maasai in 1997, establishing the Selenkay Conservancy on 14,000 acres and gaining the right to build low-impact camps that would provide exclusive guest experiences. In exchange for lease payments, bed night and entry fees, and employment opportunities, the locals agreed to help conserve the area’s wildlife. A true triple bottom line success as the nature/wildlife, local communities, and Gamewatchers and its guests all benefit.
All Porini Camps are low-impact in terms of their environmental footprint, with a maximum of 12 tents per camp. Every tent pays to protect 700 acres of habitat, and the number of safari vehicles is limited to about one per 1,400 acres. This leads to less crowding for the animals and better experiences for guests.
About 95% of the Porini Camps and Conservancy staff (including some 245 game wardens, guides, trackers, hosts and camp managers) are from local communities. In 2018, the Maasai generated over USD 1.5 million from the conservancies, with more than 1,000 families receiving monthly payments.
According to Cynthia Moss, founder of the Amboseli Trust For Elephants, “the establishment of the conservancies in Kenya has been the single most successful conservation initiative since the creation of national parks in the 1940s.”
Asia: Minshuku Sanbiki Neko in Japan
In Japan, a minshuku is a type of traditional homestay accommodation. It’s similar to a ryokan in that you sleep on futons spread out on tatami mats in the traditional Japanese style, but it’s generally much less expensive.
In Kyoto, a wonderful minshuku for eco-conscious travellers is the Vegan Minshuku Sanbiki Neko. It’s run by Helen and Craig, an Australian couple who fell in love with Japan and decided to move there a few years ago.
As you may have guessed from the name, the owners are vegan and cook up delicious vegan Japanese food for breakfast each morning. Since animal agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation, water pollution and many other environmental problems, keeping all meals plant-based really cuts down on the guesthouse’s ecological footprint.
Helen and Craig have taken a number of measures with regard to building design, operational issues and waste management to make the minshuku eco-friendly:
- All rubbish is sorted to ensure that everything that can be recycled is recycled. And food wastage is also kept to a minimum.
- In the common areas, they use tatami mats made from recycled car tires, which are more durable than the usual mats and don’t have to be replaced as often.
- Instead of central heating, each room has an individual heating and cooling unit, so as not to waste energy heating and cooling unused areas.
- Linens and towels are in various colours since white ones would have to be bleached to keep them white.
- And no pesticides or aerosols are ever used on the grounds of the minshuku.
The location is in a quiet, residential neighbourhood, which is perfect for getting away from the overly touristy areas and experiencing a bit of real life in Kyoto. Gift vouchers can easily be arranged using PayPal on request.
Contributed by Wendy Werneth, creator of The Nomadic Vegan
How to save money on accommodation?
For accommodation, as with any other travel expenses, it’s worth shopping around. When we book accommodation somewhere, we tend to look across a number of booking platforms to find the best value for money option. Wherever you book, do make sure you read the fine print to make sure you compare apples with apples. For example, your stay may incur extra charges (like local tourist taxes or cleaning fees). Some booking platforms include them, while with others, you have to pay them to your host upon arrival.
Nightly rates are generally cheaper outside of peak season. If you can only travel in peak season, look for accommodation options that are a little further away from the main tourist attractions, yet have good connections by public transport.
We use and recommend the following booking platforms.
Share your experience
Have you stayed at a unique, eco-friendly property you’d be more than happy to recommend to others? Please share your experience in the comments below.