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Responsible travel that won’t compromise on luxury: 5 eco resorts in Asia you need to visit

Photography By Tri Lanka, Aman-i-Kas, Bambu Indah, Nihi Sumba, Soneva Fushi
Published 22.10.21

In recent years, we’ve learned to suppress our desire to travel overseas. But as borders start to open and hope creeps in, we’re beginning to re-mark our future dream destinations.

When mapping out fresh travel plans, now more than ever, people are looking to book holidays with environmental and social stewardship in mind. 2020 showed us that the planet needed the tourism industry’s pause, and it gave us the opportunity to explore low impact and responsible alternatives.

Responsible travel isn’t just for backpackers or those who enjoy camping in remote locales and hiking barefoot through muddy terrain. Some of the most luxurious places in the world to stay are eco resorts, several of which are located in Asia. Whether you dream of diving from your balcony into the turquoise waters of a Maldives island or falling asleep to jungle sounds in Indonesia, eco resorts are not only enveloped by beautiful natural surroundings: they operate in harmony with them.

So what exactly makes a resort eco-friendly? Approaches can vary: from using technology to reduce carbon emissions and resource consumption, to incorporating recycled and natural building materials into the design. We’re looking at five of the best luxury eco resorts in Asia to see what they’ve done for the environment to earn a place on your destination wish list.

SONEVA FUSHI @DISCOVERSONEVA

SONEVA FUSHI

Known for its crystalline waters, abundance of marine life and stunning accommodation, it’s easy to see why the Maldives is at the top of so many travellers’ list. But with the Indian Ocean archipelago seeing up to 1.7 million visitors per year, tourism has put a strain on the surrounding ecosystems and increased local pollution levels. To help mitigate these effects, it’s important to remember that where you stay and spend your money can have a huge impact.

Soneva Fushi is located on the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a Maldivian island covered by magnificent dense jungle, blinding-white sand and a ridiculously clear, turquoise lagoon.

Leading the current trend, Soneva Fushi banned the use of plastic straws in 1998. A decade later it stopped importing water and has so far saved approximately 1.5 million plastic bottles from production. The Maldives is a nation with very few municipal waste facilities, so implementing initiatives to counter rubbish and plastic pollution is a necessity. Last year, Soneva launched the Soneva Namoona initiative that will see a number of islands in the Baa Atoll pledging to end the open burning of island waste, and instead build a dedicated waste-management system.

BAMBU INDAH @BAMBUINDAH

BAMBU INDAH

Deep in the jungle of Bali, nestled in the lush village of Sayan, Bambu Indah is eco lodging at its finest.

The family-owned hotel features 11 Javanese teak wedding houses, built over a century ago and transported to the compound. While each of the hotel’s houses feels private and secluded, most are situated facing the Ayung River and have views of local rice paddies in the distance. The two newest structures resemble soaring crescent-shaped baskets and are made almost entirely of bamboo – a truly remarkable green building material.

The resort’s entire makeup is ecological: from choosing to use lava stone instead of chemically altered concrete for the pool to the fresh produce served straight from the surrounding gardens to your plate. Though the resort is a deeply immersive experience in nature, it is equally luxurious and compatible with a cocktail-in-hand kind of holiday. If you’re lucky enough to pick the Moon House during your stay, there’s a beautiful copper bathtub in the garden for moonlit bathing – the perfect place to go offline and disconnect.

TRI LANKA @TRI_LANKA

TRI LANKA

Not far from Galle Fort, on the shores of Koggala Lake (Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake) sits Tri Lanka. Tri is one of the country’s first truly contemporary eco resorts featuring 11 solar-powered suites. Created by award-winning architect Raefer Wallis, the design and shape of every building are informed by nature’s golden ratio. The lodges are crafted entirely from recycled jak wood and are covered in living walls and green roofs planted with native creepers and sedums. Sticks were even used on the exterior to blend the buildings into the land, enhance privacy and regulate temperature. Perhaps the most beautiful design of all is the water tower, which guests can climb for 360-degree views of the luxury eco resort. A good place to pause, take a breath and appreciate Tri Lanka’s natural surroundings.

AMAN-I-KAS @AMAN_I_KHAS

AMAN-I-KAS

Green and gold hues set the perfect backdrop for this eco resort situated on the threshold of Ranthambore National Park in Northern India – home to the majestic Bengal tiger. Aman-i-Kas offers a luxurious glamping experience. Each of its 10 high-end tents features its own campfire and sundeck perfect for watching wildlife under the stars. During the day safari tours are its most popular attraction, followed by spa treatments and massages around a swimming pool that has been carved into the region’s ancient stepwells.

In a bid to reduce its impact and emissions, Aman-i-Kas recently installed a solar system to help implement a zero-waste approach to all aspects of camp life. This includes its food preparation – the minimalist gastronomic menu features tasty vegan dishes using ingredients from its organic farm. Going forward the goal is to establish a 300 sqm hydroponic farm under solar panels that will enable the team to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs during the hotter months of the year and reduce water consumption.

NIHI SUMBA @NIHI

NIHI SUMBA

Ever dreamed of riding a rescue pony down the cinematic beaches of Asia? At Nihi Sumba, a luxury eco resort located on a remote island in south-eastern Indonesia, that can be a reality. Voted Travel + Leisure’s number one hotel in the world two years in a row, this wellness retreat has everything one could ask for. There are opportunities to discover unspoilt waterfalls, snorkel the preserved reef and experience the island’s world-famous surf break. After your adventures, you can relax in a villa which has been constructed using sustainable materials and offers picturesque views.

This eco resort works closely with the philanthropic Sumba Foundation and is dedicated to making a serious contribution to the local community. The foundation has built more than 60 water wells and 240 water stations and opened primary schools and medical clinics, with the support of the hotel’s owner Chris Burch. It also operates solely on biofuel and puts considerable effort into active recycling, organic farming, smart composting and its water-recycling system.

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