Going on a vacation doesn’t have to hurt the environment. From a certified organic tea estate in Assam to a solar-powered eco-lodge in Jordan, these 10 properties care for their local ecosystems and communities, and offer you guilt-free holidays. By Rashima Nagpal
10 Boutique Hotels That Are Big On Sustainability
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- Forsyth Lodge, Madhya Pradesh
- Stok Palace Heritage Hotel, Ladakh
- Red Earth Kabini, Karnataka
- Wild Mahseer, Assam
- Pepper Trail, Wayanad, Kerala
- Marataba Conservation Camps, South Africa
- Amankora Punakha Lodge, Bhutan
- Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan
- Copal Tree Lodge, a Muy’Ono Resort, Beliz
- MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge, Indonesia
Set on 44 acres of fallow agricultural land resurrected with forests at the edge of Satpura Tiger Reserve, Forsyth Lodge is an eco-sensitive property that strives to create meaningful wildlife experiences. It has used only 10 per cent of the land for building, while the rest nurtures indigenous flora. Its 12 independent cottages are built out of cob, which ensures moderate interior temperature through the year, and are furnished with local artisanal products and furniture made from reclaimed wood. For the safety of the region’s wildlife, the property uses live fencing and not barbed wire; animals like wild boar, spotted deer, jackals, and leopards are sometimes seen on the premises. Grey water from the cottages is used to irrigate lily ponds, and the kitchen waste water is released in a reed pond for recharging groundwater after natural filtration. Among the experiences offered by the hotel is a Junior Rangers Programme tailored for kids to explore the jungle.
From INR 14,000 per night
Built by Ladakhi craftsmen in the early 1800s, The Stok Palace has always been the residence of the Namgyal dynasty. Today, it doubles as a boutique property that echoes its royal history. It has withstood the test of time thanks to clever spatial planning, multi-level interlinked courtyards, elements of elevation including huge decorated balconies, unique service spaces such as a three-storeyed grain silo and drainage passages. The architecture of the palace reflects the culture of the region. The yabkhor (veranda), the lhakchung (temple) on the upper floor, and the chortens (stupas), and mane walls in the vicinity indicate the palace’s religious significance. Its traditional suites ensure a regal stay.
From INR 12,000
Dedicated to responsible hospitality, Red Earth Kabini is a tranquil resort set on the backwaters of the Kabini dam in Karnataka. It features 20 eco-friendly cottages made out of red mud, an organic restaurant, and a cafe overlooking the backwaters. The resort takes pride in simplicity and follows a community-first approach. Nearly 95 per cent of the staff hail from local villages, and all the produce is sourced locally. The floors of the resort feature handcrafted Athangudi tiles sourced from local artisans. Red Earth Kabini is also involved in charitable initiatives, such as an NGO called Sambramma that helps sustain folk art and tribal forms of music and dance. The property also runs a school, a hospital, and an ambulance for tribes living in remote areas.
From INR 15,000
A 22-acre certified organic property, Wild Mahseer is more than your average heritage hotel. Originally a colonial-era tea estate located on the outskirts of the city of Tezpur, the property has transformed into a biodiverse haven with over 1,00,000 plants, 90 bird species, and 72 species of butterflies. It shares land with the Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark, which functions as an ex-situ conservation centre and nursery for afforestation programmes in Balipara Reserve Forest. It is a centre for research, experimentation, documentation, and education on the biodiversity of the region, and also propagates knowledge about the nearby tribal communities. Wild Mahseer offers guests five multi-room bungalows and a one-bedroom cottage as stay options. The property is equipped with a dining pavillion and conference facilities too.
Price on request
Deep in the mountainous Wayanad region of Kerala, in a town called Sultan Bathery, a 200-year-old spice and coffee plantation called Mangalam Carp Estate houses this quaint boutique hotel. Pepper Trail is run by the third-generation owner of the estate. It includes a restored 140-year-old colonial bungalow traditionally called pazhey bungalaav, two luxurious tree houses perched 12 metres above the ground on giant jackfruit trees, and a few premium pool villas. Conservation is at the heart of this sylvan retreat. The 200-acre estate has been employing people from indigenous tribal communities in the region for three generations now. Pepper Trail offers various treks and tours to engage guests in traditional ways of cultivation and cooking. At the heart of the property is an acre-wide spring-water reservoir that sustains the surrounding flora and fauna.
From INR 10,000
At the base of the three-billion-year-old Waterberg Massif in Limpopo Province, along the winding Matlabas River, Marataba is a 21,000-hectare privately-owned section of the Marakele National Park. Following its inception as a conservation reserve in 2000, Marataba has supplied lions, cheetah, elephants, and white and black rhinos as founder or bolster populations to other parks and reserves in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent. The property hosts guests in three kinds of accommodations—founders camp, explorers camp, and star camp out. The founders camp is intimate and ideal for a couple’s retreat in nature. The explorers camp is fit for a fun holiday with family or friends, with elephants as frequent visitors. The star camp out is for those who like to ditch the comfort of a bedroom and go camping in the wild.
Price on request
A 10-minute drive from the 17th-century Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most majestic fortresses, Amankora Punakha Lodge is a repurposed royal farmhouse. Located in a subtropical valley that produces most of the nation’s vegetables, the property is accessed through a picturesque suspension bridge over Mo Chhu River. The old part of the lodge with vegetable-dye paintings is an intimate living area, while the eight rooms are housed in three modern rammed-earth villas. The property, just like others from the brand, takes measures to protect local heritage, culture, and environment by preserving indigenous traditions and craftsmanship.
From INR 1,26,450 per night
Located at the heart of Wadi Feynan, Feynan Ecolodge is one of its kind in Jordan. Part of the rugged Dana Biosphere Reserve, it was built in 2005 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature with an aim to use ecotourism to support and sustain the underprivileged Bedouin community living in the lower parts of the reserve. Since 2009, it is being run by a local company called EcoHotels, and has established itself as a gamechanger in the region. Over 80 local families are known to benefit from Feynan Ecolodge in the form of direct employment, development of micro businesses, and through Bedouin cultural experiences. The solar-powered hotel looks and feels like a historical caravanserai, while also offering all modern comforts.
From INR 18,500
On a 3,000-acre farm in Punta Gorda, in southern Belize, Copal Tree Lodge offers 16 upscale suites and a three-bedroom villa. An all-inclusive lodge from the house of Muy’Ono Resorts, it is the perfect gateway to the rainforests of Maya Mountains. From preserving the 12,000-acre nature reserve that surrounds the property and that guests can explore on hiking trails, to reducing its carbon footprint by sourcing line-caught fish and seasonal seafood directly from local fishermen, Copal Tree Lodge has taken many steps towards conservation and local economic development. At the onsite Farm Centre, you can try your hand at production of coffee, chocolate, and rum. Take a tour of the Distillery, which produces premium organic spirits. You can also sign up for a Cocktail Mixology class to round off the tour.
From INR 20,700
Located on a private island called Dokri in the archipelago of Raja Ampat Regency, MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge offers no more than five bungalows. The resort promotes an eco-friendly lifestyle in its accommodation options as well as experiences. Apart from vegan meals and locally prepared organic care products, it features a one-of-its-kind dive shop that rents out electric boats. Take one of these solar-powered boats to Batanta, a dive spot in Raja Ampat owned exclusively by the lodge; fishing is banned here. Like most upscale dive resorts, MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge offers night dives too, but with an eco-friendly twist: they use a UV Fluo torch, which is invisible to marine life and, hence, does not disturb them. Some of the most fascinating encounters with marine life—sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, octopuses, sea stars, and nudibranchs—happen in Raja Ampat.
Price on request