Some Of Our Favorite Eco-lodges & Sustainable Properties
April 24, 2020
At Art In Voyage, we always challenge properties we feature to be more eco-friendly, and, when doable, we select partners that have achieved a neutral carbon footprint. While there is a long way to go to ensure that luxury and comfort requirements demanded by many guests are available with minimal to neutral footprint, these fine properties are among some of our favorites, both for their achievement in sustainability and the unique experiences they offer. You will also find among our selection some properties that are perfect for those of you seeking a complete return to nature, and a locals experience. After all, sustainability is also ensured through maintaining the local ways of life, traditions, and culture. So here is our list of our favorite Eco-lodges and sustainable properties!
Topas Eco-lodge, Vietnam
There is a secluded pocket of northern Vietnam where rice paddies cascade down emerald hillsides, and rural villages weave a cultural mosaic that’s vibrant and timeless. Sa Pa can feel a world away from the Vietnam you imagined—and centuries removed from most places on Earth. It’s where you’ll find Topas Eco-lodge, crowning a peak amid some of the region’s most remote hill tribe communities, its private guest bungalows swirling along a ridgeline with unparalleled mountain views. Wake each morning to the mist rising with the sun, and spend your days exploring the surrounding forests and ethnic villages. You’ll soon start to feel the pull of the hill tribes’ centuries-old lifestyle, native to these mountains and virtually untouched by the modern world.
Trek through rice paddies and deep into the forests of Hoang Lien National Park to visit a Red Dao village—one of the more remote hill tribe communities in Sa Pa.
On a guided mountain bike ride, learn about the distinct languages, customs, and traditions of five ethnic minority groups that still live much as they have for centuries.
Ride the longest cable car in the world to the summit of Mount Fansipan—Indochina’s highest peak—and see all the way to China on a clear day.
Peruse the stalls of Bac Ha, Sa Pa’s largest Sunday market, then enjoy lunch in a village home.
Relax in the lodge’s heated hilltop infinity pool, and take in incredible 360-degree views of mountain peaks ringed with rice terraces.
Sapmi Nature, Sweden
Sápmi Nature Camp is a personal, sustainable and small-scale camp that offers Sami glamping, hosted close to nature accommodation in Laponia World Heritage Area, outside the small towns Gällivare and Jokkmokk, above the Arctic Circle. The camp consists of newly built ‘double’ rooms in the form of lavvu tents (that looks like a tepee) furnished with comfortable double beds, stoves and cozy furnishings inspired by nature and the Sami culture. Each of the 5 tepees/rooms is detached. A modern incineration toilet is located in the camp. The food and the meals are prepared and served by us at the camp. Guests are welcome to be involved in the preparation of food. Ingredients and meals are based on the Sami cuisine where fish, reindeer and moose supplemented by berries and herbs from the area. Most of the meat and fish has been provided by our own family.
Sápmi Nature Camp is owned and operated by a member of the Sami people (Lennart Pittja) who grew up in a reindeer herding family here in Unna Tjerusj Sami community. This is grazing land that has been used by Unna Tjerusj for thousands of years. Sápmi Nature is committed to responsible tourism that does not threaten the reindeer and the herding here, but instead we want to share our knowledge about Sami life – both past and present.
Lapa Rios, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s pristine Osa Peninsula is blanketed by some of the last remaining lowland tropical rain forest in Central America and edged by beaches rich with marine life. At its tip is Lapa Rios, a remarkable lodge surrounded by a 1,000-acre reserve, created to protect the area’s precious biodiversity and to share it in a sustainable way. It would be hard to find a more authentic rain forest experience than this. You awaken to the sounds of the jungle, watch scarlet macaws glide by from your private outdoor shower, and set off into the trees to explore with local guides whose knowledge of the area’s ecosystems runs deep. And yet the experience is relaxing too—there are secluded beaches at the end of many a jungle path, delightful meals served al fresco, and a luxurious bungalow awaiting you at the end of the day.
Lapa Rios is the creation of John and Karen Lewis, two former Peace Corps volunteers who in 1990 left their careers in the U.S., liquidated their assets, and set out to establish a private reserve in one of Costa Rica’s most unspoiled wildernesses. Their mantra was that a standing forest is more valuable than one cut down, and they engaged the local community by fostering economic opportunities tied to conservation of the rain forest. Opened in 1993, Lapa Rios Lodge is now recognized globally as a model of sustainable tourism. A new conservation easement ensures that the property’s 1,000 acres, including old-growth primary forest, will be preserved in perpetuity.
The Brando, French Polynesia
Inspected and approved by our CEO
The Brando, located in French Polynesia, is late actor Marlon Brando’s eco-lodge dream brought to life. The private island is run on 100 percent renewable energy sources, including solar power and coconut oil.
The actor bought Tetiaroa in 1966 after visiting Tahiti to film Mutiny on the Bounty, and spent many happy days there escaping the battlefield of Hollywood. The Brando, which opened in July 2014, seeks to continue his vision that this dream atoll remain pristine – while also offering guests holiday comforts of the highest level. Despite the name, there is little Brando theming and the ambiance is decidedly luxe castaway, with nature providing the flamboyance. A high point is the Varua Spa, which is hidden away in the coconut palms and offers sensual Polynesian treatments. Excursions include lagoon tours and visits to the island’s eco-station, and there is a fitness center, tennis court and eco-friendly water-sports.
In February 2014, photographer David Liittschwager and a team of marine biologists from the Smithsonian Institute and U.C. Berkeley’s Gump Station undertook a “One Cubic Foot” project on Tetiaroa. This project attempted to record and photograph all the creatures that live in or move through a one cubic foot cube that was placed on the inner reef of Motu Onetahi where The Brando is located. The team recorded all of these creatures down to a size of about a millimetre. /center>
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Duba Expedition Camp, Botswana
The Duba Expedition Camp, a partnership between Great Plains Conservation and the Okavango Community Trust in Botswana, offers a front-row seat to Africa’s majestic wildlife.
The camp sits in the heart of the Okavango Delta among a matrix of palm-dotted islands, flood plains and woodland on a 33,000 hectare private reserve. It is also the place that Great Plains Conservation co-founders, National Geographic filmmakers, conservationists and explorers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, chose for their home base.
Duba Plains Camp offers 5 bespoke tents designed to blend into the landscape and evoke the classic African safari style of the 1920’s. All the rooms are raised on recycled railway-sleeper decking and with stunning views of the surrounding floodplain and the steady stream of wildlife parading past. Each tent has a lounge area and beautifully appointed en-suite facilities consisting of flush loo, double vanities and indoor and outdoor showers and a luxurious bath. Ceiling fans, environmentally friendly air-conditioning system over the bed, and careful design maintain a comfortable climate. Enjoy your private veranda complete with plunge pool and shaded sala. The camp’s main area consists of a large raised dining room, comfortable lounge, interactive kitchen, wine cellar and library. The camp’s center point, the gathering place of all bush experiences, an extended deck under the giant ebony trees.
Duba Plains prides itself on its extraordinary wildlife experiences and intimate exposure to the best of the best wildlife, from lions and leopards to elephants, lechwe, buffalo and everything in between. Duba Plains is also known for interesting Kalahari species like aardwolf and pangolins. A recent guest captured it perfectly when he said, “I am not a religious person but I now understand that the Garden of Eden can now in fact be found at Duba Plains.”
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
Inspected and approved by our CEO
Escape to the rare, stunning fynbos vegetation endemic to South Africa at Grootbos, a National Geographic Unique Lodge on the western cape. Don’t skip the resort’s unique flower safari. Built on a hillside where a continent ends, two oceans collide, and the smallest of the world’s six floral kingdoms flourishes, the lodges of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve are uniquely positioned to capture the magic of South Africa’s Western Cape. Below, Walker Bay stretches to the horizon, home to the “marine big five”: great white sharks, southern right whales, seals, penguins, and dolphins; and vast coastal caves bear traces of a Stone Age civilization. Blanketing the hillside with bright, intricate flowers of every shade is the fynbos, or “fine bush,” a hardy, complex plant family endemic to South Africa. The reserve was named Grootbos—an Afrikaans word meaning “big forest”—for the enchanting milkwood forests that cover the hillside. The lodges were built into natural clearings in these gnarled, ancient trees. Both acclaimed restaurants feature excellent cuisine with a focus on local seafood, and they, like the stylish suites and the elegant common areas, are all oriented toward an expansive, breathtaking vista of mountain, fynbos, and sea.
From its earliest days, Grootbos has been dedicated to improving the livelihoods of local communities through sustainable tourism practices. Their Green Futures College trains young adults from the Gansbaai area in conservation, giving them the skills and confidence necessary to become employable while contributing to the preservation and promotion of the region’s unique biodiversity. As part of the curriculum, students develop and maintain the environmentally friendly gardens at Grootbos. Their landscaping services and the sale of plants provide income to the college and help students pay for their tuition, thus creating a self-sustaining business model. On completion of their course, students are awarded a nationally accredited certificate in horticulture and assisted in work placement. Every year, three of the best students are given the opportunity to work at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England. The lodge proudly employs many of its graduates and has helped others find private employment elsewhere.
Estancia Los Proteros, Argentina
At Estancia Los Potreros in Argentina, gauchos lead horseback trips to hidden waterfalls. It is an exclusive 6 500 acre working cattle farm, delightfully secluded at the top of the Sierras Chicas in the heart of the beautiful region of Córdoba. The land has been farmed by the Begg family for four generations, and today Kevin and Louisa Begg delight in welcoming guests to share their home and lifestyle, providing a unique and unforgettable vacation with first-hand contact with the rural traditions of Argentina. The Beggs pride themselves on their warm and open hospitality and taking care of guests with unrivaled personal attention to detail.
Every day at the estancia is different where guests are encouraged to watch or participate in the daily activities of the farm. Equestrian enthusiasts can enjoy fantastic horseback adventures that will have them cantering along grassy hilltops and stopping to take refreshing dips in the natural rock pool. Riders can visit local churches and help the gauchos round up the young horses in order to protect them from the elusive puma. Marvel at the dedication of the horse-breaker hard at work or learn how to lasso like a true cowboy. This horseback vacation to Argentina would not be complete without trying your hand at polo!
Misool Eco Resort, Indonesia
This eco-hideaway, consisting of 13 breezy bungalows handcrafted from salvaged driftwood isn’t easy to reach. Located in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago, at the center of Southeast Asia’s famed Coral Triangle, Misool provides front-row access to an underwater world teeming with marine life—there are more kinds of fish and coral here than bird species in the Amazon. Stepping off the boat after a four-hour ride, you realize that the long journey (with an overnight stay in Sorong) is well worth the trek. The area is part of a no-take zone and known to be one of the most bio-diverse regions on this planet, spanning 828 sq km of protected habitat that is home to a number of endangered species. The resort offers barefoot luxury in harmony with the surroundings and the native people. Built entirely from reclaimed tropical hardwoods and milled on site, the rooms have been designed for comfort, privacy and sustainability, featuring open-air bathrooms, but also air-conditioning inside. There is no light or noise pollution and no mobile phone signal.
A former shark finning camp, Misool is nestled deep in an archipelago of uninhabited islands, now boasts eight beautiful over-water cottages on stilts, as well as nine villas of which some are situated on land on the south side of the island. The rustically luxurious over-water cottages have a hammock built into the veranda, which allows for reading, relaxing and watching fish, shark pups and other sea creatures go about their day.
Milia Mountain Retreat, Greece
In the 1980s, when many Greeks left their villages to ride the wave of tourism development along the coast, two local friends took to the mountains of Crete instead. Their vision: restore an abandoned medieval village and turn it into a retreat based on living in harmony with nature. Today, travelers flock to this off-the-grid stone village to hike on wild mountain trails, sleep in rustic cottages, and savor authentic Cretan dishes like roasted rabbit with mizithra goat cheese and spearmint, washed down with Milia’s own organic wine. Milia seems to have sprouted from the lands of Crete. A glorious location boasting exceptional rugged beauty in the area of Kissamos. Placed among plane trees, chestnut trees, and mountain tops reaching the skies, the area overwhelms visitors with its unique diversity.