Long ago, when I adopted travelling, I understood that travelling responsibly meant conscious of my impact on the local people and the environment, staying in rustic places and sacrificing urban comforts.
Years later, I realised that it is possible to travel sustainably while indulging in luxury and adventure in offbeat corners of the globe. I have listed my favourite eco-luxury accommodations around the world that provides incredible travel experiences and are committed to save the planet.
Bali Eco Stay: Bali, Indonesia
Photo Credit: Bali Eco Stay
Bali Eco stay bungalows are built by local craftsmen using recycled timbre. The lodge has its own permaculture garden and organic rice paddies, runs a garbage collection program in 3 local villages, and trains and employs staff from the surrounding villages.
Grand Oak Manor: Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, India
Photo Credit: Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary / Agoda
Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary was kind of conceived at Grand Oak Manor. There is a story to it. Henry Ramsay, the British Commissioner to Kumaon in the mid 1800s, bought this estate for his own house, and a few other pieces of land for his friends. Then he declared the forest a protected area, where no one has been allowed to buy land or build since. Staying in their eco-friendly estate, with stellar glimpses of the snow-capped Himalayas from the terrace and being pampered by traditional Kumaoni dishes that are rare to find even in Kumaon, hiking with a local guide to the friendly forest villages of Binsar, and being surrounded by nothing but dense forest, was incredibly therapeutic.
Grand Oak Manor is largely powered by solar energy, grows most of its own produce, and trains and hires staff from the villages of Kumaon. They also offer multi-day village walks near Binsar. You can choose to stay overnight at traditional Kumaoni homestays run by village families.
Black Sheep Inn: Andes, Ecuador
Photo Credit: Black Sheep Inn
I felt like I had reached the end of civilization when we dropped off in Chugchilan after winding along the Ecuadorian Andes in the back of a milk truck. Chugchilan is a remote outpost at over 10,000 feet. I hiked along precarious, panoramic ridges and along the crater of the stunning Quilotoa Lake, hung out with local shepherds in the mountain meadows and shared moments with the native llamas at Black Sheep Inn, and felt blissfully disconnected from the modern world.
Black Sheep Inn literally created tourism and employment opportunities through it to Chugchilan. The lodge is powered by solar and wind energy, has a zero waste policy (and has introduced waste recycling in Chugchilan), and its dry-decomposing toilets are actually fun to use!
Forsyth Lodge: Satpura National Park, India
Photo Credit: Forsyth Lodge
I’ve had opportunities of staying at wildlife lodges around the world but stay at Forsyth Lodge in the buffer zone of Satpura Tiger Reserve surpassed them all. Built by a naturalist who also played an instrumental role in bringing a conservation-focussed model of tourism to Satpura National Park, the lodge’s earthy luxury and locally inspired architecture drew me right in. I spent my days walking, cycling, canoeing and on day/night drives in tiger, leopard and sloth bear territory, but a bigger highlight were the nights, drinking ‘mahua-tinis’ (a local brew made from mahua flowers) under incredibly starry night skies, in the company of the lodge’s passionate naturalists and their stories of the wild.
Forsyth Lodge has used only 10% of their land for building, and has worked over the years to transform the barren acres with indigenous trees and shrubs. Much of their produce is sourced from local farmers and most support staff are trained and employed from the surrounding villages.
Limalimo Lodge: Simien Mountains, Ethiopia
Photo Credit: Limalimo Lodge
One of my fondest memories of travel is of Ethiopia. I had hiked in the dramatic Simien Mountains, spotting gelada monkeys and white-headed ravens, indulging in homemade beer and injera with locals in their round eucalyptus houses on the rural countryside. It was possible for Limalimo Lodge, which is bringing sustainable tourism to the remote Limalimo village. The lodge is perched at the edge of the escarpment amid the rugged cliffs in this fascinating country.
Rammed earth and other local, eco-sensitive building techniques have been used to build the lodge. Wasted water is reused, solar energy powers part of the lodge, and the local community is closely involved.
Gal Oya Lodge: Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka
Photo Credit: Gal Oya Lodge
I have been reading a lot about wild elephants who swim from island to island in a river in Gal Oya National Park, and I knew I had to get myself there. And that isn’t the only reason to visit this remote part of eastern Sri Lanka. Meeting the last generation of the indigenous Vedda people, who grew up in caves deep in the forest and can smell the presence of an elephant in the wind, was a fascinating reason and a worthwhile memory. Gal Oya Lodge has put this national park on the map of Sri Lanka!
The park’s most notorious poachers have been hired as the staff of the lodge; not only do they know the forests (and the movement of other poachers) better than anyone else, they also act as the park’s guardians since their living now depends on it. It’s a brilliant attempt to protect wild Asian elephants.
Feynan Ecolodge: Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan
Photo Credit: Feynan Ecolodge
It is quite worthwhile experience to meet the suave new generation Bedouins in the Wadi Rum, and to be hosted by traditional nomads deep in the stark, barren Dana Biosphere Reserve. Sleeping on the roof of Feynan Eco lodge under the Milky Way and learning how the incredibly starry skies remain a compass for these nomads, sipping tea in the temporary tent home of a Bedouin family, and cooling off under serendipitous waterfalls in remote canyons are some of the best things one can indulge in.
Feynan Eco lodge is run entirely by the local Bedouin community, bringing employment opportunities to the remote Wadi Finan and helping conserve local traditions and the Bedouin way of life.