A week ago I wrote about eco-tourism and investigated whether it is really good for the environment. In principle, it is environment-friendly, a positive experience, and can greatly impact the lives and economies of the local communities.
Unfortunately, there are simply some unscrupulous practices that paint eco-tourism in a bad light. After some reflection, I thought of some practical tips that travelers such as you and me can take to heart as we explore the world. You may want to revisit these tips here.
As I started to think about places that I myself would like to visit in the future, I’ve come up with my own bucket list of eco-retreats, thoroughly researched and shortlisted as authentic eco-retreats that caused visceral and wistful reactions upon my stumbling across them and appeal to my conscious travel sensibilities.
With that said, here’s my bucket list:
1. Off-grid living in a tipi (Native American-inspired tent) or yurt (Mongolian-inspired tent) in the Welsh forest, UK
I have been living in Wales for nearly a year now. I have spent some time exploring the Welsh countryside, hiking along the magnificent coasts and enjoying the great Welsh hospitality. However, I want to enjoy Wales in a different way and would like to experience a weekend in a tipi or yurt (which are not made from animal skins) right at the heart of Dyfi Forest, considered as one of UK’s great forests. Eco-Retreats offers an off-grid escape in this forest, in tents that are very much secluded and comfortable, but allows you to commune with nature and enjoy the spectacular vista and rugged peaks of the Dyfi mountains. Imagine taking a hot bath underneath the stars or taking a dip in one of the streams or just enjoying the waterfalls. They even offer therapy sessions and meditation. Definitely an experience I’m really looking forward to.
2. Enjoying the spectacle of the Aurora Borealis inside my very own treehouse in the Swedish Lapland
When I was a child, I always wanted to have my very own treehouse. But of course, that is something that has never materialized. But I am imagining that the best way to revisit my childhood dreams would be to stay at the Treehotel in the tiny village of Harads in northern Sweden. A plus factor is that I might even get to see the Northern Lights dance while staying in one of seven-ecologically designed treehouses. Their treetop suites include: the Bird’s Nest with its twig design; the Mirrorcube that reflects its surroundings; the 7th Room which is the largest treehouse with a net terrace that allows guests to literally sleep under the stars; the Blue Cone that is made of laminated birch wood; the Cabin with its large windows and fantastic view of the Lule River valley; the UFO that definitely looks like a flying saucer suspended among the trees; and the Dragonfly which is supported by six pine trees and covered in rusty metal.
3. Sea, sun and sand at Belize’s Turtle Inn Resort
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the Caribbean guilt-free is by spending time at Turtle Inn, a resort owned by The Godfather films’ producer Francis Ford Coppola. “We recycle, we grow our own food, we don’t use plastics and we compost out of our own garden. We try to minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible,” Turtle Inn’s general manager Martin Krediet told Elite Traveler. The place is definitely self-sustaining and even runs on hydro-power. They also run eco-friendly wildlife tours along the Monkey River where mantled howler monkeys, iguanas, American crocodiles and water birds can be seen.
4. Weaving fairy tales in China’s Yangshuo Mountain
Stunning scenery with limestone peaks, secluded spot and simple living is simply what characterizes the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat in China. Considered a riverside gem, the place has inspired Chinese poets and artists for centuries. The mountain retreat itself has remained very simple and untouched by technology, with no telephones nor television and with furniture made of bamboo. This is definitely the place I would like to spend some time in for some peaceful introspection. Who knows, I might even try some rock climbing while I’m in the area!
5. Marveling at breathtaking beauty at a wilderness reserve near Cape Town, South Africa
Always topping the list in terms of sustainability is Bushman’s Kloof, a century-old homestead that is now a nature reserve. Located at the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains and only 270 km from Cape Town, Bushman’s Kloof is nestled in the UNESCO-protected Cape Floral Regions. In an interview with National Geographic, Toni Tollman who oversees the reserve says, “We are dedicated to Bushmans Kloof’s enduring legacy, to help protect and preserve its precious heritage through ecotourism, conservation programs, and community benefit projects.”
One day, I will visit this homestead and hopefully get to see the Cape mountain zebras and the 10,000 year old San rock paintings.
6. Hearing the dawn chorus at an award-winning eco-tourism destination in Australia
The Great Ocean Ecolodge is an award-winning eco-tourism retreat in Victoria’s beautiful Cape Otway. The place prides itself in offering guests with a sustainable living experience and an immersion in nature. I definitely want to one day experience seeing not just the koalas and kangaroos but to help out in the rehabilitation of injured wildlife and accompany and observe ecologists as they do their work. Of course watching the views of the Otway ranges and dining fresh produce would be great treats.
7. Admiring beautiful and bountiful marine life in the Philippines
It would be remiss of me as a Filipino to not include one of the outstanding eco-retreats in the Philippines. Atmosphere Resort and Spa has been named by CNN as one of the remotest and luxurious destinations in the country. Atmosphere is very much dedicated to sustainability, implementing a conscious environmental policy in its operations and taking an active role in protecting the marine sanctuaries near the resort. “We have a no-touch, no-gloves, no-feed, no-anchoring policy and we actively show and promote a diving etiquette video to enforce our efforts,” its website reads. Located in Negros Occidental, the resort also takes a stand in health and wellness, providing gluten-free and vegan-friendly food, yoga classes and spa treatments.
8. Spending time in UN-recognized Chumbe Island coral park reserve in Tanzania
Perhaps there’s no other retreat that will beat Chumbe Island Coral Park in terms of its dedication to the protecting the environment and perhaps one of the last pristine coral islands in Tanzania. I would definitely love to go there to observe their operations that are aimed at making zero-impact on the environment by using rainwater for daily needs, harnessing solar energy and practicing toilet composting. The reserve is primarily dedicated to protecting its coral reef sanctuary, forest reserve as well as historical monuments. In 2012, the park was even mentioned in the UN Secretary General’s report to the General Assembly as a “noted example for PES (Payment Ecosystem Services) within the context of coral reefs habitat.”
9. Immersion in indigenous tourism in Canada’s Cree Village
Right in the heart of Canada’s Hudson Bay is the Cree Village Eco Lodge, an indigenous and eco-tourism gem in an island community. The eco lodge has been created as a way to espouse the “cultural values and ethic of the Eeyou Nation” or the Cree people. The lodge itself has been modeled after the “Shaapuhtuwaan,” the traditional Cree dwelling with two sets of teepee poles and a ridge pole in between. The place offers seal and whale spotting on James Bay, hiking at the Tidewater Provincial Park and northern lights viewing. Definitely a must-experience in my opinion!
10. Personally seeing the wildlife and biodiversity of the Talamanca Mountains in Costa Rica
Of course, no bucket list for eco-retreats will be complete without mentioning Costa Rica. And the best place to spend some time is the Pacuare Lodge in the Talamanca Mountains. Named as one of the top 25 Best Ecolodges in the World by National Geographic, the place boasts various one-of-a-kind experiences such as rainforest hikes, white water rafting, ancient trail and hidden waterfall hikes, kayaking on the Pacuare River, among others.
Of course, this list may continue to grow as I uncover more beautiful eco-retreats and places. The main consideration now is saving enough money that will allow me to visit these wonderful places. But then as Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist said, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
What about you? What eco resorts are on your bucket list?
What do YOU think of my bucket list?
I’d appreciate your feedback especially if you’ve already travelled to these places already and can confirm whether the resorts really do uphold the eco-tourism principles and standards. I don’t want to be a victim of greenwashing!