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Wild Ones
Combining comfort with conscience has never been easier.

By Graham Holliday
The Guardian ©
July 19, 2003

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Combining comfort with conscience has never been easier. Graham Holliday scans the globe for the best green resorts.  Click to section on the Black Sheep Inn

Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar

The world's first privately managed marine park, Chumbe Island, offers 24 hectares of pristine coral rag forest and reef with seven luxurious, palm-thatched "eco-bungalows" overlooking the sea. Following eco-ethos, Chumbe Island, the winner of the 2001 IHRA Green Hotelier & Restaurateur Of The Year award, is never crowded, even when fully booked.

Park rangers monitor coral bleaching and illegal fishing, lead school excursions and act as snorkeling and trail guides. The island is home to the rare coconut crab, the largest of its kind on earth.

Solar power heats the filtered rainwater, you wash with locally produced organic soaps, and what looks like a regular toilet is actually an "eco-toilet", which prevents pollution of the marine environment. The restaurant serves up a mix of Zanzibarian, Arabic, Indian and African dishes for both vegetarians and carnivores.

Where to book: 00255 24 2231040,
What it costs: From £100 pp per night.
When to go: All year.

Birch Pond Lodge, Alaska

Wrap up warm for clear winter days or bask on long summer nights at Birch Pond Lodge in Alaska's Sustina valley. Birch and spruce trees shelter the lodge, which borders the 22,000-acre Alaska State Park with views over the nearby Talkeetna mountains and Mount McKinley, 100 miles away.

Visitors can arrive by bus or car or shell out £94 for the round trip by floatplane from Lake Hood in Anchorage to your cabin doorstep.

Two comfortable eco-cabins are kept cozy in winter with heating fuelled by dead wood from the forest. Further accommodation is available in the main lodge. Cabins are equipped with composting toilets. Solar panels are used in the summer months.

Hiking up glacier-carved valleys, skiing in winter and canoeing are big draws. Wildlife buffs have a good chance of spotting moose, otter, lynx, beaver and bears.

Where to book: 001 907 495 3000, deadlink.
Cost: £142pp per day with a two-day minimum stay (full board & activities included).
When to go: All year.

Chaa Creek Adventure Center, Rainforest Reserve and Spa, Belize

Open since 1981, Chaa Creek was voted 1998 Green Hotel of the Year by American Express and the Caribbean Hotel Association. It has some of the world's most original and eco-friendly accommodation. Luxury rooms are on eye level with the canopies alongside the Macal river, offering a sweeping view of the jungle and some 250 species of birds. There are also 19 palm-thatched cottage rooms at ground level.

Swimming, canoeing, bird-watching, hiking, mountain biking or horse-riding are all available, as are guided tours to the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich. The reserve has its own natural history center and a blue morpho butterfly breeding farm.

Where to book: 00 501 824 2037,
Cost: Rooms from £84, Treetop Jacuzzi rooms from £162 a night. Prices include entry to rainforest reserve, natural history center, butterfly farm, and Ruta Maya trail system. Packages are available.
When to go: All year.

Black Sheep Inn, Ecuador

One of the highest inns in the world, Black Sheep in Cotopaxi is an ecotourism venture flush with environmentally friendly credentials. Americans Michelle Kirby and Andres Hammerman arrived on the Andean plateau in 1994 and transformed the mountain lodge into a recycler's dream. Shower water is charcoal filtered and nourishes the reeds that feed the llamas, guinea pigs and sheep. There's a vegetarian restaurant, a sauna and composting toilets, which fertilize the organic garden.

The stunning Andean mountain range surrounding the inn is the main selling point. Hiking, horse-riding and llama treks are available from half-an-hour to full-day excursions, taking in the varied micro-climates of Chugchilán, the sierras of Rio Toachi canyon, the wildlife haven of cloud forest and Pre-Incan ruins.

Where to book: 00 593 3 814 587,
Cost: £12-£25 a night.
When to go: June-August, at the end of the rainy season when the countryside is a wash of green, yet the weather is sunny and clear.

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Green Magic Nature Resort, Kerala, India

Want to act out your Tarzan and Jane fantasies? This is the place for you. Wrapped around a banyan tree, 90ft above ground, its two tree houses are accessed by an ingenious elevator operated by a water counterweight.

Each tree house can accommodate four people, bathrooms are en suite, and the panoramic veranda is a perfect spot for a jungle sundowner. If this sounds too vertigo-inducing, there are four eco-lodges at ground level.

You won't hear noisy generators: solar power heats the water, and cow dung fuels the kitchen stoves. The organic farm supplies all the food for the vegetarian restaurant where guests dine off banana leaves served without knives and forks.

Where to book: Tourindia Holidays (0091 471 2330437,
Cost: £71-116 per night for two people, full board.
When to go: December-March when the temperature never drops below 30C. It rains during June and July.

The Boat Landing Guest House and Restaurant, Laos

Set in an acacia grove beside the Namtha river, the country's first eco-venture has comfortable bungalows made from local materials. Bathrooms have solar-heated water tanks.

Local Akha, Hmong, Khmu and Lantaen ethnic minorities guide visitors on treks and rafting trips on the river and mountain biking in the valleys.

The Nam Ha protected area is home to tigers, elephants, bears, wild buffalo, and many birds and reptiles. It was awarded the 2001 United Nations Development Award for "the outstanding contribution the project team has made towards poverty alleviation".

Where to book: 00 856 86 312 398,
Cost: £8-16 singles, £13-18 doubles.
When to go: During the dry season between November and April.

Wilderness Lodge, New Zealand

The Maoris call it Te Wahi Pounamu, "the place of greenstone jade". Set in a World Heritage Area, the lodge has 18 modern rooms overlooking the Moeraki rapids, and the Riverside Restaurant and Moeraki Lounge offer one of New Zealand's finest views. Day walks cover the Lower Moeraki valley, canoes tours and longer trips can be arranged.

The lodge was set up in 1989 by ecologists Gerry McSweeney and Anne Saunders. Maoris once camped on the site to catch eels, mussels and birds, and a small reserve across the river is still managed by Ngai Tahu, the main South Island Maori tribe.

Where to book: 00 64 3 7500 881,
Cost: £65-£40 per night.
When to go: April to October is the quietest time, with clear skies. The Fiordland crested penguins that inhabit the nearby coastline are best seen from August to early December.

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Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

This resort is green to the core, set deep within Central America's last lowland tropical rainforest, in the Golfo Dulce. Minnesotans John and Karen Lewis put their life savings into buying the plot and built the resort to foster conservation and forest preservation in collaboration with the local community. No live trees were cut in the construction of the 14 thatched bungalows, and over 25,000 native palms have been planted.

Take a hiking tour with a local shaman along forest trails to seek out medicinal plants for common ailments. If conditions are right, you can swim with bottle-nosed dolphins. Night treks and jungle overnighters can be organized, as well as massage and yoga sessions.

Where to book: 00 506 735-5130/ 5281,
Cost: £97-£208 per night, children from £55.
When to go: It doesn't rain from December to April, but the 'green season' (May-December) is probably best.

Pensão Gurué ecotourism project, Mozambique

Mozambique is one of the few African countries where you can explore vast, untouched regions rarely visited by tourists. Ecobiologist Peter Pichler set up the Gaia Africa Lda organization in 1998 to purchase and restore the area, and promote community-based ecotourism to benefit Mozambicans and their environment. Tourism is seen as a key source of future income by the government.

Birders have long been attracted to the nearby forests of Mount Namuli. Visitors to the 15-room hotel can also go caving, white-water rafting, climbing, mountain biking and paragliding.

Where to book: 00 258 4 910050,
Cost: £8-£19.
When to go: August-December; April-July is chilly.

Daintree Eco-lodge & Spa, Australia

Located in a 30-acre valley of the world's oldest rainforest, Daintree's 15 air-conditioned luxury villas are dripping in awards; recently it was voted "number one rainforest spa resort" in the Australian Tourism Awards. Wannabe bushmen can go on bush-medicine and bush-tucker walks guided by Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal guides. Birdwatching, hiking, horse riding and fishing are also available, as are 4WD trips to the nearby Great Barrier Reef. The swimming pool is solar heated.

Overlooking a freshwater lagoon, the Bilingkumu restaurant serves gourmet cuisine using nuts, berries and other produce from the surrounding forest.

Where to book: 00 61 7 4098 6100,
Cost: Luxury villas from £170, deluxe spa villa (Jacuzzi) £192 per night.
When to go: The dry season runs April-December, but the resort is equally enjoyable during the rainy season. Average temperature is 20-30C.

Tohum Living Earth Centre, Turkey

This one-stop rejuvenation center offers ayurvedic cleansing, yoga therapy, healing massage and feng shui workshops. The retreat faces the island of Rhodes and is surrounded by a protected pine forest festooned with aromatic herbs and flowers. Guests stay in the comfortable huts built of stone, mud and straw. Ensuite bathrooms are solar powered. Paths lead down to the sea.

Visitors can go hiking, scuba diving and paragliding. Workshops for mind and body healing are scheduled throughout the year with practitioners flown in from India and Bangladesh. Tohum grows and sells organic food under the Tohum Natural Foods brand in the US. Carpets woven at a local village are also sold overseas.

Many ancient sites are nearby, and in late May/early June, you can take a boat trip to watch loggerhead turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.

Where to book: +00 90 413 774 4140,
Cost: Cottages £227-£455 per week. Children under six stay free.
When to go: May-September; the hottest months are July and August.

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Banyan Tree, Seychelles

Staying here means doing the Seychelles in serious style. This resort, at Intendance Bay on Mahé, has 36 sumptuous beachfront villas with views over the Indian ocean, private pools and Jacuzzis. Rooms are decorated with pieces by local artist Georges Camille, based on the coco-de-mer, the world's largest nut, which only grows wild in the Seychelles.

The resort helps protect the egg-laying areas for hawkshead turtles. Nearby, Bird island is home to the flightless aldabran rail and more than one million sooty terns.

Where to book: 00 248 383 500/383 555,
Cost: From £560 pn.
When to go: All year.

Forest House Lodge, Canada

Forest House is the only lodging on the banks of Anonymous lake in the boreal forests of Saskatchewan. It caters for a maximum of 10 people. Telephones, TVs and internet are banished from the log cabins. Solar energy provides heat and lighting with a "one-person, one-light rule".

Owners Deb Peters and Rick Kolstad are both skilled carpenters and built the cabins and furniture partly from salvaged wood.

Summer visitors can kayak, hike and swim, while winter arrivals can go cross-country skiing or dog sledding, and there is a good chance of seeing the northern lights.

A lakeside sauna house helps ease any aches and pains from daytime excursions and exertions. The kitchen serves organic produce from the on-site garden.

Where to book: 00 1 306 635 2242,
Cost: £130pp per night, minimum stay three nights; five-night packages cost £1,030pp all inclusive, including return flight by floatplane from Saskatoon to the lodge.
When to go: All year.

The Lamanai Outpost Lodge, Belize

Jungle, ancient Mayan ruins, fresh-water rivers and many endangered species. Black howler monkeys abound, along with some 375 species of exotic birds. Guided tours include nocturnal river and jungle safaris.

The lodge, voted Belize hotel of the year 1999-2000, helps support biological and anthropological field research, and guests are encouraged to get involved. Visitors stay in comfortable, palm-thatched cabanas made of local hardwoods. The open-air restaurant, serving Belizean and North American cuisine, overlooks the lagoon.

Where to book: 00 501 223 3578,
Cost: Rooms from £61 per night in the 'Green' season.
When to go: May-December.

Cree Village Ecolodge, Canada

The 20-room lodge is billed as the "most environmentally advanced accommodation in Canada". Run by local aboriginals on a small island in the James Bay sub-arctic region adjacent to Ontario's Tidewater Provincial Park, it uses solar and wind energy and organic materials.

Seals, beluga whales, caribou and moose are all easily spotted from the lodge, and the Shipsand island bird sanctuary is nearby. In winter, guests get around with the help of snow shoes, skis and snow mobiles; in summer, they cruise in kayaks. A year-round trail circumnavigates the island, taking in the 17th-century fur trade buildings of the Hudson Bay Company.

The striking teepee-styled Shabwaton Great Hall was designed with an eye on both ecological sustainability and traditional values. Overlooking Moose river, the dining room with seating for 64 serves a range of native, seasonal food.

Where to book: 00 705 658 6400,
Cost: From £55 per night.
When to go: All year.

Genesis II Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

Part of the National Wildlife Refuge, the site adjoins the Tapanti-Macizo de la Muerte national park. The A-frame cabins have four rooms providing cheap camping facilities for a maximum of eight people. Activity options include rope slides through the canopies.

Where to book: 00 506 381 0739,
Cost: From £48pp per night, meals included.
When to go: The high season runs mid December to mid April; the rainy or 'green' season begins in April.

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The Lodge at Pico Bonito, Honduras

This luxury rainforest resort is set in 200 acres within the national park, but guest numbers are restricted to a maximum of 40. It has 22 elegant cabins and an observation deck with views as far as the offshore Bay islands. The restaurant serves Meso-American cuisine.

Activities include horse riding and mountain biking, whitewater rafting and visits to the ancient Mayan ruins of Copan. You can also fly to the Honduras bay islands for day trips, or overnighters at premier snorkeling spots.

Where to book: 00 504 713 528 7864,
Cost: From £100 per night; package deals including activities are available.
When to go: Peak season runs April-November, 'green' season May-October.

Saruni Safari Ecolodge, Kenya

Away from the usual tourist haunts of the Masai Mara, this new, year-round luxury resort aims to work in harmony with the Masai people. Solar power and waste recycling reduces the environmental impact.

No more than 12 guests are in residence at any one time in six plush cottages festooned with African art, Persian carpets and vast verandas overlook the plains. The consortium owners, Private Wilderness, run some of the best privately owned properties in Kenya, and they charter aircraft to make the one-hour journey from Nairobi.

Most of the employees are Masai, acting as expert guides. Recycled water fills a waterhole for the animals.

Where to book: 00 254 2 605349 ,
Cost: From £195pp per day.
When to go: All year.

Maho Bay Camps, US Virgin Islands

Built in 1976, this one of the original eco resorts. Its tent-cottages look out over hillsides, Caribbean waters and nearby islands. Windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving are available for all levels, and hiking trails run through the old plantations. Cruz Bay town is close enough for night owls in search of a nocturnal buzz.

Where to book: 001 800 392 9004,
Cost: From £48- £135 per room per night.
When to go: All year.

The Cozy Moose Lakeside Family Cabins, US

The Cozy Moose, on Moosehead Lake in Maine, has space year round for a maximum of 20 guests in its two comfortable self-catering cabins.

You can spot moose, hike and kayak in summer, while dog sled tours and cross country skiing through the protected areas of the forest are a main draw in winter. provides a "moose watch" floatplane tour which will pick you up from the front door of your cabin.

There are 46 mountains near the cabins. Downhill skiers can head to nearby Big Squaw. Go for a round of golf at Mount Kineo, accessible by ferry, or visit the northern end of the Appalachian trail at Mount Kathadin in Baxter State Park. The 40-mile long lake is a haven for birds and animals, including deer, otter, beaver and bald eagles.

If you tire of peace and quiet, the nearby town of Greenville has some 15 restaurants.

Where to book: 00 1 207 695 0242,
Cost: £70-£135 per cabin per night.
When to go: All year.

For more accredited ecotourism destinations and tour providers:,,

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Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003



SKY Magazine
Top 10
* May 2009 *

Eco Club Eco Lodge Award
2006 & 2008

Ecotourism Award Skal International

Responsible Tourism Best in Mountain

Smithsonian Magazine Sustainable Tourism Winner

Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Finalist


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Last updated: September 21st, 2009