The 10 best ecolodges in the world

Offering top-notch accommodation in some of the world’s most impressive natural locations, you no longer have to forego luxury to do your bit and opt for more sustainable travel options. Ecotourism has come a long way from the hippy hangouts of yesteryear, though the fact the word can mean all things to all people certainly hasn’t helped responsible tourism take to the mainstream. If you’re confused yourself, generally speaking, ecotourism combines the desire to explore the world’s wild places with an intent to protect them at the same time. As such, smaller ecolodges and larger ecoresorts tend to be found enveloped by their surroundings and should utilise sustainable practices wherever possible – renewable energies, locally-grown organic foods, and eco-friendly toiletries among them. From the Caribbean to the savannahs of East Africa, by way of Australia’s Pacific coast and South America’s Patagonia region, here are Mr Hudson’s pick of the 10 best ecolodges the world has to offer.

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Photo: Secret Bay's Secret Beach

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The very first on the Caribbean island to meet the high building and operating requirements needed to achieve Green Globe sustainability certification

1. Secret Bay, Portsmouth, Dominica

Secret Bay, on the edge of Portsmouth, is the very first on the Caribbean island to meet the high building and operating requirements needed to achieve Green Globe sustainability certification and has a dedicated ‘green team’ to ensure a vacation here is more than simply about lessening guilt. The stylish wood-built villas boast expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, which not only provide panoramic clifftop sea, mountain and lush garden views but also limit the need for lighting. Meanwhile, wastewater is used to irrigate fruits and vegetables destinated for the restaurant, alongside lionfish – an invasive species decimating indigenous fish populations.

Photo: Secret Bay

2. Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas, Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Cala Luna lies within a protected reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast amid tropical foliage that flows down to a semi-private sand beach where sea turtles nest each year. Vaunting Costa Rica’s highest certification of sustainability, this eco-luxury resort is edging towards carbon neutrality thanks to one of Central America’s largest solar banks. But this doesn’t mean the accommodation lacks as a result. The airy, neutral suites utilise locally-made furniture and eco-friendly products, while the outdoor spa treatments use all-natural ingredients.

3. Copal Tree Lodge, Punta Gorda, Belize

Located on the banks of Belize’s Rio Grande, a short distance from the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, this ecolodge sits within 22,000 acres of protected forest in the Maa Mountains. Its organic-certified farm ensures two-thirds of the produce used in the open-air restaurant has food metres rather than food miles to their name. Its acreage also guarantees a decent supply of Copalli Rum – distilled on the estate using home-grown sugar, rainwater, and biomass energy. Like Cala Luna in nearby Costa Rica, furniture has been produced in-house, here using naturally-fallen tree boles. Several thousand new trees are planted every year.

Photo: MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge

Photo: Derek Owens

4. Paperbark Camp, Australia

This ecoretreat is named after the trees that together with eucalyptus form the backdrop to solar-powered tented suites facing out over Jervis Bay roughly 2.5 hours south of Sydney on the New South Wales coastline. Not only does it provide a tranquil escape from the bright lights of Australia’s biggest and brashest city, but also an entry point into the normally-closed Aboriginal community of Wreck Bay, whose guides can lead you from the water sports and white sands into the native scrub in search of all manner of bush tucker.

5. MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

If you thought dive resorts couldn’t be ecoresorts then think again. At MahaRaja in the Raja Ampat archipelago off West Papua, the dive boats are powered by electric motors, reducing carbon emissions and noise pollution that would otherwise disturb the region’s extraordinary marine life. Traditionally-inspired reed and thatch roundhouses sit out over pristine waters where fishing is banned, making it a magnet for turtles, sharks, stingray and corals. They can be explored in all their glory with eco-snorkelling and eco-scuba trips, while to limit the lodges footprint further, toiletries are biodegradable and the food both locally-sourced and vegan wherever possible.

Photo: Campi ya Kanzi

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6. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat, South Africa

Much of South Africa’s Western Cape remains largely unknown to the outside world, although it hosts a hugely impressive tableau of landscapes. Bushmans, in the stunning Cederberg Mountains around the small town of Clanwilliam, is one such treasure that’s ecologically-minded to boot. Offering up just 16 hand-crafted beds in Cape Dutch style, Bushmans sees itself as a guardian of the environment – which was overgrazed farmland little more than a generation ago. As such, the team has planted indigenous trees, created the largest private herd of endangered Cape zebra, and protects more than 130 caves with significance for the indigenous San people, meaning while enjoying the manicured gardens, spa, or outdoor pool, you know you’re doing a world of good.

Photo: Christopher Campbell

Photo: Campi ya Kanzi

7. Tiamo Resort, Bahamas

Rivalling Cala Luna for the region’s largest solar energy facility, Tiamo Resort lies on the northern tip of the Bahamas’ South Andros Island and offers a quintessential Caribbean getaway on a private beach – but with added sustainability credentials. The handful of secluded bungalows form the Bahamas’ only ecoresort, enclosed within a 125-acre wilderness reserve. The focus is therefore largely on natural wonders, with treks allowing guests to discover all the island has to offer on land, and kayaking and snorkelling available for adventures above and below the waves.

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Campi ya Kanzi is a boutique ecolodge nestled among the Chyulu Hills of southern Kenya, in a 280,000-acre conservancy owned by local Maasai tribespeople

Photo Campi ya Kanzi

8. Al Natural Resort, Panama

Situated on Punta Vieja beach on Bastimentos Island close to the Panamanian border with Mexico, Al Natural’s name pretty much says its all. The partially-open wood and thatch bungalows allow the sea breeze to flow freely (minimising the need for air conditioning), while the showers use rainwater, and the lights solar power. So if you’re searching for somewhere with a conscious to flop down in extreme relaxation – while enjoying impressive fine dining – this is the resort for you.

9. EcoCamp Patagonia, Chile

Latin Americas’ ecoresort offerings aren’t the reserve of the Central American nations alone. Laying claim to being the world’s first geodesic dome hotel, EcoCamp Patagonia combines extraordinary vistas across the rugged snow-capped peaks of Torres del Paine National Park with a carbon-neutral status. Comprising a series of individual domes with traditionally-styled furniture, skylights and wood-burning stoves, there can be no better way to discover Chile’s remote southern region responsibly.

Photo: EcoCamp Patagonia

Photo: EcoCamp Patagonia

10. Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya

A mere 7,500 miles further east, Campi ya Kanzi is a boutique ecolodge nestled among the Chyulu Hills of southern Kenya. One of only two high-end accommodation options in a 280,000-acre conservancy owned by local Maasai tribespeople, its landscapes range from montane forest to open grassland, while its animal residents include entirely wild black rhino and elephant. The green holidays epithet here doesn’t just come from Hemingway’s description of Chyulu as the ‘green hills of Africa’, though you can still expect hot and cold running water and elegant décor. What’s more, the camp is limited to just 12 guests at any one time, meaning a population density of somewhere around one person per 20,000 acres.

Photo: Secret Bay's Zabuco Villa Balcony

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