MORGAN’S ROCK San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
When Morgan’s Rock eco-lodge opened on a wild stretch of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast 15 years ago, the concept was ground-breaking. Here was solar-powered water, a bio-filtration system and architecture fashioned from sustainably sourced wood, flying the flag for how to commit to conservation practices without losing a sense of seduction and comfort. Today, a new series of stunning bedroom villas, camouflaged by the forest canopy, are joined by swinging hemp bridges across the dramatic ravines. The netted walls keep insects out but allow the stars and sounds of the forest to filter through. Some of the ocean- or forest-view bungalows have their own plunge pool, complete with cutting-edge ‘sea-breeze’ beds (eco four-posters that silently produce a pod of cool air around the bed). Resident ecologists will organize picnics on the 4,000-acre estate, nearly half of which is given over to reforestations, while the complimentary kayaks, surfboards and bikes encourage even more engagement with the great outdoors. Book through Real Latin America
PANTREPANT Cockpit Country, Jamaica
Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, all fenceless hills and rainforest terrain, surrounds the rustic and romantic guest cottage at Pantrepant. This is music and hotel impresario Chris Blackwell’s private estate and working farm, where he raises Red Poll cattle, sheep, chickens and geese and where, under the shade of the ancient guango tree towering over the estate, you can reconnect with yourself and nature. Memorable farm-to-table dining and wild swimming in the river amongst old sugar plantation ruins all add to the exhilarating sense of living close to flora and fauna. The sheer unbridled freedom of the place will make you feel alive.
SUNDY PRAIA LODGE Príncipe Island, São Tomé and Príncipe
A tropical volcanic landscape of lush plunging valley and mist-cloaked peaks, this lost Eden has more endemic species per square kilometer than the Galapagos. But its storybook loveliness is held in fragile balance, and this sense of urgency informs everything from the design to the management ethos of Sundy Praia, a glamorous new hotel that sits between the jungle and the sea. It’s actually a tented camp built in the lee of giant trees, comprising a cathedral-like bamboo restaurant and immense private ‘villas’ filled with lava-stone bath tubs and hammocks strung onto wooden decks. Through the dense almond trees, you’ll catch glimpses of the wide, golden crescent of a beach with paddle boards on tap and boat excursions to deserted coves. The hotel is one of four in the Here Be Dragons stable owned by businessman Mark Shuttleworth, who is committed to bringing sustainable development to impoverished communities while protecting the delicate ecosystem. It’s the perfect place to experience vivid wildlife in all its technicolor glory.
SHAKTI LADAKH Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
Operating in the remote Himalayas from May to September, Shakti creates walking and driving itineraries based around villager-owned houses that have been ‘Shatkified’ in culturally appropriate style. These comfortable bedrooms generate income for villagers without compromising their traditional way of life. Now there is a new tented camp at the stunning high-altitude Lake Tso Moriri, a sacred spot on one of the wildest plateaus of the Himalayas. With camp fires, delicious local dinners and interaction with the nomadic Changpa people who are expert at eking a living in these ecologically fragile landscapes, Shakti journeys breathe life back into some very remote and impoverished communities, just as they breathe life back into jaded souls.
NIHI SUMBA Sumba, Indonesia
A former surfer hideaway that has morphed into one of the most sensational beach resorts in the Indian Ocean, Nihi Sumba is the place to come for an escape that marries hedonism with a conscience. The 28 villas are self-contained universes designed using sustainable materials with inventive ecological water and power systems, but if you can drag yourself away from the cocooning luxury, there is world-class surfing, the fabled Sumba horses to ride down the vast sandy beach, yoga at dusk and an open-air spa. Guests are encouraged to engage with the culture and conservation of the island (The Sumba Foundation has built over 200 water stations, supported schools and libraries and reduced malaria on the island by 70%), while most of the staff are recruited from the island itself. Less than 15% of Nihi’s vast 567 acres is given over to the hotel – the rest is a thrilling wilderness with uninterrupted views of ocean horizon.
DWARIKA’S HOTEL Kathmandu, Nepal
Dwarika’s started life as the personal passion project of one Dwarika Das Shrestha, an unusual and energized visionary seen as positively radical in his day. His collection of salvaged and ancient woodwork, architectural features and artefacts have been grouped together to form a hotel – the life-blood of vast conservation efforts that he initiated to revive Nepal’s pride and preservation of its 2000-year-old history, arts and culture. It’s a sustainable, low-waste enterprise, from the hand-woven Nepalese fabrics that decorate the rooms to the food produce grown in the company’s two organic farms outside the city. And it’s a stunning, storied place to stay; an atmospheric retreat in bustling Kathmandu where fountains and weather-beaten sculptures jostle around a shrine-studded garden. Book through Daunt Travel
&BEYOND VAMIZI Vamizi Island, Mozambique
&Beyond Vamizi is part of the African conservation safari giant’s new campaign, ‘Oceans Without Borders’, which aims to protect reefs and endangered species including giant turtles and dugongs. This idyllic coral island in the Quirimbas Archipelago is home to six private villas, each with their own chef, who can organize castaway picnics on sandbanks or deserted islands. Diving is a must, with over 350 species of reef fish whirling in a wild underwater landscape. This is one of the world’s most impressive dive sites, where you can explore the wreck of an old coal steamer vessel (just off Matemo Island) and Neptune’s Arm, famed for its spectacular drop-offs.
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