LAVISH RESORTS ACROSS THE GLOBE THAT EMBRACE SUSTAINABILITY AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AS MUCH AS FIVE STAR LUXURY
BY AMANDA McCOY
ALILA VILLAS ULUWATU Indonesia
Alila, a luxury hotel management firm with resorts sprinkled throughout Asia, puts sustainable tourism at the core of its ethos, and one of the company’s Signature collection properties shines on limestone cliffs along the southern tip of Bali. The Alila Villas Uluwatu is also certified gold by Earth Check; developed by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, Earth Check is regarded as among the world’s leading scientific benchmarking and advisory group for travel and tourism. With design by the award winning Singapore architecture firm WOHA, this retreat has tapped into ways of providing opulence while preserving the natural wonder of its surrounding environment. Lines between indoors and outdoors are blurred inside palatial villas, each boasting private pools, cabanas, and 24 hour butler service.
Guests can begin days with a private aerial yoga class in a Sunset Cabana that hugs the edge of a cliff, then experience traditional Balinese culinary culture with megibung, an immersive dining experience where they indulge in a communal and festive feast (often sharing a meal o one plate), then treat themselves to a traditional Balinese beauty ritual with lulur, an ancient village remedy process originating from local rice farmers that includes a revitalizing 60 minute massage, traditional body scrub, a skin softening mask, and mini facial. While the resort is busy pampering vacationers, it’s also hard at work ensuring its ecological footprint is minimized, processing all hotel waste on site into higher value products and/or services for reuse in the process measuring all operational indicators, such as energy, emissions, water, waste, and community engagement. Rates starting at $630. South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali 80364, Indonesia, alilahotels.com
SONEVA FUSHI Maldives
Set amidst the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, this spectacular escape gets just as creative with conservation efforts as it did with the design of its sprawling, Robinson Crusoe style villas. There’s an on-site glass blowing studio showcasing work created using local reprocessed materials, including Maldives’ waste water. Guests watch in awe as world renowned glass artists bring their creations to life, and can even try their hand at making their own in a regular glass blowing course. The resort also encompasses one of the largest solar power plants on the archipelago, as well as two nature reserves to protect precious wildlife.
The first class experience begins at the airport in Sovena’s exclusive lounge, where guests are invited to sip champagne as they await private transfer. Upon arrival at the resort grounds, they can personalize villas by choosing aromas of bath products and even the consistency of pillows. They are then whisked away to one of the jungle retreats, boasting amenities like private seawater pools, waterslides, private saunas and steam rooms, spa areas, wine cellars…even en suite gyms. Though it’s difficult to leave the luxuries of the villa, a host of adventures are on tap, including excursions to nearby islands, an astronomical dinner cruise, and a castaway picnic on an uninhabited island. Rates start at $1,140. Kunfunadhoo Island Baa Atoll, Maldives, soneva.com/soneva fushi
SONG SAA PRIVATE ISLAND Cambodia
Nestled on its own private slip of land on the Koh Rong Archipelago in the South Pacific, this 24 villa retreat seamlessly blends first class luxury with the rugged natural surroundings of a secluded islet. Sustainability radiates from every corner of the property, from the repurposed furniture in guest rooms to locally caught seafood served at the five star restaurant.
The brainchild of Rory and Melita Hunter, the resort opened in 2012 as a pioneer in conservation based luxury tourism in the region their mission to provide guests with an immersive experience in breathtaking accommodations while preserving the area’s forest and marine life and supporting the local economy. Construction timber was sourced from disused fishing boats, furniture was handcrafted from driftwood, and materials for the flooring were salvaged from factories, warehouses, and demolition yards. When the resort opened, the founders also launched the Song Saa Foundation to advance their vision of harmony and [TRAVEL] SONG SAA PRIVATE ISLAND Cambodia sustainability, and it has prompted the creation and eventual management of Cambodia’s first dedicated marine reserve (located in the waters adjacent to the resort), the inception of the country’s first island based solid waste management program, and the coordination of the most robust health and education program on any of the Cambodian islands. Conservation never felt so extravagant.
NORTH ISLAND Seychelles
This ultra-exclusive resort was put on the global map in 2011 when it was selected by Prince William and Kate Middleton’s as their royal honeymoon destination, but has also garnered fame for its eco conscious efforts and glamorous digs. In 2017, the private island retreat received the prestigious World Legacy Award from National Geographic, which honors leaders in sustainable tourism best practices. The resort’s efforts are highlighted by its Noah’s Ark Project, which seeks to undo the significant loss of native flora and fauna on the island. Its efforts have helped foster the return of plants and indigenous wildlife (such as hawksbill turtles and Whitetailed Tropicbirds).
The property is a beacon of privacy and seclusion. There are only 11 lavishly built villas on site, including 10 Presidential and one 8,000 square foot Super Villa on the north side of the island, private entrances included. The latest local harvest dictates daily menus, and dining venues include an oceanfront private table illuminated by candlelight, a laid back beach bar in prime position for sunset viewing, and, of course, an option to bring the experience straight to the comfort of the villa’s veranda. Bespoke luxury is at the heart of the philosophy here, and the resort prides itself on tailoring each experience to the specific desires of guests. Rates start at $7,200. North Island, Seychelles Archipelago, north island.com
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the rusty hued southern Namibia desert, this collection of four remarkable camps takes “glamping” to new heights. Located in the heart of the 830 square mile Namib Rand Nature Reserve, Wolwedans describes itself deliberately as “not a hotel,” but an example of how the luxury travel industry can do serious good in the world by minimizing environmental impact, including exploring innovative building techniques that don’t put a strain on the natural surroundings and other sustainable technologies. In 2018, its efforts were recognized by Eco Awards of Namibia and with the first ever Green Flowers Environmental Award. It also maintains a focus on the local population. “We prioritize human resource development, social upliftment, and sharing economic opportunities,” a company mission statement reads. To that end, the Wolwedans Foundation offers vocational training via Wolwedans Desert Academy and The Namibian Institute of Culinary Education.