From the deserts of Dubai to the beaches of Kerala, a new wave of luxurious, eco-friendly retreats is demonstrating one can go green without sacrificing comfort and style. The latest in the trend to be environmentally conscious, these sustainable havens now play host to globe-trotting celebrities and VIP’s (Leonardo is even opening one in Belize). Proving you can have your Frette sheets and wildlife experiences too, this new breed of luxury simultaneously maintains high conservation standards while offering the finest in lavish accommodations.
AL MAHA, United Arab Emirates
Where: An exclusive sanctuary in the heart of the desert, Al Maha is an exotic hideaway nestled in a 225-square kilometer reserve for endangered and indigenous wildlife and flora.
What: This Bedouin-style tented luxury camp surrounded by amber sand dunes is truly fit for royalty. With accommodations for a maximum of just 66 guests, this unique property tastefully combines the traditions, culture and heritage of Arabia with stylish, modern comfort.
Why Eco: The resort earns its “cred” running on advanced energy and water recycling systems and using solar power wherever possible. Al Maha also demonstrates its commitment by donating five percent of its profits to conservation projects, such as the reintroduction of endangered species. Moreover, the surrounding 225-square kilometre reserve shelters desert foxes, gazelles and a range of rare desert fauna in amber sand dunes.
Why Luxe: Each suite has a private swimming pool, from which scimitar-horned Oryx often come to take an evening drink. The suites have oversized outdoor terraces, ideal for a romantic dinner served by your own butler for the evening.
We Love: The camel ride into the desert for champagne and the incredible panoramic views of the desert stretching all the way to the sandy plains of the Hajar Mountains.
Who Goes: An international ensemble of jetsetters
Price: Bedouin Suite from US$1,740
When To Go: The best time to visit Dubai is from October through February when the daytime temperature averages 75F.
KUMARAKOM LAKE RESORT, India
Where: Located in India’s southernmost state of Kerala, in the lush tropical backwaters between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, Kumarakom is an hour and a half drive from Chochin, the capital of Kerala.
What: An Ayurvedic spa retreat, Ayurmana Spa is world renowned and many guests come for 14-28 day long treatments. Guests can also choose between lake-view or pool-view villas. The 52 double-bedded cottages all feature central air conditioning, intricately carved wooden walls, and a roof of hand polished wooden panels. There is an outdoor bath, shower, and even an alfresco toilet, which can be tricky in the evenings.
Why Eco: The resort incorporates a range of stringent eco-friendly measures including energy conservation and the use of bio-degradable products. Eco-conscious rooms make maximum use of natural elements such as sunlight and rain, incorporating solar energy for heating water and recycling waste water.
Why Luxe: Exquisitely carved aristocratic cottages suitable for a raj with hand-polished wooden roofs. Ayurvedic toiletries and an outdoor shower and bathtub. Plush down pillows and a lush outdoor terrace.
We Love: The resort’s gift shop filled with fantastic tunics and antique Indian jewellry.
Who Goes: In-the-know spa aficionados and well-heeled tourists visiting India.
Price: Lake Villas from US$250 per night. Presidential Suite from US$1,100 per night.
When To Go: The climate is tropical all year round but the weather becomes cooler as winter sets in and lasts from October to January.
Where: The lodges are situated in the Kingdom of Bhutan, surrounded by pine forests.
What: Amankora is a series of guest lodges located throughout Bhutan’s central and western valleys, including Paro, Thimphu, Punkha and Phobjikha. Each of the lodges offers spectacular views in a spare Eastern-contemporary setting; a tour of all four lodges can be arranged.
Why Eco: The resort recycles all plastic bottles, and even recycles its tires. They utilize “clean” electricity, drawn from Bhutan’s hydro electric derived grid wherever possible. They also have regular village and highway cleanups, reforestation, and natural bioreactor processing. Organic vegetable farming is also on the premises.
Why Luxe: Large freestanding terrazzo bathtubs. The extra large beds and floor to ceiling windows with breathtaking mountain views make up for the lack of standard Aman amenities. A spa with a variety of treatments is also available.
We Love: The pillow gift of Bhutanese stamps and the bonfires.
Who Goes: True adventure seekers who like to explore.
Price: Doubles from US$1,100 all-inclusive.
When To Go: During Paro’s tsechu (religious festival) in mid-March.