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Some may argue that eco-lodges and eco-tourism is an evolution of glamping. But really, in the same way that glamping is considered to be an evolution of camping, it is down to definitions and branding. There have always been camp sites that have offered glamorous stays and there have always been lodges and resorts that have offered a greener approach to tourism.
So, what makes the latest generation of eco-lodges different to the previous ones? Perhaps it is down to branding and awareness; tourism, after all, accounts for huge chunks of the economies for many countries in the world and so is one of the industries that is having to become more sustainable economically and ecologically. So Eco-Tourism and Eco-Accommodations have found themselves perfectly positioned to capitalise on this new sensibility.
Yet, even with this personal appreciation for the environment, with each person being acutely aware of how dark their own carbon footprint is, it cannot be said that the explosive growth seen in eco-tourism is dependent solely on this responsibility. Tourism in general is becoming more and more sustainable anyway and when indulging in the joys of travelling people are in fact more likely to be even lazier and inconsiderate towards the environment.
Instead, consider for a moment, that maybe as a people we have passed our honeymoon period in our relationship with technology. Eco Lodges provide an opportunity to disconnect with the technology of our daily lives and reconnect with nature. This does not need to be “rough camping” but with a combination of comfortable beds and being surrounded by the sound of nature, people can escape into comfort and peace.
Below are ten of the top eco-lodges for the eco-tourist yearning a return to nature.
1. Limpokwena Nature Reserve and Accommodation. Limpopo River
A free-roam game reserve, where both predator and prey share the same land, Limpokwena Nature Reserve offer some of the most vividly real opportunities to see Africa’s wildest animals in their natural habitat. With flourishing herds of game animals such as giraffe, eland, kudu, zebra and gemsbok, they also have elephant, hippo, leopard, lion, hyena and more recently African wild dog. Bird lovers are in for a treat as well with pels fishing owls, saddle-billed storks, African openbills and ground hornbills regularly being spotted too.
Limpokwena Nature Reserve was purchased in 2014 but was officially marketed and opened for accommodation in 2016 under a new name and with a fresh start. The land was previously used for a combination of agriculture and hunting over the years but it’s currently undergoing some restorative transformations as the new owners let nature take over and let the wilderness settle in.
The accommodation offered at Limpokwena ranges from comfortable private chalets, to “glamping” on the banks of the Limpopo River.
The main lodge consists of 4 comfortable private chalets and a larger family cottage all of which can be either self-catering or catered. BBQ facilities are provided for and there are many areas in the oasis of lush vegetation to relax, picnic and swim in the outdoor pool.
The camp offers spacious chalet tents which are furnished with everything you need including access to an electrical socket for appliances. The camp can sleep a maximum of 8 people at a time which offers guests complete exclusivity.
Limpokwena offers an extraordinarily diverse landscape and a truly wild experience. Each game drive is unique, each bushwalk offers an exciting new experience and the scenery is breath-taking and varied.
With such varied surroundings, from thick riverine forest to open acacia woodlands and mountain slopes and peaks, the wildlife sightings can be terrifically unexpected, and you never know what might be around the next corner.
2. Kanana. Botswana
Located in the southwest of the Okavango Delta, Kanana is considered to be a hidden jewel on the Xudum River. Residing in an area comprised of a string of islands dotted with palms, figs, ebony and knobthorn and home to a myriad of birds, plants and animals, the location of Kanana makes it the perfect place to experience the diversity of species found within the Okavango Delta.
Due to its positioning, the available activities at Kanana changes with the rise and fall of the Okavango Delta. Activities include morning and afternoon game drives in open safari vehicles, with drives often continuing into the evening. When out on game drives their window seat guarantee ensures no more than four guests per vehicle and individual use of a camera mount. Alternatively, guests can explore the crystal-clear waterways by Mokoro or motorboat, and enjoy the magnificent variety of birds, plant and reptile species that live in the area. Birding is spectacular with Kanana hosting a seasonal heronry that is one of the largest in Southern Africa, a highlight that converts all visitors to avid ‘twitchers’.
Kanana was refurbished at the beginning of 2019 and now offers guests seven spacious twin and double-bedded safari tents. Each en-suite bathroom has a large walk-in shower and luxurious fittings. Families can be accommodated in a two-bedroomed tent, sharing an en-suite bathroom with the addition of an outdoor shower. Tents are well spaced, affording privacy whilst remaining within a comfortable distance from the main camp area.
Open all year round and minimum age for children is seven.
Kanana has recently received its Eco-tourism grading from the Botswana Tourism Organisation. This is the highest level of Eco grading in Botswana and it is no wonder they’ve received it. Wildlife is in abundance with frequent predator sightings such as lion, leopard and wilddog all making Kanana their hunting grounds. The camp also affords private access to one of the largest heronries not only in the Okavango Delta but also in Southern Africa and is an excellent area for birding with regular sightings of Pels Fishing Owl.
The Sleep Out Deck offers guests the opportunity to spend the night out under the magnificent African night sky.
3. OLEPANGI FARM. Kenya
Owned by ex-corporates Elizabeth Loker and Clinton Lucy, Olepangi Farm is an authentic, completely off-grid farmstead in Timau upon the foothills of Mount Kenya. Set on 120 acres, this family-run lodge offers amazing views of the stunning natural surroundings. Connecting guests not only to nature but to wildlife and animals via their selection of horses, their dogs Colonel Lawrence, Zsa Zsa and Ginger and their vicinity to some of the best nature reserves.
The beautiful cottages are decorated with rich antique carpets and beds. Each one comes with a private bathroom and is fitted with a shower stocked with authentic Kenyan soap, shampoo and conditioner. Guests can enjoy massages, horse riding, community walks, croquet and gin tastings while the Laikipia region is ideal for hiking, horse riding and game viewing. The nearest natural reserves are the Samburu National Park, Ol Pejeta, Lolldaigas, Solio and into Ngare Ndare Forest.
ECO-TOURISM AT HEART
Because Clinton and Elizabeth believe that the health of the environment, and our bodies are all connected they have a passion for growing things organically. When they bought their farm, like much of the land in the area, it was overgrazed and lacking in basic nutrients, today the red sandy subsoil is the foundation for their farming practices and is full of life. Thanks, in no small part to the horses producing so much manure.
As a family run, non-commercial enterprise Olepangi offers a unique high touch experience. Having some of the best weather in the world, surrounded by nature and seventeen resident horses, with delicious organic food and a leisurely approach to life, the lodge attracts the discerning traveller seeking a return to feeling human again.
4. Zingela Nature Reserves. South Africa
Driven by a passion for Africa, Markus Jebsen set about to create Zingela Nature Reserve in 2007. The immense project involved converting the land and returning endemic wildlife such as buffalo, sable and Roan antelope to their natural habitat. Today, Zingela Nature Reserve is a 27,000 Hectare reserve that is thriving with its conservation efforts.
VARIETY OF WILDLIFE
Guests have the opportunity to see many antelope species as well as buffalo and giraffe roaming freely on the reserve. Zingela also boasts amongst the highest predator numbers in the Limpopo Valley namely including leopard, cheetah, African wild cat, brown hyena, serval and civet. Birders are also in for a treat, being able to spot rare and endangered bird species, such as the white-backed vulture, secretary bird, kori bustard and saddle-billed stork to name a few.
Guests have access to an outdoor swimming pool, lapa and barbecue facility and there are three distinctly unique lodges, namely; Baobab Tented Camp, Leadwood Lodge and Doornstock Lodge.
The Baobab Tented Camp is a luxurious, safari style tented camp that offers guests the opportunity to become immersed in the wilderness. Solar powered, each tent has an en-suite bathroom and can accommodate 3 guests. A stunning view of the African bushveld can be seen from each tent’s private viewing deck.
Leadwood Lodge has three private, two bedroom chalets. Each chalet has a fully equipped kitchen, dining and lounge area, as well as private bathroom facilities. Guests have the option of barbecuing at the lodges boma or privately at their chalet.
STAND ALONE FEATURE
Zingela Nature Reserve prides itself in exclusivity and personalised service, ensuring that each guest experiences everything that Zingela has to offer on an exclusive and personalised level. Zingela is able to meet any eco-tourists needs and broaden their knowledge of the Limpopo bushveld.
Guests can learn a lot about the local area and the culture as well, including tours regarding the Baobab trees which are scattered around the reserve and ancient rock paintings at Rhino Rock, left by the ancestors who first lived on this land.
5. Bananal Eco Lodge. Brazil.
Bananal Ecolodge was founded by Luciana de Sá Nogueira in 2016. However, the journey actually began eight years earlier in 2008 with the planning and construction of Spaventura Ecolodge (spaventura.com.br). Bananal Ecolodge is considered to be the crowning achievement.
Working with nine registered employees of which seven are locals, the aim of the lodges has always been to practice sustainable techniques so that guests could experience, learn and replicate this knowledge in their lives. Luciana and Alexandre’s mission is to transform people through the contact and conservation of nature.
THE LOCATION AND ACCOMMODATION
Located within the Ubatumirim wilderness which is a region off the usual tourist trail that enjoys abundant natural, cultural and ethnic diversity, the accommodation area has ten suites with a private terrace. Surrounded by a beautiful landscaped garden filled with tropical species, each suite has accommodation for three people, with the possibility of an extra bed.
The entire Bananal Ecolodge infrastructure was planned to be harmoniously integrated into the landscape. The facilities use natural construction techniques and are designed to promote activities that encourage the region’s protection and collaboration with the sustainable development of the community.
STAND ALONE FEATURE
This is a preserved piece of rainforest, and guests are able to experience the environment, the food and local culture authentically. Guests are asked to be considerate to each other and enjoy themselves in the correct spirit.
6. Driftwood Glamping and Boutique Hotel. Nosara.
Comfortably nestled between the beach of Playa Pelada and the lush Guanacaste jungle, is Driftwood Glamping & Boutique Hotel. A completely green, eco-conscious glamping site located only 200 metres from the beach, it stands as one of the finest examples of green glamping done correctly.
Located in the Playa Pelada neighbourhood of Nosara, which is a tranquil and jungle rich part of town where guests feel close enough to everything while still being able to easily find that personal calm. Driftwood’s particular position, in the lush forest between the mouth of the river Rio Nosara and the empty white sand beach of Playa Pelada, makes it particularly easy to find that secluded serenity.
Within the jungle there are many beautiful paths and hike trails that start right at the hotel where guests can spot a number of different animals including monkeys, armadillos, iguanas, birds, raccoons and pisotes. These paths lead to amazing cliffs, a number of private secret beaches and beautiful spots for sunsets.
All of the buildings, lodges and rooms at Driftwood have been built using sustainable materials and local methods. Even the furniture is made from recycled pallets although guests are unable to tell the difference. Nothing is wasted at Driftwood, even the grey water is filtered and used in the garden. And, in the finest example of how environmental building and sustainability can be done without encroaching on the luxury and hospitality, everything happens subtly and in the background. Allowing the guests to bask in a luscious world, teeming with nature, wildlife and comfort.
STAND ALONE FEATURE
Only a couple kilometres down the road, is The Ostional wildlife refuge which is one of the world’s most important nesting sites of the olive ridley sea turtle who arrive in their thousands to lay their eggs every month.
7. Amazon Tupana Lodge. Amazon.
Amazon Tupana Lodge was founded in 2007 by Conceição Khattab, who grew up in a little town in the Jurua River about 780 km from Manaus. Having been born in an area that manufactured rubber latex, he grew up surrounded by nature and gained a deep appreciation for all aspects of the jungle and the river. Which have been incorporated into the beautiful and quite singular Amazon Tupana Lodge.
Working with a team of fifteen locally employed and highly trained staff the lodge has sixteen rooms with a rustic decoration inspired by the jungle aesthetic. Each accommodation is constructed using the same architecture, techniques and materials used by the natives and each offers the basic comforts. Because the differential here is not to offer luxury in accommodation but luxury in the ever present and surrounding forest.
Amazon Tupana Lodge rests in a hidden area of the river where the calm waters are very dark and reflective like a mirror. Quite remote, the guests feel completely enveloped in the jungle and totally off grid. It is entrancing to be surrounded on all sides by an endless chorus of jungle noises, from the movement of the waters and trees and the myriad of animals that thrive along its banks.
Interestingly, the PH level of the mirrored black waters of the Tupana River inhibits the proliferation of insects which makes this an even more unique jungle location. A relief to any traveller, as one thing that nobody has ever wanted while relaxing on holiday are more mosquitoes. Fewer insects also means fewer animals sneaking into the lodge for late night buffets, so unlike other jungle lodges, guests are unlikely to wake up with part of the jungle crawling across their floor!
STAND ALONE FEATURE
The lodge has a very positive energy and part of this is a restriction of access to TV, cellular connection and the internet which increases the contact to nature and attracts more animals to the lodge’s perimeter. It encourages communication and introductions between other guests and friendships to be struck up.
8. Pousada do Parque Ecolodge. Brazil.
A triumph for eco-tourism, Pousada do Parque Ecolodge was founded in 2003 by Oswaldo Murad, a lawyer and environmentalist who deactivated an old rice farm and livestock grow and replanted the local vegetation to support this vision.
This was part of the inspiration behind the project and played a large part in the preservation of local fauna and flora and significantly aided the National Park of Chapada dos Guimaraes by refocusing the land usage to something less destructive and wasteful. It now stands as a symbol of eco-tourism allowing guests to savour the natural beauty that occurs when people just allow themselves to stop and admire it.
The lodge is a National Park’s neighbour and to get there visitors need to cross the Parks Gate and drive in for 5km. Strategically located on the border of Chapada dos Guimarães National Park and at an altitude of 750m, the lodge sits in 500 hectares of private land. This land holds its own gems, including two seasonal waterfalls, amazing views over the entire Park, and several trails for the enjoyment of nature lovers. If that isn’t cool enough, also keep in mind that there are no fences between the Lodge and the 35,000 hectares of the National Park so you are truly in the thick of it.
THE ECO LODGE
There are ten staff at the lodge maintaining the eight separate rooms, communal areas and serving the guests during their stay. The rooms are split into six double suites and two triples and all the accommodation follows a rustic design that makes use of local woods and sustainable resources. This includes things like roof tiles that are made of recycled milk boxes and water that his solar heated.
According to Oswaldo the whole idea was to use the local material and hand crafts made by locals, to promote sustainable preservation among the region.
Pousada do Parque Ecolodge has hit the perfect balance between sustainability and high-end hotel luxury. All of the rooms come with air-conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. The leisure area features a veranda, swimming pool, mini gym, seated area, sauna and hammocks.
There is a lounge area with fireplace and the restaurant and bar “Teta da Loba” offers a delicious and varied local menu.
STAND ALONE FEATURE
You won’t find any televisions or minibars in the rooms because Pousada do Parque Ecolodge is not suitable for people wanting to stay inside. Surrounded by such pristine nature, visiting here offers the chance to get out and explore, enjoying the many walking trails around the lodge or the opportunity to hang around in the hammocks before going for a swim.
9. Refugio la Roca. Colombia.
Refugio la Roca was founded in 2012 by Ricardo Cancelado, a local climber who grew up with a deep love of climbing and the area. The story goes that years after he moved to Bogota to study cooking he met his wife who was an industrial designer and just as passionate about climbing and the outdoors as he. When he took her for the first time to show the land he had grown up on, she felt a magical energy that immediately connected her to this marvellous place. At that point they decided to start this life-time project together and Refugio la Roca was born.
LOCATION AND ACCOMMODATION
Everything at Refugio la Roca is built in an eco-sustainable way. Making use of natural materials and a deep respect for the various lives that live there in the Chicamocha canyon. Under the shadow of the deep mountains, the whole enterprise is in harmony with the amazing energy that abounds there.
There are thirteen private rooms and a dormitory with nine single beds. Wherever possible they have made use of the local handcrafts made by native people around Santander and Colombia.
The Refugio la Roca is an ecological refuge, where visitors are guests into the natural world that they have seeded and created. Here, unlike a hotel, the eco-system and the animals that live there are more important than the people visiting. There are no televisions, no safes and no air-conditioning. The rooms are rustic and comfortable and adapted to the natural space with eco-sustainable construction materials and methods that have created a calming aesthetic making the most of the environment without changing it.
The fundamental principles here are the tolerance for diversity and respect for the fauna and flora, the mission to preserve it, maintain it and take care of it. Each frog, spider, lizard, scorpion, snake, each bird and each species that inhabits their Refuge is valuable, unique and irreplaceable.
Refugio la Roca is a family of fifteen employees, half of which are local and all who are completely dedicated to the principles that make this destination so unique. They are on hand to provide local information for guests, ensuring that they get the best experience from their stay, forgetting about their daily problems and leaving with a new and better perspective about what it means to be alive.
STAND ALONE FEATURE
Refugio la Roca is always growing and offering more for their community of fans which includes over 40k people on their Facebook page. Almost every month there is something different and this sort of activity has kept guests returning year after year and recommending this refuge to everyone they know.
10. Pitahaya Glamping Retreat. Peurto Rico.
Glamping provides an excellent opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and seek out and relax in truly magical places. Pitahaya Glamping Retreat, the first Puerto Rican glamping site truly fits that description.
PITAHAYA GLAMPING RETREAT
An ideal location for lovers of camping or for those who have not had the pleasure of camping before. But no need to worry about packing tent gear or sleeping bags, this may be camping but it is luxury and guests will find themselves sleeping better than they could in hotels. The comfort of luxurious hotel accommodation blended with the adventure of camping. What could be better? Just arrive with your clothes, a good book, swimsuit, food and allow yourself to relax.
LOCATION AND TENTS
Five acres surrounded by nature in the area of the Pitahaya Cabo Rojo. From the site guests have access to many activities including hiking, kayaking and biking trails. The beaches of the southwest, which is home to many endemic birds is only twenty minutes away.
Able to accommodate up to four people each, the five tents are stylish with a wooden decking, covered facilities and a breezy tent that brings to mind lavish caravan tents that royals used to sleep in. There is nothing like sleeping in a good bed with a tent that has electricity, working fans and a private bathroom with hot water while being in the jungle. The kitchen is fully stocked with utensils including all the essentials to make a meal, a gas BBQ for meat and veg, a campfire, parking and a wonderful pool. Also, down the road is the Pitahaya Nature Reserve (amongst others) and the beaches are between 15 and 20 minutes by car. There are also many places to eat and to hang out at night.
STAND ALONE FEATURE
One of the best things is the night time sky, which is so dark here that you can see the Milky Way due to an almost total absence of nigh time light pollution. You won’t ever want to leave, or pick up your phone again.