LONDON (Reuters Life!) - If you like the idea of a luxurious holiday while salving your conscience, you might be enticed by eco-chic getaways, hotels twinned with community projects or those which support shelters for children and animals. Boutique hotels expert Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com) provides a list of its top 10 hotels with a heart. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Community help: Hotel de la Paix, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Sleek Siem Reap stay Hôtel de la Paix within easy reach of majestic Angkor Wat, is actively involved in the local community through a multi-tiered charity and social scheme. Hôtel de la Paix supports the Life & Hope Academy Sewing School, teaching disadvantaged women basic seamstress skills, and funds the Green Gecko Orphanage. Guests can share the love by not only sponsoring, but visiting these projects, or donating life-enhancing items, such as toys for children, school equipment, sacks of rice, water wells or even a pair of pigs.
2. Eco-chic: Azura, Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Located in a national marine park, Mozambique eco-escape Azura is a covetable collection of 16 thatched villas overlooking the Indian Ocean. It’s also Mozambique’s first carbon-neutral hotel, and is committed to sustainable and responsible fishing, as well as building projects to help the local community. The Rainbow Fund was used to build the island’s school, and there are plans for a clinic. Azura also sponsors the island’s football team, and provides English lessons as part of its Khani Kwedho, or ‘Our Home’ programme. A non-compulsory charge of US$10 a room a night goes toward the Rainbow Fund.
3. Animal encounters: Anantara Golden Triangle Resort, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Chiang Rai boutique retreat Anantara Golden Triangle Restort & Spa plays host to the northern branch of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC), a park for both wild and domesticated pachyderms. Guests can take elephant-driving classes from a local mahout, go on eye-opening jaunts through the jungle, and even join in at bath time (don’t wear your best beach kit). Its sister resort, Anantara Phuket Villas in Phuket, turns its focus to the sea, supporting the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which protects sea turtles that lay their eggs on the beach. The hotel donates $1 a room a night, and participates in the turtle-releasing festival in February, when babes are ceremoniously released at Mai Khao Beach.
4. Carbon-neutral: Urbn Hotels Shanghai, Shanghai, China
China’s first carbon-neutral stay, Urbn Hotels Shanghai wears its eco cred with pride. Fashioned from reclaimed materials, including hardwoods, house bricks and even antique leather suitcases, this cutting-edge urban retreat uses energy-efficient technologies and organic cleaning products. It further keeps its carbon footprint in check by planting trees through The Million Tree Project. On-site eatery Downstairs with David Laris has jumped on the bandwagon, using largely organic food, free-range meats and sustainable practices - even the waiters are kitted out in patchwork aprons made from recycled fabric.
5. Strays: Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia
Set on a former coconut plantation near Pantai Cenang beach, luxe Langkawi getaway Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort isn’t just an island refuge for world-weary travellers. Bon Ton’s owner Narelle McMurtrie also runs a private animal shelter next-door called the Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary (or LASSie for short). It has a no-kill policy and instead acts to rehabilitate injured and sick animals before returning them to their natural environment where possible. Narelle uses profits from Bon Ton to fund work at the center, and it’s not unusual to get a visit from resident cats or dogs during your stay.
6. Mountain highs: Kasbah du Toubkal, Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Perched in the Atlas Mountains at the base of Jbel Toubkel, North Africa’s highest peak, Moroccan boutique hotel Kasbah du Toubkal is regarded as one of the world’s best eco-lodges. The crumbling kasbah was restored in the mid-1990s by British brothers Mike and Chris McHugo using environmentally friendly building materials that had to be ferried in on mules and constructed without electricity. Today, this breath-taking mountain retreat is managed by local Berber couple Hajj Maurice and Hajja Arkia, and employs staff from surrounding villages. Five percent of each bill is donated to community projects, helping with grassroots tasks such as rubbish removal, health services and education.
7. Nurturing the future: Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
Through its Gift to Share programme, romantic Bali retreat Alila Villas Uluwatu supports the Bali Life Foundation, an orphanage in Jimbaran, South Bali, that was established by Australian expat Brad Little and his wife Siska. Children here not only receive shelter and support, but also lessons in English, IT, farming and cooking. Alila Villas provides all of the foundation’s basic food needs each month, assists with recycling and sustainability projects and employs some of the older children in its kitchens. This contemporary clifftop retreat was also the first hotel in Indonesia to attain the highest level of certification for Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD).
8. Green living: Kiaroa Eco Luxury Resort, Bahia, Brazil
The eco-credentials of Brazilian beach escape Kiaroa Eco Luxury Resort go through the palm-and-eucalyptus-thatched roof: it’s located in an ecological sanctuary on Marau Peninsula, at the tip of South Bahia, makes use of solar energy, treats its own water and sewage, and employs exclusively from the local community. Timbers used for construction of the bijou bungalows are sourced solely from reforested areas, and all of the furniture, handicrafts and decorations are produced nearby. Marau Peninsula is situated in a protected pocket of Atlantic Forest, and the nearest village of Barra Grande is a 10-minute drive away, so this is the prime position for relaxation.
9. Sea and spirituality: Laluna, Grenada, Caribbean
Luxury Caribbean hideaway Laluna in Grenada, is made up of 16 blissful Balinese-style cottages overlooking the Caribbean. The hotel is closely associated with the island’s turtle conservation programmes and beach clean-up operations, ensuring this pristine stretch of sand remains just that. The hotel also hosts regular yoga retreats, where along with intensive sessions, massages and hikes, participants can get involved in community service projects, such as volunteering on a local cacao plantation - a chocolate workshop and sunset catamaran cruise are your rewards for the hard graft.
10. Wildlife: Bay of Fires Lodge & Walk, Bay of Fires, Australia
Well, trekking must be the most environmentally sound mode of transport, but that’s not where the awareness of Tasmanian eco-retreat Bay of Fires Lodge & Walk ends. As a member of Green Guardian Initiatives, it takes an active interest in the surrounding area: guides collect litter during coastal treks and help in the removal of sea spurge, an invasive weed. The accommodation for the four-day walk is suitably sustainable, with a one-night stay at Forester Beach Camp in semi-permanent tents (complete with wind-up torches) and two nights at The Lodge, designed by eco architect Ken Latona, which boasts a strong green ethos, from the solar power to the hand-pumped showers.
Editing by Paul Casciato