TRAVEL FOR THE PLANET
Many exotic destinations now offer eco-savvy vacationers the adventures they’re seeking
For many intrepid travellers, the bar has been raised for their vacation goals. They not only want an escape, they want an adventure and to learn about their planet.
The international network of luxury travel advisers, Virtuoso, surveyed its Canadian clients and found that adventure is the leading trend for 2018. At the recent Travel Week convention in Las Vegas, the halls were filled with operators of safaris, rainforest lodges and ecology-minded cruises.
“Adventure travel is growing because I think people want to be in the midst of everything, instead of seeing it pass by on a coach tour,” said Jessica Renshaw of Vancouver’s Renshaw Travel.
Her sister, Carly, added that travellers are also sensitive to the sustainability of their destinations, keen to not do damage while learning about the planet.
“I find these lodges are like windows into a problem. People get out of their daily lives and understand more. It’s really powerful,” she said.
Here are several extraordinary destinations that offer both adventure and sustainability.
The Renshaw sisters raved about Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, on the north shore of Canada’s Somerset Island in Nunavut. Founded and operated by veteran arctic explorers the Weber family, it claims to be the most northerly fly-in lodge on earth: 800 km north of the Arctic Circle. The Webers upgraded a former watch camp for beluga whales, adding gourmet meals that include locally caught Arctic char. Guests from around the world are offered sea kayaking, mountain biking and fly fishing. There are archeological tours to sites of ancient Indigenous settlements as well as remnants of some of the early European explorers. (weberarctic.com)
In a completely different world, yet still on planet Earth, is Brazil’s Uxua Casa Hotel and Spa in the little Atlantic coast village of Trancoso in Bahia state. The area, discovered by hippies and artists back in the 1970s, is now a tiny retreat that prides itself on celebrating and supporting the community. Its rustic yet luxurious casas are embedded into the village right on the Quadrado, the town square which has been recognized by UNESCO.
Uxua (pronounced youSHOO-ah) has a spa, a beach lounge and a gourmet restaurant. But unlike many luxury resorts that are cocooned behind concrete walls, visitors live in the midst of the local indigenous people, the Pataxo, and are exposed to their art, culture and respect for their environment. Uxua means “wonderful” in their language. (uxua.com)
Tom Fels, chief executive of the Singita group of African lodges, made a point of describing them as a “conservation brand.” Their destinations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania (and soon Rwanda) all stress protecting and preserving wildlife for future generations.
“Our planning is not for two years, but 200 years,” Fels said in an interview at the Virtuoso conference.
They also stress community development: Working with the people who live nearby to create jobs, educate children and encourage economic development.
Singita’s Mara River Tented Camp in Tanzania offers accommodations on the Serengeti that are a luxurious, modern interpretation of 19th-century explorers’ digs, all informed by African designs and furnished with local artworks and crafts. Guests enjoy comforts that would have been unimaginable for the first European visitors: A plunge pool, a spa and solar-powered electricity (as well as Wi-Fi if you must, although it’s intermittent). More to the point, the destinations are opportunities to see African wildlife, including elephants, big cats and crocodiles and hippos in the nearby river. (singita.com)
Costa Rica is growing in popularity for Canadians who are searching for adventure and sustainability, both of which are on dramatic display at Nayara Springs, a property of 35 luxury villas in the middle of a rainforest with a view of the Arenal volcano, one of the world’s most active.
“Everything has been done so that we have the smallest possible footprint,” said founder and managing director Leo Ghitis.
He hires his workers from nearby communities, sources his food from the region, and is building a reserve for an endangered species of sloth. Visitors hike in the rainforest, go whitewater rafting or take a tour to the rumbling volcano, and at the end of the day, take a dip in a personal plunge pool, dine in an al fresco restaurant with a volcano view and fall asleep in a four-post king-sized bed swathed with white netting. (nayarasprings.com/index.html)
At Nayara Spring in Costa Rica, visitors can stay in a luxury villa, hike in the rainforest, and take a tour to get an up close and personal look at the Arenal volcano, one of the world’s most active.
At Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge in Nunavut, guests from around the world try sea kayaking, mountain biking and fly fishing.
The Singita group of African lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania stress protecting and preserving wildlife.
At Uxua on’s Brazil’s Atlantic coast, visitors are exposed to art and culture of indigenous people while observing their respect for the environment.