In Travel

Four Adventure Escapes Making A Positive Impact On The World

An off-grid holiday is nice, but one that has the power to change the lives of hundreds of people and the environment is even better.

From a Cambodian jungle retreat with one heck of an entrance to a Queensland dive resort regenerating an entire island, these four eco escapes combine the adventure and relaxation you crave with a hearty dose of environmental change.

The Palm House – Efate Island, Vanuatu

Glamorous waterfront villas? Check. Private chef and personalised butler service? Check. The Palm House offers a new level of luxury and indulgence in the Vanuatu resort scene, together with an impressive dedication to sustainability and local economic growth.

Just 45 minutes from capital Port Vila, The Palm House is nothing short of paradise. Welcoming a maximum of eight guests in four beautifully styled two-person villas, it’s set on a 3,800-hectare organic farm with 12 kilometres of private coastline. There are numerous coves and abundant reefs to explore, with supplied snorkelling gear and kayaks on hand help you get a closer look. Or, you can just lounge in the pool with a cocktail or two.

Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? The real kicker, however, is how the resort gives back to the community. They employ around 350 local staff, as well as support some 1500 families across the region through sourcing raw produce for their sustainable coconut oil.

Shinta Mani Wild – Kirirom, Cambodia

Soaring above vine-clad treetops, warm tropical air whipping at your face, a waterfall and rapids raging far below; the 400-metre zip line entrance to Shinta Mani Wild is just a mere entrée for the luxury and adventure that awaits at this unique Cambodian retreat.

Inspired by Jackie O’s adventure with Cambodian King Sihanouk in 1967, the extravagant tented camp is the work of renowned British designer Bill Bensley, with the dramatic furnishings and intimate service harking back to the style of a bygone era.

The site itself was originally purchased to protect it from logging, with the retreat now also engaging in ongoing wildlife protection efforts. The low-impact camp has a wide-reaching conservation focus too, with a foundation offering education to disadvantaged children, as well as supporting the community through interest-free loans to local entrepreneurs.

As a guest, you can lounge in your stunning outdoor bathtub, enjoy all-inclusive dining and unlimited spa treatments, cruise along the river in a custom-designed expedition boat, or even join Wildlife Alliance rangers on anti-poaching patrols. This is no ordinary escape.

Sanctuary Retreats Gorilla Forest Camp – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Take a walk on the wild side of life at Sanctuary Retreats Gorilla Forest Camp, a remote and intimate eco escapes option within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of south-western Uganda. As the name suggests, gorillas are the main attraction at the retreat.

Join the expert guides for a gorilla trek through the ancient rainforest or take a safari drive in search of tree climbing lions in the nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park. Thanks to its remote location, gorillas have also been known to visit the camp itself.

Accommodation is as luxe as you’d imagine, with beautifully furnished canvas tents, each featuring a stone-walled bathroom and deep baths to soak after a day’s trekking.

In addition to employing local staff, the retreat’s community-minded efforts extend beyond its borders too. Over the past decade Sanctuary Retreats has built a community hospital, established a regional nursing school and obstetrics clinic, and also helped build a better future for the next generation with improved facilities at the local primary school.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort – Southern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Lady Elliot Island is a speck in the vast Pacific Ocean, a tiny coral cay some 30 minutes flight east of Bundaberg. Yet, despite coming in at around 45-hectares in size, the island is one of the Southern Great Barrier Reef’s most vital marine and birdlife sanctuaries.

A day trip or longer, it’s a truly incredible spot for a dive or birdwatching getaway. Climb aboard a carbon-neutral flight from Bundaberg, Brisbane or the Gold Coast, and experience a taste of barefoot indulgence in its low-impact glamping tents or beachfront units.

The crystal waters surrounding the island are home to over 1,200 species of marine life, including manta rays and unspoilt coral reef, while the island itself is a lush slice of island paradise. However, things were once very different for the island, with guano mining in the 1800s stripping it of all topsoil and vegetation, leaving just bare rock.

Tireless restoration efforts have since taken place in recent years, bringing life back to the once-barren piece of land. It’s now classified as a ‘Green Zone’ marine national park, the highest possible level, with conservation and revegetation efforts still ongoing.

Whether you get hands-on with conservation efforts or simply support through visitation, these intimate escapes prove a holiday can leave a lasting impact long after it ends.

(Lead image: Elise Hassey / Shinta Mani Wild) 

Published 02 December, 2019