Taking #LittleGreenSteps in our everyday lives may come naturally, but sometimes sustainability seems to take a backseat while we’re traveling or on vacation. Here is a rundown of a few off-the-beaten-track eco-experiences that may have slipped past you.
By choosing one of these seven lesser-known eco-experiences in Southeast Asia, green practices are already in place so you can leave your worries behind.
1. LooLa Adventure Resort — Bintan, Indonesia
A quick ferry ride away from Singapore, Loola Adventure Resort is the definition of work hard, play hard. The resort offers many activities that make sustainability fun. Here you’ll find activities like mangrove planting to make your trip carbon-positive, the building of Safe Water Gardens to give local families access to clean drinking water, plant-based cooking classes, and you can even help out by conducting surveys with local professors on the natural biodiversity of bird and marine life. When you are not working on saving the world whilst on your vacation, Loola offers plenty of activities to relax and let loose. From kayaking to rock climbing to ziplining to trekking — there are plenty of activities to make certain that you are experiencing “something really different.”
Starting at SG$200 or HK$1,157 per person/weekend, Loola is suitable for the young, old, families, companies, schools, and team bonding retreats. Proving that being eco on vacation is easy to do and can be great fun.
2. The Gibbon Experience — Laos
The Gibbon Experience awakens all your childhood fantasies with a serious purpose. During your chosen three day tour, you can stay in the world’s highest treehouses and zipline between forest canopies to spot and listen to the rare gibbon monkeys. Proceeds from each experience go back towards conservation projects to protect the Nam Kan National Park and sustain the livelihoods of the surrounding communities.
This initiative offers three packages — the Express, Classic or Waterfall — and starts at SG$244 or HK$1,412. Pricing is inclusive of a local escort, accommodation, safe drinking water, fire-cooked meals, and transportation.
3. Osoam Cardamom Community Centre — Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia
Choose to have your own adventure in the midst of the beautiful Cardamom mountains at the Osoam Cardamom Community Centre. Their hub allows visitors to pick and choose whether they want to volunteer on community projects (i.e. English language lessons, computer lessons, gardening, agriculture, building), jungle trek, learn the Khmer culture and language, or to relax at a homestay.
Starting at just SG$8 or HK$46/per night, all proceeds contribute towards building the local community in a sustainable way such as providing educational programmes (English and computers), instilling ecotourism practices, vocational training focused on handicraft skills and agriculture programmes.
4. Trekking through Burma — Kalaw to Inle Lake
Follow a local guide for 60km through the beautiful countryside of Myanmar and truly live like a local. The journey from Kalaw to Inle Lake will give you plenty of time to learn about Burmese culture as you pass through tribe-villages; gaze over the endless wheat, rice, tea, potato, sesame, and chili plantations; enjoy tea breaks with natives, and spend nights in local homestays. And the best of all? Upon arrival to your accommodation each night, the homeowners will cook you a feast of farm-fresh local delicacies to refuel after a long day of trekking.
With dozens of companies to choose from, EverSmile Trekking Services is a tried and trusted service that consistently receives positive reviews. For just SG$28 or HK$162, their package includes the guide, meals, larger bag transfer to Inle Lake, accommodation, and boat ride through Inle Lake. Bargain!
5. The Elephant Nature Park — Northern Thailand
The spike in tourism across Southeast Asia has directly correlated with the increase in elephants used for entertainment purposes, especially in popular tourist destinations such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos. Located about 60 km outside of Chiang Mai, the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) is a rescue and rehabilitation centre with a mission to educate the world about the plight of Asian Elephants. The 35 elephants who reside at ENP are mainly rescued from the tourism and logging industries; each animal’s background story gives a glimpse at the common mistreatment that is still prevalent in SouthEast Asia today. Spread over 250 acres of land, ENP provides an ample amount of space for the elephants to roam free and feel as if they are in their natural habitat, in hopes to dampen their memories of past sufferings.
To visit the park, guests can meet the herd with a variety of packages beginning at SG$106 or HK$613.
6. Topas EcoLodge — Sa Pa, Northern Vietnam
The Topas EcoLodge is a hotel made up of 22 villas sitting in the midst of the Hoang Lien National Park mountain range north of Hanoi and is the perfect place to stay for those who like to be environmentally conscious while travelling, so much so that National Geographic listed them as #1 on their list of “21 Places to Stay if You Care About the Planet.”
The hotel takes a noteworthy approach to make the least possible impact on the environment and surrounding communities by using limited resources (i.e. water and energy), employing locals and implementing sustainable practices in their restaurant and lounge (their kitchen is locally sourced and zero waste). However, their minimalist eco-approach does not mean there will be a shortage of activities to keep you occupied. The Topas EcoLodge offers local guided trekking tours and mountain biking tours through the stunning rice terraces and trips to the surrounding hill-tribe villages and markets.
Pricing varies per tour and season.
7. Sukau Rainforest Lodge — Borneo, Malaysia
Sitting on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, deep within the Bornean Rainforest is the award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge. This boutique eco-lodge is the most ideal place to explore the tropical wetlands of Borneo and witness some of the world’s most unusual wildlife up close. Such as proboscis monkeys, wild orangutans, pygmy elephants, rhinoceros hornbills, crocodiles, and so on.
Far removed from civilization and only accessible by boat, Sukau actively works to minimize their impact by prioritizing sustainability in every aspect of their business model. The lodge holds a Travelife Gold Certification, meaning that they uphold the highest globally recognized sustainability standards in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Their most popular tour is the Kinabatangan Wildlife Safari (3D2N) Via Boat, costing SG$780 or HK$4,511. This price is inclusive of accommodation at the lodge, buffet-style meals at their restaurant, and safari tours and transfers with an English speaking expert guide.
8. Nikoi Island — Indonesia
If you’re after something a little more bougie, Nikoi Island is a luxury island escape just off 85 kilometres off the coast of Singapore, and it’s long been lauded as the most stunning island in the area. And if you’re wondering why it’s on our list of eco-experiences, that’s because it’s also a destination dedicated to responsible tourism practices. Not only was Nikoi built with local materials, labour and services, but it is also operated with sustainable practices weaved into day to day operations. For starters, you won’t find any plastic on Nikoi island and all of the toiletries provided in guests’ rooms are biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and packaged in refillable bottles. It also has a number of onsite initiatives to maintain the flora and fauna of the island like recycling greywater for gardening use, participating in local reef restoration, establishing “no fishing” zones on the reef, engaging in turtle conservation, incorporating locally-sourced and organic foods as well as utilising more and more renewable energy sources. And thanks to its brilliant design, it also doesn’t use any air conditioning. As for things to do, Nikoi gives guests an intimate introduction to the natural environment with activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, and trekking. Along with neighbouring Cempedak Island, the sister island to Nikoi which abides by similar sustainable principles, the island escape is one for those who love the finer things in life, done right.